My favorite dessert this time of year--and amongst my favorites any time of the year--is Clafoutis (pronounced klah-foo-tee). Hailing from central France, it's made with black cherries embraced in an eggy batter that bakes up like a dense, rich flan in the middle, and a cake around the edges.
With cherry season in full swing, they've finally fallen in price enough that I can afford to buy more than a handful to munch on. When I saw them on sale the other day, I jumped at the chance to make my first clafoutis of the year. I've established before that cherries and vanilla go together like peanut butter and jelly, but to really kick this dish to the next level, I like using Tahitian vanilla beans.
Unlike vanilla from Madagascar, Tahitian beans are broad beauties with a bolder flavor to match. Just half a bean's worth of seeds scraped into the custard will give it an intense vanilla flavor that compliments the sweet, tart cherries with its warm floral perfume.
Clafoutis is impressive enough to serve to last minute dinner guests and yet it's low-effort enough to make for yourself when a craving for something sweet hits. It's fantastic straight out of the oven, but letting it cool to room temperature firms up the custard and allows the flavors to meld, providing an entirely different experience. In the unlikely event you have leftovers, you can store it in the refrigerator, but it tends to get tough, so pop it in the microwave for a few seconds to warm it up a bit before you eat it.
As summer progresses into fall, you can make clafoutis with any tart fruit that's in season, like plums, blackberries, cranberries and apples. I've even been known to make a savory one every now and then.
- Move your oven rack to the middle position and preheat to 350 degrees F.
- Generously butter an 7" tart dish and then arrange the pitted cherries in an evenly spaced fashion.
- Add the eggs, cream, milk, sugar and flour to a blender or small food processor and then scrape the vanilla beans into it as well. Blend until smooth and free of lumps.
- Slowly pour the mixture over the cherries, being careful not to clump the cherries together.
- Place on a baking sheet and bake until puffy and golden brown (about 25-30 minutes).
- Slice and serve hot or at room temperature dusted with powdered sugar.