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Cherry Clafoutis


Clafoutis is the classic dessert of the Limousin, the northwestern part of the Massif Central in the middle of France. Traditionally, it is baked in a buttered dish and is more or less a flan with ripe black cherries. Sometimes, other red fruits like prune plums, red plums or blackberries are used. Done correctly, it is lovely.

When I was doing my internship, the chef taught me a great recipe for clafoutis that was simple and foolproof. We would schedule it for days when we had cooking students who had little or no experience in the kitchen. Not to be trusted with knives, we knew that we could put cherry pitters in their sweaty little hands without fear of accidents. Better yet, since clafoutis tastes best when you leave the cherries unpitted (a little more onerous to eat, but worth it), sometimes the students wouldn’t even get cherry pitters, just whisks!

Try to take an eye out with those!

At home, I reliably depended on that recipe any time I needed to deliver a perfect clafoutis. It worked every time — even when I was a little short or too generous with the cherries, and even when I ran low on sugar, flour, milk or all three.

Then I moved back to New York. Suddenly, the recipe that worked so marvelously in Paris became a total dud. I can’t tell you how many heavy, lumpy, pathetic clafoutis I turned out. I was making clafoutis that tasted more like lightly sugared cherry omelets — every bit as unpleasant as it sounds.

I even inflicted them on friends, like poor Tomoko who had to pick her way around my rubbery pâte and gray (yes, gray) cherries last summer.

“What did you do to them?” she asked.

I had no idea. I could only think of something a friend in Paris repeated to me, something that she had overheard at a dinner party. Faced with the prospect of ingesting one more morsel of clafoutis after a lengthy and generous meal, one of the guests declared himself cla-foutu — a French play on words that roughly means cla-f***ked.

Well, my New York clafoutis were definitely their own kind of cla-foutus.

You always hear people who say that the definition of crazy is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. When I saw gorgeous cherries at the Greenmarket this week, I decided to get off the Crazy Train and stop trying to make my Parisian recipe. It was time to get back to Julia.

Julia Child, that is 🙂

Compared to what I was making, I think this clafoutis is a beauty. Sure, it rose much higher on one side than the other (I should have turned it halfway through cooking. Stupid un-calibrated oven). Yeah, it cracked (I over-cooked it. I should have taken it out of the oven sooner).

But I feel like I am getting my clafoutis-groove back on.

This recipe is adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I. Julia calls for three cups of cherries, and if I had three cups, I would have used them 🙂

For the original recipe, click here.

Special equipment:

A stick immersion blender

Ingredients:

Butter

2-3 cups of ripe cherries, pitted . . . or not!

1/3 cup of sugar

1 and 1/4 cup of whole milk

5 pullet eggs or 3 large eggs

1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

A pinch of salt

2/3 cup of all-purpose flour

Powdered sugar

How to prepare:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°.

2. Butter a baking dish and arrange the cherries in a single layer on the bottom.

3. In a large bowl, use the immersion blender to blend together the milk, the eggs, the vanilla extract, the salt and the flour for 1 minute. The batter should be nice and frothy.

4. Set the baking dish on a baking sheet. Use a ladle to carefully pour the batter over the cherries. Bake for about an hour. The clafoutis will be done when the sides are puffed and golden, and when a knife or a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. The clafoutis will be like a souffle when you remove it from the oven. Let it settle completely — it will sink down as it cools — before serving. Dust the clafoutis with powdered sugar right before cutting it into wedges.

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41 Comments

  1. Very good play on words there – my sister-in-law is French and reckons learning the lingo is easy well she would she’s French. I know merde, Non and yes in french but I don’t know how to spell it.

  2. Bunny Eats Design

    You’re right, it does look easy. Any idea what went wrong during your clafou-funk?

    • That’s a good question. I thought about that for a while. Maybe it was the milk? Almost all the milk we used at the school was that UHT milk (fresh milk was pretty rare). But when I used UHT milk over here, I still bombed. Then I thought maybe it was the eggs? Most eggs at the supermarket are irradiated, but nope. Didn’t seem to be the eggs.

      According to Julia, the culprit might be the flour. Almost all flour in France is made from soft wheat, whereas in the US, almost all flour is made from hard wheat. That’s primarily why baking recipes don’t succeed going from one country to another.

      At first I thought this was a little nuts, but the recipe has so few ingredients that I guess if any of them is off, the whole thing falls apart!

  3. Hooray that you’ve broken the unhappy clafoutis streak. This one looks divine! It’s the wrong season Down Under for stone fruits, so I’m going to try this with berries. Lots and lots of berries!!! xx

    • A couple more and I think that I will have it down. I was just so excited to not have another clafoutu that I had to post it 🙂 When I do it again, I’m going to start checking on it earlier, like around the 45-50 minute mark.

      Definitely try it with berries! Let me know how it turns out!

  4. That looks amazing and I’m sure it tasted amazing too. I’m going to try a blueberry version and let you know how it turns out. So far everything I make of yours is a hit!!

    • Aw, thanks! Try a blueberry one! Julia’s original recipe was a little fussier. She has you start the baking dish on the stove and finishing it in the oven, but I’m too lazy!

      When I make this again, I think that I will start checking it around the 45-50 minute mark. Let me know how yours turns out!

      • blueberries are super cheap right now at my local store so I’m making muffins and now thanks to you a clafoutis! I feel so refined!

        • Fancy!

          Blueberry muffins sounds pretty awesome right now. I like to put oatmeal in them. Like breakfast in an easily inhalable form 🙂

    • I know 😉

      When I make it next time, I will try more cherries and a shallower dish. And I will try to not overcook it so it stays more like a flan. Less cake-like 😉

  5. I suspect you’re right about the flour. I adore clafoutis and have made that Julia C. recipe many times. Have you tried using White Lily flour? It’s de rigueur in Southern kitchens, though I don’t make biscuits often enough to justify keeping it around.

    • White Lily flour? I need to look to see if we get that up here. My Parisian recipe called for an absurdly low amount of flour. I think the ratios were the equivalent of a quarter cup of flour, half a liter of milk, and four eggs. Julia’s is 2/3 cup flour, 1 1/4 cup milk and 3 eggs. Big difference!

      I also cut the amount of sugar in this one. Julia called for 1/3 cup in the batter, another 1/3 cup sprinkled on the cherries, and more powdered sugar. It made me wonder if people like things sweeter in the 60’s. Mad Men-style!

  6. Bee-yoo-tee-ful! I don’t cook cherries that often because they’re too perfect by themselves, but I make an occasional exception for clafoutis.

    • Thank you! I even kind of like how it looks cracked. But the French-cooky side of me wants it to look smooth and perfect. Quel conflit!

  7. One of my favorite desserts but have never tried to make it myself. I second the suggestion about White Lily flour. It is a soft flour that is used in the south especially when making biscuits.

    • I am definitely going to look into White Lily flour. I have all these French baking recipes that I have been holding off on because I am worried they won’t turn out. Maybe White Lily will be my secret to perfect clafoutis again!

      Fingers crossed.

      Thanks for the comment, Karen! And the suggestion. Always great to have you drop by 🙂

  8. The Ozzy You Tube made me laugh so hard. 🙂 This recipe looks really wonderful. I love cherries so much. Whenever I went to visit my grandma at camp she would always buy cherries special for me so cherries have a cherished place in my heart. I agree with the above commenters – experiment with different flours to find the right one. Also, experiment with different times/temperatures of the year. A hot and humid day may work better than a cold and dry day or vice versa.

    • Those are great ideas! Easier than moving back to France 😉

      Cherries are some of my favorite fruit too. Do you get really good ones in Maine? I have this image of Maine as being a berry wonderland!

      • I’m not sure how popular cherries are in Maine. We are known for blueberries primarily. There are other wild berry bushes like raspberries and blackberries. Bears and deer (and people!) love stuff like that. Have you ever attempted a blueberry clafoutis? Is that even possible?

        • I’m sure! I think I have even seen a recipe for mango clafoutis . . . though the idea of mangos in baked flan sounds kind of icky to me.

          Blueberries sound good though!

        • And I forgot to mention that when I was in France, I watched every episode of The Osbournes on French MTV. We used to have expat TV parties and laugh hysterically.

          Strangely, it was one of the few English-language shows that was not dubbed over and didn’t have any subtitles. I think it was because Ozzy is unintelligible in English and thus un-subtitleable!

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  10. Made this today, with a couple of additions (some blueberries, a pinch of cinnamon, a bit of lemon zest, and a little bit of Greek yogurt in place of some of the milk). Haven’t tried it yet (it’s about to go to a 4th of July party with me), but I will let you know how it turned out! It looks and smells heavenly. 🙂

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