This week has been an exciting and dizzying experience. Monday marked the beginning of my first full time job (hello, adulthood!), and I couldn’t be happier with my current situation right now. However, I have to admit that I have been scrambling to balance work and experimenting in the kitchen. When I found this recipe during my research, I thought it would be a perfect dish to add to my repertoire. Although it has a fancy-sounding French name (I mispronounced it horribly when trying to explain this week’s post to my mom and co-workers), the recipe is very simple—only a few steps!
As much as it pained me to come home from work earlier this week and start littering my kitchen with sugar, flour, and cherry juice (aka baking), it was well worth it. The result was a flavorful, mildly sweet custard full of ripe, warm cherries, and it totally hit the spot. Cherries are in season and at their sweetest during the next couple of weeks, so get them while you can!
I brought the leftovers in to work this morning, and by the end of the day, only one piece was left! I’d consider that a success, especially since this recipe was the first time I had ever used a cherry pitter, and I accidentally missed a few of the stones…
I’d like to think that they simply added some extra flavor to the dish since the original recipe calls for unpitted cherries. (At least that’s what I told my new guinea pigs/colleagues!)
Lastly, though clafoutis is considered a dessert, I think that this dish could easily be the star of a breakfast or brunch table as well. Not to mention it is easily adaptable for whatever fruit happens to be in season. So, read on to learn a bit more about this versatile dish, hit up the grocery store for some fresh fruit, and get your clafoutis on:
First of all, let’s start with the pronunciation. Here’s a quick recording of how to say the name of this dish without sounding completely silly like yours truly:
Clafoutis first originated in the Limousin region of France, where, due to the unique geography of the area, farming is particularly successful. Historically, the cuisine of this region is reliant upon local ingredients, making for simple, rustic dishes.1 The name clafoutis can supposedly be traced to the Occitan dialect word claufir, to cover or fill.2 Traditionally, a Limousin clafoutis is prepared with unpitted cherries, but when it uses other kinds of fruit instead, it is called a flaugnarde.
Cherries are a member of the genus Prunus, which belongs to the Rose family (Rosaceae).3 These small stone fruits are actually closely related to peaches, apricots, and even almonds. It is said that the original clafoutis recipe included the cherry pits in order to provide a subtle almond flavor to the dessert. Surprisingly enough, this distinct flavor comes from a natural poisonous compound that plants in the Prunus family produce in order to discourage herbivores from chowing down on them. This toxin, amygdalin, is a precursor to a chemical I’m sure you all have heard of: cyanide.3
Now, before you jump to the conclusion that I’m trying to poison you with a delicious French dessert, it’s important to know that cyanide gas is a miniscule byproduct of consuming ingredients like cherry pits that contain amygdalin. I would suggest eating around the pits if you choose to leave them whole in your clafoutis, but you certainly won’t experience any detrimental effects from accidentally swallowing or nibbling on a few of them. (The difficult part would be trying not to break a tooth!) Another less potent and more enjoyable byproduct of amygdalin is benzaldehyde, which is responsible for that lovely almond flavor.3
(Later this week I plan to experiment with adding a dash of almond extract to the custard in order to more closely replicate the traditional recipe’s flavors. I’ll post an update with my conclusions!)
As for the unpitted vs. pitted decision, for me, it boiled down to when and how I wanted to work around the pits: either before baking with a cherry pitter or after baking with my teeth. Personally, I’d rather get them out of the way so I can enjoy my dessert without risking an emergency trip to the dentist. I’m also still contemplating what the proper etiquette for consuming an unpitted clafoutis would be… a clafoutis spittoon?
(adapted from Saveur at http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Cherry-Clafoutis)
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/4 cups whole milk
- 6 tablespoons sugar (adjustments may be necessary depending on the ripeness of your fruit)
- 2 tablespoons kirschwasser
- 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
- 6 eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup flour
- 3 cups ripe cherries, pitted or unpitted (or other fruit of your choice)
- Powdered sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Thoroughly grease the bottom and sides of a 9″ cast-iron skillet or baking dish with butter. In a blender, combine the butter, milk, sugar, kirsch, vanilla, eggs, and salt to form the base of your custard. Blend these ingredients together, then incorporate the flour and process until smooth–about 1 minute.
Pour the custard into the greased skillet, then evenly distribute the cherries atop the batter. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the batter comes out clean and the top is golden.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with a dollop of whipped cream on the side.
Limousin: the “château d’eau”. (n.d.). France.fr. Retrieved from http://www.france.fr/en/regions-and-cities/limousin-chateau-deau.html
Cloake, F. (2013, August 29). How to cook the perfect cherry clafoutis. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2013/aug/29/how-to-cook-perfect-cherry-clafoutis
Preston, K. A. (2012, August 30). The Stone Fruits of Summer [Web log]. Retrieved from https://botanistinthekitchen.wordpress.com/2012/08/30/the-stone-fruits-of-summer/#more-65