"Cerise, je t’aime", I am told, is a French term of endearment – a marvelous moment of serendipity for me as I had just come up with the phrase on my own in an attempt to capture both my love for this summer fruit and allude to “Paris, Je T’aime”, that ode to the city of love currently playing at my local theater.
Nods to France entirely appropriate, of course, as I made a very French dessert to showcase the season’s crop of cherries (at least, the ones I haven’t devoured out of hand) – the classic clafouti.
Black cherries are the traditional fruit of choice for a clafouti, and unpitted as well – the pits actually add a more intense flavor to the batter as it is baked. But whether you use black or red cherries, or even plums or peaches or berries, the clafouti is rustic French baking at its very best: surprisingly simple in preparation, utterly unpretentious in presentation, and comfortingly easy to devour.
You can make a clafouti in a traditional deep baking dish or in individual ramekins. You can eat clafouti warm out of the oven or cooled to room temperature – anyway you make it, it will be delicious. With the simplicity of the ingredients – sugar, eggs, cream, vanilla, ripe cherries – success is all but assured.
Comparing clafouti recipes will uncover slight variations on the ingredient amounts – I interpret this charming imprecision as another indicator that clafouti is meant to be made perfect to your taste. Whether you prefer it a little firmer and more cakey or custardy and puddinglike, is all up to you. I used a version from Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets - Gérard Mulot’s delightful interpretation of the clafouti with griottes and a crème fraîche custard in a sweet crust. I eliminated the tart crust and used fresh cherries instead, but I found the lack of flour or other starch made for a fantastically creamy, rich custard, and the vanilla bean a fragrant complement to the cherries. In fact, we found this concoction so good we made it again the next night – with the few cherries we had remaining!
Here’s to cherries, and France, and clafoutis, and sweet, sweet, summer.
adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets
makes one 9-in clafouti or (8) 2 1/2-in ramekins
3 large eggs
6 tablespoons (75 g) sugar
1 cup (240 g) crème fraîche
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
11 ounces (330 g) cherries, pitted (you may need fewer cherries if you make individual clafoutis depending on how many you can fit in the ramekins)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a 9-in baking dish or pie plate, or individual ramekins, and place on a baking sheet.
Whisk the eggs together in a mixing bowl.
Add in the sugar and whisk to combine.
Add in the crème fraîche and whisk just until incorporated.
Whisk in the vanilla bean paste.
Stir in the cherries gently.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, making sure the cherries are distributed evenly.
Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes (if you are making individual ramekins, be sure to check halfway through to see if they are baking faster) until the batter looks puffed and golden and is set in the center.
Let clafouti cool for about 15 minutes out of the oven before serving. You can also serve at room temperature – it will keep for about 12 hours.