Monday, July 9, 2007
Remember when I said the best thing about living in the Pacific Northwest was the salmon? Well it's a tie between the salmon and the cherries. Washington state is the top cherry grower, producing about 50% of the nation's supply. Oh how I love the cherries; I look forward to them every summer. A few years ago my dad and I bought a bag of the biggest Bing cherries I'd ever seen, they were the size of ping pong balls I want to say (okay maybe a tiny bit smaller than ping pong balls but they were big!), and were soooo sweet. Every summer since then we would talk about those cherries and how we regret only buying one bag. "Hey remember those cherries we got a few years ago?" "Yeah... *wistful sigh*" I have yet to find cherries that big again. Anyways, now that we're in the middle of cherry season, which thankfully is very long (from early June to mid August), Bettina and I pretty much eat, sleep, and breathe cherries. Seriously we sometimes go through about a pound a day, each! The ones that escaped our cherry pillage ended up in clafoutis. Though in the end, I prefer my cherries uncooked but this was a classic French dessert that I wanted to try.
The clafouti is a custard-like dessert that originated in the province of Limousin in central France. Traditionally it's baked with whole, unpitted cherries because the heat releases more complex fruity and almondy notes from the pit. This is Julia Child's recipe (I mean how can you go wrong with a recipe from Julia Child?) with some minor changes. I added some almond extract to enhance the natural almondiness. The main flavor component of cherries comes from benzaldehyde, which is the same chemical as imitation almond extract (okay no more chemistry I promise). The cherries were also very sweet so I cut the sugar amount in half. You can serve clafoutis as dessert or eat them the next morning as breakfast, like Helen's grandfather.
Adapted from Julia Child
1 1/4 cups milk, whole milk preferably
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup flour
2 - 3 C cherries (unpitted)
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Beat the eggs, sugar, salt, and extracts, then add the milk, and finally whisk in the flour. Add some cherries to individual ramekins*, don't crowd them too much, leave a little room for the batter. Depending on the size and height of your ramekins it can make about 5 - 8 servings.
Pour the batter over the cherries, bake the clafoutis until it looks golden brown, somewhat puffy, and the center is set, about 20 - 30 minutes.
Serve warm with powdered sugar dusted on top.
*The ramekins I used ended up being a bit too small, I baked 2 in these oval fluted creme brulee ramekins and 4 in round ramekins with taller sides.
Helen's Mirabelle Clafoutis
Bea's Chocolate and Cherry Clafoutis (a twist on the Black Forest cake)
Dorie Greenspan's Cherry Clafoutis adapted by Anita