Monday, January 23, 2006
Clafoutis: It's the pits (in a good way)
I'll admit it: I'm a sucker for the suggestive sell at Whole Foods. Walk in the door, see a display of jewel-red cherries, taste a sample, buy a pound. They certainly weren't local (Chile, I believe), but they tasted damn good. Wasn't sure if I'd bake with them or just snack on them, but came across this clafoutis recipe in The Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook. According to the book notes, traditional French clafoutis-makers left the cherries whole, pits and all, because the pits imparted an almond flavor to the dessert. This recipe, however, had you pit the cherries and use a touch of almond extract instead. Well, I had no almond extract, and after pitting a few cherries I realized I'd be in for a much longer night if I did them all. So, by default and laziness I stuck to tradition and left the pits in. J was less than thrilled by this development because it meant much more careful eating, and I can't say I tasted much almond essence, but nonetheless I devoured the baked-pancake-like dessert. It has a relatively low fat content, and you could further health-ify it by roasting the cherries with honey instead of white sugar. I especially enjoyed the cherry syrup that results from the initial cherry-roasting. It's a good reminder how utterly pathetic commerical attempts at faux cherry flavor are.
P.S. If, like me, you wondered how to pronounce clafoutis it's CLAH-FOO-TEA. Fluent French speakers, I apologize.
barely adapted from Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook
1 lb. sweet cherries, washed (pits optional)
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice (I used a Meyer lemon)
1/4 tsp. grated lemon zest (again, Meyer)
A pinch ground cinnamon
1/3 cup sugar (try honey instead!)
2 eggs, seperated
3 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. flour
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. almond extract (if you have it)
1/3 c. cream (here I used a mix of 1/2 and 1/2 and 2%)
A pinch salt
Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly butter a baking pan (I used a cast iron skillet) large enough to loosely hold the cherries in a single layer. Arrange cherries in pan, and sprinkle with the lemon juice, zest, cinnamon and sugar. Bake until fruit is tender, about 15 minutes, stirring once or twice.
Raise oven temp to 375. Butter another baking dish (I used an 8 inch round cake pan) large enough to hold cherries in a single layer. Drain the cooked cherries, reserving the juice. Arrange cherries in bottom of baking dish. Beat together the egg yolks and remaining 3 tbsp. of sugar until well blended. Beat in the flour, vanilla, almond extract, and cream.
Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they form soft peaks (I admit, I beat only until really foamy). Stir a bit of whites into the batter, and then carefully fold in the rest. Pour the batter over the fruit in the baking dish. (I made my batter while the cherries were initially roasting.)
Bake in the upper third of the oven for about 20 minutes, until the batter is puffed and browned. While the clafoutis is baking, reduce the fruit juices to a thin syrup (mine didn't need much reducing). When the clafoutis is done, if you're fancy, dust with powdered sugar, otherwise just gobble warm with a drizzle of the delicious syrup.