Monday, August 13, 2012

The Ballad of Sweet Cherry Clafoutis

What's the best way to eat cherries? Besides at your desk at work using a paperclip as a makeshift cherry pitter? (Yes, it actually works.) Cooking them up in a warm, sweet custard milk bath of eggs, sugar, flour and vanilla extract and a short glug of Cruzian coconut rum, mais bien sur! Known in France as a clafoutis (cla-foo-tee), the end result of this delicacy tastes similar to flan or baked custard, with a POP of juicy cooked cherry that floods your mouth with globby wetness. My dad (head chef of chez Mullen) suggested slicing the cherries into halves although I prefer seeing the round red balls bobbing in a pool of frothy yellow cream, don't you? Next time though I might try slicing them in halves, or I might keep them whole but leave the pits in. Not because I am trying to kill off any family members, but because I read that the French believe leaving the pits in while the cherries cook releases a more intense cherry flavor. Ah, le Français! Between their non-pasteurized cheeses, raw egg yolk mousses (yum!) and disregard for lethal choking hazards in their fruits, they are sure to never sacrifice taste and pleasure for safety. They have, as Debra Ollivier notes, "a keen awareness of the the brevity of time and the immediacy of pleasure." Life is short, pleasure is good for you, neurosis is not sexy. Namaste. Amen.

I followed this recipe (below) and added a bit of Cruzian coconut rum to the tablespoon of vanilla extract (you could also use the rum in place of the vanilla altogether.) The ultimate litmus taste test though came after my Pop-Pop ate two slices and told me he could eat this every single day for a week and not get tired of it. Here and here, are two other recipes to try out as well.

You'll need... 
2 cups pitted cherries or plums (or other moist fruit) 
1/3 cup granulated sugar

1⁄2 cup flour

Pinch of salt
3 eggs
11⁄4 cups milk
1 tablespoon vanilla (or Rum!)
1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar (or brown sugar—I like muscovado)

1. Place the fruit in a bowl with half the granulated sugar, stir well, and set aside.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 ̊F. Grease a 9-inch baking dish.
3. In a large bowl, sift the flour with the salt and remaining sugar. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and milk to combine. Add the va- nilla. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and combine well. Spread the fruit evenly in the baking dish and pour the batter on top. The cherries may float to the surface now (or later, during baking).
4. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the top is firm and golden brown. Cool, then sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar. Serve immediately.

And, finally, because clafoutis sort of looks like pie (and is maybe the French equivalent?) and because what recipe for dessert isn't complete without animated video about pastries? I give you, The Ballad of Poisonberry Pete.

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