I first tried clafouti (or clafoutis, as it is spelled in France) at a French cooking class at Dish Cooking Studio several years ago under then-Auberge du Pommier chef Paul Benallick.
It wasn't until recently, when I found myself purchasing in-season cherries every weekend, that I cast my mind back to that memory. At the time, in my early twenties, clafouti seemed overly plain and not worth my efforts. And I can't say I fully appreciated the flavours. Flavours, you ask? Plural?
Isn't it just a bunch of baked cherries in a crepe-like batter? Well, not exactly. Clafouti hails from the Limousin region of France and is traditionally made with cherries, but you will find several variations including plums, prunes, and apples. The version we sampled in class that day included lemon zest, lemon oil and mulled cherries.
The version below, courtesy Julia Child, is far simpler and employs fresh cherries. And though the ingredient list is short, this dessert is one that even a novice cook can make. It is simple, yes; it is easy, yes; but the flavours have a way of evolving in the oven that will wow the taste buds of even the most seasoned tasters.
1 1/4 cups milk
1/3 cup sugar (notice that you will need another 1/3 cup of sugar later in the recipe)
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup flour
3 cups cherries, pitted
1/3 cup sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a blender blend the milk, sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt and flour (in the order of the list above).
Pour a 1/4 inch layer of the batter in a buttered 7-or 8-cup lightly buttered fireproof baking dish.
Place in the oven until a film of batter sets in the pan. Remove from the heat and spread the cherries over the batter.
Sprinkle on the 1/3 cup of sugar. Pour on the rest of the batter. Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour.
The clafouti is done when puffed and brown and and a knife plunged in the centre comes out clean. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, serve warm.
It's not really a substitution but I served this with vanilla ice cream. Purists would also leave the pits in the cherries, and although I am sure it would taste better, there is nothing more annoying (in my eyes) than stopping mid-bite to fish out a cherry pit. Tacky, too.
I also should have used a larger, more-shallow ceramic pie plate as I am sure it would have spread better. Finally, I will admit I was too lazy to pull out the blender and instead threw it in my mixer. And that I forgot to sift my flour. Which will lead me to...
Would I make this again?
Yes, but I would definitely, definitely, definitely use my blender AND sift the flour. The batter wasn't smooth and I believe it was for that reason that it wasn't as light as it could have been. It tasted slightly eggy to me, although my husband is sensitive to that eggy taste and he didn't remark on it. (Or maybe he was just being nice?) Bonus, however, it tasted better the next day.
I was tempted to add a dash of almond extract and I didn't, for fear Julia Child's ghost would appear and strike me with a wooden spoon. But I will be braver next time and add it anyway. I think it will round out the flavours quite nicely. And who doesn't love the almond-cherry combo?
Four stars out of five. At the end of the day, it is still a peasant dessert compared to the elegant desserts you will find in the rest of Julia Child's books. I am all about maximizing the wow factor at the end of a meal. And this one is more about the comfort factor.