Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Cherry Clafouti

For me, cooking is almost a never creative act. Instead of imagining as I chop and whip and stir, I remember, straining to recall and recreate a long-ago or faraway treat.

Case in point: about 10 years ago and approximately 7750 miles from where I now live, I had my socks knocked off by a cherry pastry from a nameless provincial bakeshop. I have since made about a half-dozen bad imitations, and--only recently--two good ones.

I was living in Australia when a couple of dear friends from college came to visit and we trekked out to the Blue Mountains to see the epic scenery. Passing through the small town of Katoomba on our way to a famous overlook we popped into a bakery on the main drag for a picnic lunch. For our dessert course we chose rubbery slabs of something the shop assistant called "cherry flan" (said with than long, flat Antipodean "a", not the American's tongue depressor "ah"). Although we ate the flan while looking out over one of the best-loved views in Australia, my memory of the landscape is a vague wisp compared to my 5-sense record of the fruity, chewy treat. Whenever my friends and I reminisce about that trip, we have a lot to talk about, but that flan always comes up, along with koalas, emus, and emu steaks. I think our friendship was strengthened by shared regret over not making it back to Katoomba until after the bakery had closed for the day.

Trying to find a recipe that would staunch my craving, I discovered that "cherry flan" is more commonly known as
clafouti (or clafoutis). An antique dessert associated with the Limousin region of France, the classic clafouti includes intact cherries, the pits giving a rich almond flavor to the custard (since I've invested heavily in dental work this year, I opt for pitted cherries and almond extract).

Most of the recipes I've tried over the years were butter-logged duds, as heavy, oily, and appetizing as cherry-studded plasticine. Then I came across a recipe in Liana Krissof's
Canning for A New Generation that calls for a minimum of butter and sugar, plus a touch of yogurt. After tinkering a little with the flavorings, I'm as close to Katoomba as I've come in ten years of trying.

Cherry Clafouti
adapted from Liana Krissof's Canning for A New Generation

1/4 c + 2 Tbs sugar
3 generous cups fresh or frozen pitted cherries (Bings work well)
1/2 c flour
pinch salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3 eggs
1/4 c plain yogurt
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 c milk
1 Tbs butter, cut into bits

Butter a 10" pie pan and dust it with 1 tablespoon of sugar. Set out the cherries in a single layer in the prepared pan.

Sift together the flour, salt, cinnamon, and 1/4 c sugar. Whisk together the eggs, yogurt, and almond extract until smooth, then whisk in the milk. Combine the flour mixture and the egg mixture and whisk thoroughly. Pour into the pan. Scatter the butter over the top and then sprinkle with the last tablespoon of sugar. Bake 40-45 min at 375, until the top starts to brown.

No comments: