A few years ago I gave my mom a cherry tree for Mother’s Day. It was a stroke of genius. Now every year my mom sends me several pints of cherries that she cans. What started out as a gift for mom turned into a gift for me. The pint jars are full of ruby red sour cherries. They make a beautiful addition to the pantry — lined up in a row on the top shelf they are a constant reminder of home. And every time I open the pantry door I start to think about what I can do with all those cherries.
The first jar had to be used for something special, but I couldn’t think of a thing to make. I realized that I’ve never cooked with cherries. Usually when I buy them, I can’t resist eating them as is. They are always gone in a flash leaving no time to create anything with them. That being the case, the plan was to go with something classic. Is there anything more classic than cherry clafoutis?
Before this experiment, I had never had clafoutis so I had no idea what to expect. Everything I read indicated that I would end up with something between cake and custard. I was excited and so was S. The batter was simple to make, and it’s always fun to cook with whole vanilla beans. They fill the house with their lovely fragrance. I bought mine not too long ago from Penzeys Spices, and I never skip a chance to use them in something. It always feels extra special to make a dish with whole vanilla beans. The little black seeds were speckled throughout the batter, and the rich vanilla flavor they added to the finished clafoutis was delightful.
Now for the bad news. Both S and I were underwhelmed. The finished product was much more custard than cake (I’m sure this depends on the recipe you use). If custard isn’t your thing then this clafoutis is not for you. That said, I wasn’t completely disappointed. The cherries tasted fantastic, and the vanilla was very nice. I think S was right when he said that if you are not a custard lover then this dish won’t make you one. Sigh. I still have lots of jars of cherries left and maybe next Mother’s Day I’ll give my mom an apple tree.
Excerpted from Tartine
2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
pinch of salt
3 whole large eggs
1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 cups cherries, pitted
1/4 cup sugar for topping
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Butter a 10-inch ceramic quiche mold or pie dish.
In a small saucepan, combine the milk, sugar, vanilla bean, and salt. Place over medium heat and heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, to just under a boil. While the milk mixture is heating, break 1 egg into a heatproof mixing bowl, add the flour, and whisk until the mixture is free of any lumps. Add the remaining 2 eggs and whisk until smooth.
Remove the saucepan from the heat. Slowly ladle the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture while whisking constantly. Pour the mixture into the prepared mold and add the fruit, making sure that the fruit is evenly distributed.
Bake until just set in the center and slightly puffed and browned around the outside, 30-35 minutes. Remove the custard from the oven and turn up the oven temperature to 500 degrees. Evenly sprinkle the sugar over the top of the clafoutis. Return the custard to the oven for 5 to 10 minutes to caramelize the sugar. Watch carefully, as it will darken quickly.
Let the custard cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before slicing. Serve warm or at room temperature.