Custard and Cherries Baked in a Skillet

Clafoutis aux Cerises

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Serves

    6

Appears in

The Cooking of South West France

By Paula Wolfert

Published 1987

  • About

Think of this clafoutis as pure therapy for the stressed-out home cook. It’s easy and homey, and it can be served at any temperature—warm, cool, or at room temperature.

The cherry version of this clafoutis is a regional specialty of the Limousin, a region producing beautiful tart cherries. Traditionally, the local cooks don’t pit their cherries. One reason is they know if they do, the juices will bleed out during baking and make the cake unsightly. Since I find most people prefer using pitted cherries, I’ve devised a truc to keep the juices from weeping: Roll your pitted cherries in sugar, then slip them into the freezer for a while to keep the juices in.

To avoid a heavy cake, please make sure your oven temperature is accurate. You’ll need a hot oven to make this cake rise.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound sweet cherries (about 3 cups), pitted
  • Grated zest of ½ lemon, organic if available
  • ¼ sugar
  • ½ cup (4 ounces) all-purpose flour, pastry flour or whole wheat pastry flour, plus 1 tablespoon for the skillet
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups warm milk
  • 2 tablespoons Armagnac or Cognac
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Confectioners’ sugar

Method

  1. Early in the day, rinse and dry the cherries. Stem and, if desired, pit the fruit; traditionally this dessert is made with the pits in. Line a 1-quart freezer container with paper towels and pile in the cherries. Sprinkle with the lemon zest and 3 tablespoons of the sugar. Cover and shake to distribute the sugar. Freeze for 1 to 2 hours.
  2. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, 3 tablespoons of the butter, the eggs and ¼ cup of the warm milk, whisking to blend thoroughly. Gradually add the remaining milk and whisk until smooth. Stir in the Armagnac and vanilla. Cover and let the batter stand at room temperature for at least 1 hour. (This will encourage a small amount of fermentation, which allows the batter to rise to the top of the skillet during baking.)
  3. Use half the remaining butter to grease a 9-inch, straight-sided ovenproof skillet, preferably well-seasoned cast-iron. Dust the pan with 1 tablespoon flour; tap out remove any excess.
  4. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Arrange the cherries in the pan in a single layer. Whisk the batter to a good froth and spoon over the cherries. Set the skillet in the top third of the oven and bake for 20 minutes; the surface will be barely set.
  5. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar over the clafoutis and dot with the remaining 1 tablespoon butter divided into small bits. Continue to bake for 20 more minutes, or until well puffed, golden brown, and set. Test by inserting a skewer into the center; it is done if it comes out clean. Transfer to a rack and let cool, before serving lukewarm, at room temperature or chilled.

Variation: Tart Cherry Clafoutis

If substituting tart cherries, omit the lemon zest and double the sugar.