Originally from the Limoges region in France, the name of this dish comes from the Occitan word clafotís, from the verb clafir, meaning "to fill up" (here: "the batter with cherries"). Clafoutis apparently spread throughout France during the 19th century. This traditional dessert combines all the best qualities of custard, pudding, and cake. When fruit other than cherries is used, it is called a "flognarde". With prunes, it is basically a "far breton".
The traditional clafoutis recipe requires that the stones stay in the cherries. French culinary luddites claim with a straight face, that "the false belief that you can civilize the clafoutis by pitting the cherries, is a gross error that completely denatures the clafoutis. Pitting the cherries tears their skin, whereas it should remain in tact during the baking, such that each cherry becomes a reservoir of concentrated cherry. It is the contrast between the soft smooth flan, and the cherries that explode under the pressure of the teeth, that makes a real clafoutis. As to the cherry stones: not only do they add a slight tannic woody note that enhances the cherry flavor, they also very effectively amplify the epicurean delight. The stones also make you focus your attention on your mouth, because you have to chew cautiously. This prolongs the oral contact, and puts you in touch with all the tactile contrasts that reason, communicate, and harmonise the melting of the dough with the juiciness of the cherries and the slippery hardness of the pits".
In my world, that is called BS! Let's cut to the chase. I tried whole cherries once, but was not convinced at all by the alleged flavor enhancing effect - you may blame my obviously unrefined palate. Personally, I think it is a simple cover up for being too lazy to remove the stones. Also, I absolutely hate any food where I have to be careful with every bite, not to break my teeth (or have to worry that my guests break their teeth, or choke), and also have to spit out a cherry stone every couple of seconds. This actually completely distracts from the potential culinary delight! I suspect that the traditional recipe is sponsored and perpetuated by dentists and promoters of cherry spitting contests. Obviously, my recipe uses pitted cherries - fresh or from a jar.
- Preparation time: 15 minutes
- Baking time: 40 minutes
- Makes 8-10 servings.
- Keeps well, but won't last long!
©2015-2019 F. Dörenberg, unless stated otherwise. All rights reserved worldwide. No part of this publication may be used without permission from the author.
Last update: 23 August 2019.
- 120 grams (1 + 1/4 cup) "all purpose" flour (France: farine de blé T-55, Germany: type 550).
- 3 eggs
- 300 ml milk (1 +1/4 cup)
- 140 grams (1+ cup) fine crystal sugar - for the batter
- Optional: 30 grams of sugar - for the greased pan.
- 1 table spoon of real vanilla extract (not artificial vanilla flavoring!)
- 500 grams pitted cherries
- Traditionally, dark red griotte cherries are used. This is a variety of Morello cherries, so they are sour/tart. I use a big jar of pitted griottes on light syrup. I like them best.
- Sweet cherries (fresh, frozen, or jarred) are not suitable. E.g., I have tried canned Biggareau cherries, but found them too bland for this recipe.
- Do not ever use (or even buy) those pie-filling cherries that are canned with disgusting goo.
- Pinch of salt
- Butter, at room temperature (for greasing the pan)
EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES
- Quiche pan, 25 cm (10 inch) diameter; or: 20x20x5 cm (8x8x2 inch) glass oven dish.
- Medium size bowl.
- Wire whisk - for the flour.
- Hand mixer.
- Rubber spatula.
PREPARATION / DIRECTIONS
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 °C (355 °F) - with circulation fan; without fan, use 190 °C (375 °F)
- Beat the eggs with the sugar
- Only beat just long enough to get a homogenous, light-yellow mass! This should only take about 10-20 sec at low-medium speed (speed 1 of 3 on most hand mixers)!
- Do not over-beat: the batter will become too airy!
- Put the flour the medium size bowl and whisk, to loosen up the flour and get clumps out, if any
- This is a lot quicker and easier (incl. cleaning) than using a flour sifter.
- Add the flour and salt to the eggs and mix well - about 10-20 sec at low-medium speed.
- Again: do not beat for minutes, as the batter will get frothy and the top of the clafoutis will be very "spongy" upon baking.
- Add the milk and vanilla, then briefly mix until blended and homogenous - no more than 10-20 sec.
- Grease the pan with some butter
- Option: butter well, and spinkle the entire inside with sugar. It will caramelise on the outside of the flan.
- Drain the cherries (no need to keep the juice) and spread them out in the pan - see photo below.
- Beat the batter for 1-2 sec and carefully pour it over the cherries. The cherries may tend to float, but that is OK.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the top is dark golden.
- About half way through the baking time, check if the top is turing goolden evenly. If not, briefly open the oven and turn the pan.
- As stated above, it may be that the top (just the top couple of mm) remains a little "spongy". This happens if you beat to much air into the batter. It will still settle some, when cooling down. If worried, just turn off the heat and let the clafoutis coast a while in the oven.
SERVING & GARNISH SUGGESTIONS
- May be served lukewarm. Do not serve cold, straight out of the refrigerator!
- With large seedless grapes (until recently, not easily obtained in... France) instead of cherries, it also turned out well. One of these days, I will try one with Armagnac-soaked prunes, i.e., a Gascon-style "far breton".
- I have made the same recipe with small blueberries (I used frozen berries; thaw out completely, drained well, and even squeezed out most of the juice). OK, but a little too moist for my liking.
- Can also be made in individual size, with large ramequins. Baking time will have to be reduced.