Saturday, June 2, 2012

Cherry Clafoutis from Limousin, France

Cherry Clafoutis
I felt a strong tremor move the desk, floor, and walls around me. A few minutes later, the first thing I thought of doing was check the U.S. website that reported the magnitude of quakes around the world. Beneath the quake I had felt, on the chart, there was also a report of a small tremor in France, near the Massif Central. I didn´t know France had quakes and much less a volcano!
On a long train ride (about 30 hours) a few years later, travelling from southern to northern France, I realized the train would make a small stop at a  train station in the Massif Central. "How exciting!"  I thought, "I´ll be able to see France´s volcano! Earlier in the afternoon, the train cars travelled past the proverbial house built on a rock. Meandering rivers and green valleys surrounded a large cliff that held one house on the very top. Slowly, dusk was arriving. When we arrived at the long-awaited station, instead of witnessing a large volcano, all I could see was the pitch-dark dusk outside. I squinted, and still couldn´t see much.
Ceramic dishes made in Limoges, Limousin
About Clafoutis and Limousin
In Limousin, the bread basket of France, cherries are available from late May through June. Plums, peaches, apples, pears, figs, and medlar appear in the following months. Cherries are useful for lowering cholesterol, and for lessening inflammation.
Clafoutis comes from the verb clafir, which means to fill. The batter is filled with cherries. Others believe that the word clafoutis refers to the fact that the cherries resemble nails in midst of the custard. Those who dislike finding the pits in the cherries and therefore in the custard, will indeed feel that the cherries are as hard as nails.
The traditional way to make this dish involves leaving the pits in the cherries. In order to keep this recipe authentic, some cooks argue that the final product will be too liquid, because the cherry juices will leak into the custard, and they might have a point there. Others go so far as to say that the pits expel a special flavor to the dish. At any rate, if you want to make an authentic clafoutis, leave those cherry pits in. Look at the bright side. I know I did. You won´t have to pit the cherries! How easy can a cherry dessert get!


1 pound of cherries, washed
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 cup milk plus 1/2 cup cream; OR  only 1 1/2 cups milk for a more authentic Limousin clafoutis
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt

Grease the 9- inch round or square pan, and place washed, unstemmed cherries on it. I used sweet cherries, as many people do, though the authentic recipe calls for tart cherries. Place the flour and sugar in a bowl. Add the eggs, mixing them slowly into the flour. As it thickens, add the milk and melted butter, and make sure you don´t get any lumps. Add vanilla. Pour over cherries, and bake in a 375 degree F oven (190) for 45-60 minutes. It is cooked when you can press it lightly with your fingertips, and the top is golden brown.


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