A few years ago, when I told Jay we were having cherry clafoutis for dessert he chided me for cooking the precious fruits which make such a teasingly brief (and expensive) appearance every spring. Why squander them, rather than enjoying them fresh? But when he took his first bite of the juicy, brandy-infused cherries surrounded by custardy batter, he fully understood. ‘The way to make cherries even better,’ he philosophized, helping himself to seconds, ‘is to soak them in booze and bake them.’
Makes one 10″ clafoutis, about 8 servings
Feel free to swap in any fruit you like for the cherries and apricots: peaches, berries, figs, roasted apples or rhubarb are some favorites. The batter can be made a day or two ahead if you like, and stored in the fridge. A bit of yogurt, creme fraiche or unsweetened whipped cream makes a nice accompaniment. I’ve found that cake flour makes the most delicate, creamy clafoutis; all-purpose can be used in a pinch, but the result won’t be quite as silky.
1/4 cup sliced almonds
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar (plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling over the top)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (or the seeds from 1 vanilla bean)
2/3 cup cake flour
1 cup half and half
generous 1/2 pound apricots, quartered
generous 1/2 pound cherries, pitted
1 tablespoon brandy or kirsh
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350º. Spread the almonds on a small baking sheet and bake until lightly toasted, 4 minutes or so. Remove and set aside. Increase the oven to 400º.
Brush a 10″ solid-bottom tart, pie or cake pan or skillet with a bit of the melted butter.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla. Sift the flour over and whisk until very smooth. Gradually whisk in the half and half. The consistency will be that of a thick crepe batter.
Combine the fruit and brandy in a medium bowl, tossing several times.
Lay the fruit evenly in the bottom of the buttered pan. Whisk any leftover juices and the rest of the melted butter into the batter. Pour the batter over the fruit. Scatter the almonds over the top and sprinkle with the 1 tablespoon sugar. (Alternately, bake the clafoutis for 10 minutes first, then add the almonds and sugar and continue baking. This makes a slightly prettier dessert.)
Bake the clafoutis until puffed and golden and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean, 40 – 50 minutes. Remove and let cool at least 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store leftovers in the fridge for up to several days; reheat if you like.