A clafoutis (pronounced "kla-foo-TEE") is a rustic French baked dessert made by baking cherries in a custard-like batter similar to pancake batter.
Traditionally, a clafoutis is specifically made with black cherries, although many clafoutis variations include other fruits such as plums, prunes, blueberries or apples. Technically, these variations should be called flaungardes, not clafoutis.
Some bakers like to leave the cherry pits in the cherries when making the clafoutis. Baking the clafoutis with unpitted cherries produces a much stronger cherry flavor, and it also prevents the cherry juice from leaking out and coloring the batter. If you make it this way, be sure to let everyone know that the cherries still have their pits. Fortunately, most people are familiar with eating whole cherries, so in most cases it does not present a problem.
A typical cherry clafouti recipe would start off by preparing the custard batter, as shown here:
- 3 eggs
- 1 1/4 cups of whole milk
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
- 1/8 tsp salt
Beat the eggs, then add the sugar, salt and milk and stir until well blended. Now gently stir in the flour and mix gently until just combined. Don't use a blender or food processor as this will overwork the glutens in the batter.
Now you'll pour about one-third of the batter into a buttered 2-quart baking dish and transfer it to a preheated 350 F oven for 10 minutes. This quick prebaking stage helps set the bottom part of the batter so that the cherries don't simply sink to the bottom. Remove the dish, but leave the oven on.
Next scatter 12 ounces of whole, unpitted cherries over the top of the set batter, (remove the stems, of course, but leave the cherries whole), and then cover the cherries with another 1/3 cup of sugar, distributed evenly. Finally, pour the rest of the uncooked batter over the top.
Return it to the oven and cook for another 45 to 60 minutes, without opening the oven door, or until it's puffed slightly, set and golden brown around the edges (although a slight jiggling in the center is fine, as this will set while the clafouti cools). Let it cool for 10 minutes, then sprinkle with powdered sugar and creme fraiche (or whipped cream) and serve while still warm.
Note that the only thing giving the clafouti its puffiness is the steam from the batter. There is no added leavening agent (such as baking powder or baking soda). This is why it's fairly critical to avoid opening the oven door during cooking, because doing so can cause the clafouti to collapse.
Finally, most people today will use ordinary sweet cherries for making cherry clafouti, although traditionally the type of cherry that was used was the black cherry. Black cherries impart a sharper flavor, with slightly more bitterness, so if you do use them, you may find that you have to increase the amount of sugar somewhat. But the bitterness isn't necessarily bad. It's comparable to what you'd experience from dark chocolate as opposed to milk chocolate.