I’m not a fan of cherry pie (too sweet). How un-American is that? You can practically hear George Washington grumbling as he rolls over in his grave. Oh wait, George Washington chopped down the cherry tree, at least apocryphally. Maybe he wasn’t a fan of cherry pie either. Maybe if George had enjoyed a Cherry Goat Cheese Clafoutis once in awhile the father of the United States might have been depicted by contemporary artists looking as if he were actually pleased about it. Clafoutis can cheer anyone up. As a student without much money in the French-speaking part of Switzerland I would sometimes treat myself to a slice of a beautiful clafoutis displayed in a pastry shop window. It was one of those dependable, not terribly expensive indulgences that made me feel comforted and sophisticated at the same time. With one foot in the tart world and another in the cake world, a medium that tasted a bit like crêpes and felt like custard, how could it not brighten my day?
In one of those weird geo-culinary twists of fate, as you read this we’re biking and cooking in the Vaucluse, in Provence, a stone’s throw east of old Occitan France, which gave clafoutis its name, from the verb “clafir,” meaning to fill, as in filling the batter of this treat with cherries. But clafoutis has since migrated all over France, and although the traditional version is made with cherries, it’s possible to find others made with yellow plums or blueberries. In addition to the commitment to cherries, the other clafouti tradition is to bake the cherries in the dessert with their pits. This does this improve the flavor, while also preventing the cherries from collapsing. When the clafoutis emerges from the oven it’s puffed up, a bit like a souflée, but as it cools it shrinks. This is fine, the usual way it’s served, with a dusting of powdered sugar.
Okay, so not being able to leave well enough alone we had to mess around with tradition a bit (hey, you’re lucky we didn’t use lychees). Jody incorporated goat cheese, which adds a mild tang to the batter, and we decided to forgo the customary dusting of powdered sugar and just run the thing under the broiler with a bit of sugar sprinkled on top. To the traditionalists among our readers, you know what to do if none of this is to your liking. For everyone else who loves cherries, desserts and goat cheese, we say welcome aboard. Just watch out for the pits. Enjoy. Ken
TRAVEL NOTE: I may be a bit slow on the response time this week, given the vagaries of time zones, availability of wifi, etc. Merci.
CHERRY GOAT CHEESE CLAFOUTIS
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1 ½ pounds washed, stemmed unpitted cherries
- 4 large eggs
- ½ cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
- Pinch salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 5 ounces soft goat cheese
- ½ cup unbleached all purpose flour
- ¾ cup whole milk
- ½ cup heavy cream
- Preheat the oven to 400ºF
- Generously butter 1, 2 or 4 gratin dishes, depending on the size. I like using 2 of my 8″ Staub enameled cast iron pans.
- Arrange the cherries in the dishes. The cherries should fit snuggly in a single layer.
- In a medium bowl, beat the eggs until foamy. Add the ½ cup sugar, salt and vanilla and beat until the sugar dissolves. Beat in the goat cheese until smooth. Do the same with the flour, and then the milk and cream. If the batter is lumpy from the cheese and you don’t like it pour it through a strainer. Pour the batter over the cherries.
- Bake for 25 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining sugar.
- Continue baking until puffed and lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Run under the broiler if you want a little more color on the top.
- Transfer to a rack to cool.
- Serve at room temperature.
I was thumbing through Dorie Greenspan’s book, AROUND MY FRENCH TABLE, when I came across her recipe for clafoutis. Clafoutis is one of those recipes I’ve made again and again over the years and have never been completely happy with the end result. Ken seems to have some romantic attachment to the dish so I said I’d try it for the post. I trust Dorie and I loved the idea of making it with whole unpitted cherries. It makes so much sense in that the juices are contained.
And yet… on the page before, a picture of a “tourteau de chevre,” a goat cheese cake in a crust, a caught my eye. Gordon Hamersley used to make an amazing version of it at the original Hamersley’s Bistro that I ate it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
I decided to try combining the two recipes. I know, I know, that makes me the pastry equivalent of some mad scientist. Still… I don’t know if Dorie or the French would approve, but it is fabulous.
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