Ah, the 14th of July! The season of fresh, local cherries. The celebration of Bastille Day. The time to bake a fruity dessert for this week's Dessert Corps project.
Oh, hey... look at that. It's like a cosmic alignment of forces telling me it's time to make a cherry clafoutis, the traditional custard pudding of Limousin in the heart of la belle France.
As it happens, the fantastic Dessert Corps volunteer crew provided me with a half-dozen eggs and more than a pound of gorgeous, blushing Rainier Cherries — sweet, fragrant and fresh from the Greenpoint farmers' market.
Not familiar with the Rainier? It was developed in Washington state in the 1950s, as a descendant of the big, beautiful Bing Cherry and the smaller, more obscure (but very hardy) Van Cherry.
Apparently the Rainier fetches princely prices because the birds eat about a third of the crop and because they bruise easily, so there's some waste in transit.
By that measure, a Rainier Cherry Clafoutis is a dessert (or brunch treat) that's fit for kings! Or perhaps just recently deposed royalty! Or maybe even friends who happen to be a bit down on their fortunes and need a bit of home-baked comfort.
You choose the audience. I'll provide the recipe:
Golden Rainier Cherry Clafoutis (Makes one 8" dish)
2 1/2 cups (roughly) pitted Rainier cherries
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup toasted almonds
4 large eggs
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup cream (or milk)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla or almond extract
1 tsp lemon zest (optional)
Confectioner's sugar (for dusting)
1. Preheat oven to 325°F and butter an 8" round or square baking dish.
2. In a medium bowl, gently toss the cherries with the cornstarch and spread evenly across the bottom of the buttered dish.
3. Blend the flour and almonds in a blender or food processor until nuts are very finely chopped.
4. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and salt. Whisk in flour until just mixed.
5. Blend in cream, melted butter, vanilla (or almond) extract and lemon zest (if using), whisking until smooth. Pour this mixture over the cherries.
6. Bake until the center sets and the top begins to turn golden, about 55 minutes.
7. Cool to room temperature before dusting the surface with powdered sugar. Serve with vanilla ice cream or yogurt, if desired.
Bon appétit, mes amis!