Did you know that the English word cherry is actually the result of a misunderstanding?
That’s right. Back in the thirteenth century when we were stealing all kinds of words from French (ahem), those Anglo-Saxons heard the French word cherise (modern French cerise) and assumed it must be plural! In fact, it wasn’t…but we hacked that pesky –s off anyway!
And that’s what goes through my head every time I hear the word cherry: False back-formation.
There. Betcha didn’t know I was a lingua-dork, did you?
Let’s put this knowledge to good use by baking some cherry clafoutis! (BTW, this is pronounced /klafuti/, both in the plural and in the singular..in case you were thinking of falsely applying English morpho-phonetic rules there…) I used the fresh cherries we got in this week’s CSA box! You should snag some cherries really quick to make this, because I hear cherry season is short!
First, pit your cherries. As you may imagine, I had never done this before. Pull the stems off. Then insert a paring knife and gently cut around the pit. Grab the end of the pit with the point of the paring knife and pop it out.
Maybe that’s not the most elegant way to do it, or the neatest, but it’s what I did! And I ended up with a bowlful of pit-free cherries!
As a side note: Apparently, clafoutis purists believe in baking this dish with the pits in, because they make the cherry flavor more intense. After eating these mini clafoutis right up, Dave agreed that it would have been texturally annoying to have to deal with the pits inside the custard. If you want to have a more intense cherry flavor, rather than leave the pits in, I recommend you decrease the vanilla extract in the custard by ½ tsp!
Bake for 5–7 minutes at 350°. The goal is to just barely set the bottom layer of custard, only enough so that a film develops on the top. This way, the berries will be buoyed to the top while the clafoutis bakes, and the juices won’t make the bottom of the custard soggy.
Mini Cherry Clafoutis
lightly adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking
½ cup plus 2 tbsp. whole milk
4½ tbsp. sugar, divided
2 egg yolks
1½ tsp. vanilla*
dash of salt
¼ cup flour
1½ cups pitted fresh cherries
confectioner’s sugar, for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 350°. Butter four 6oz. ramekins and set them onto a cookie sheet.
Combine milk, 2½ tbsp. sugar, egg and yolks, vanilla, salt, and flour in a food processor. Process on high speed for 1 minute.
Spoon 2 tbsp. batter into each ramekin. Bake for 5 minutes to slightly set the bottom layer of custard.
Layer the cherries over the warm custard. Sprinkle the remaining sugar over the cherries, about ½ tbsp. into each ramekin. Spoon the remaining batter over the cherries.
Return the ramekins to the oven. Bake for another 22–25 minutes, turning the cookie sheet halfway through. The clafoutis should be puffed and browned. Test the center of the custard with a knife; if it comes out clean, the clafoutis are done.
Serve warm or lukewarm, sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar.
*Note: If you prefer a more prominent cherry flavor, use only 1 tsp. vanilla.