Sometimes, a word for a dish or a food preparation method I have never used will come to me and I will not rest until I have experienced it. That is what happened with "clafoutis" - I have no idea where I was introduced to the word, but after we picked up some cherries on our way back from a wedding in beautiful Los Olivos, all I could think about was making a cherry clafoutis, while at the same time asking myself, "cherry clafoutis is a thing, right?" This is where the internet came in, helpfully proving that cherry clafoutis is, indeed, a thing and although I don't necessary need a reason to make special desserts, my mother was serendipitously visiting for Mother's Day. Using a recipe from Saveur as a base, I decided to decrease the egg because some comments complained of eggy-ness and I tend to shy away from really eggy desserts and include wild fennel, as cherry and fennel go together in a delightful way.
There are a few great things about this dessert. The first is that it's easy - really easy. It's also visually impressive in the cast-iron pan and versatile in ingredient options (apricot + almond? pear + bergamot?) and, because it's not super sweet, it's also versatile in potential eating occasion. We enjoyed it with fennel whipped cream as dessert and again the next day with coffee for brunch and I'm pretty sure no one would turn their nose up to a clafoutis at tea time. So, now you have no excuse - get out there, forage some fennel (which is all over the bay area), buy some cherries, and make this deliciously easy puffed crepe-like cake! Recipe below serves 8.
- 1 cup chopped wild fennel fronds, plus a few fronds for garnish
- 1/2-1 cup whipping cream, depending on how much your group likes whipped cream (optional)
- 7-8 tablespoons sugar, divided
- 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, divided
- 1/2 tablespoon butter
- 1-1/4 cups whole milk (can be substituted for a combination of 3 parts reduced fat and 1 part whipping cream, if you happen to have these around like I did)
- 2 tablespoons kirsch or Luxardo (I had Luxardo, but think it would be better with kirsch)
- 5 eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon medium coarse Kosher salt, divided
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 cups black or sour cherries, pitted (see post on how to pit cherries like a boss)
- Confectioner's sugar, for dusting
To make fennel whipped cream: Place 1/2 cup chopped fennel in a mason jar, pour whipped cream over top, cover, and refrigerate overnight. Remove fennel then beat cream until whipped, adding 1-2 tablespoons of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla toward the end of beating. Refrigerate until used.
Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Grease a 9'' cast-iron skillet and set aside. Whisk milk, sugar, kirsch or Luxardo, vanilla, eggs, and 1/4 teaspoon salt until combined. Add flour and whisk until smooth, about 30 seconds.
Pour batter into buttered skillet, then distribute cherries evenly over top. Bake until a skewer inserted into batter comes out clean and a golden brown crust has formed on top and bottom of clafoutis, about 25 minutes. Dust with confectioners' sugar and serve with a dollop of fennel whipped cream, if desired.