Seasonal Baking: Brandied Cherry Clafoutis
I'd like to pretend that I haven't dropped $20 on a bag of Bing cherries and eaten them to my face but I'd be lying. When it comes to fresh sweet cherries, I'm a fiend, but thankfully for my wallet they're only in season for a short while every year. Despite my addiction, I almost never bake with fresh cherries because I find that they tend to lose their intense cherry-ness—that deep flavor of "red fruit" that makes them so delicious.
When the first cherries hit the market this year, I decided to try my hand at making my own brandied cherries, and I'm glad I did; they're leagues above the cloyingly sweet, fake dye-infused ones you can buy at the supermarket. It occurred to me that their intense cherry taste (and boozy kick) would be perfect in baking.
When it comes to cherry desserts, you can't get more classic than clafoutis. It's a rustic French custard from the Limousin region that's made with just a few ingredients: eggs, flour, sugar, and milk. It bakes up into a golden, not-too-sweet, sliceable custard that's excellent for breakfast, tea, or dessert.
You can add all kinds of flavorings to clafoutis, but I think that vanilla extract is essential, and I also like to add lemon zest to brighten the flavors. Many recipes call for only whole milk and some (ok, maybe just Ina Garten's) call for all heavy cream. I find that a mix of the two produces a custard that's rich without being heavy.
Other reasons to make this dish? If you already have the brandied cherries lying around (as I'd encourage you to do at all times) the whole thing takes about 10 minutes to put together. And if you're a stand-at-the-fridge snacker, heads up: I think it tastes better chilled.