Cherry clafoutis ranks as one of my top 10 favourite desserts. Set aside the fancy French name, you have the timeless combination of baked cherries and custard. It is a simple and comforting treat that I only get to indulge in summer. Last weekend my friends and I received a generous invitation to pick cherries for free at an acquaintance’s backyard in Niagara-on-the-Lake. The trees were laden with red orbs at the peak of the season. We filled our buckets to our hearts content. I came home with two large bags of sweet and sour cherries. I froze half of my haul and still had a large bag of sweet cherries for snacking. Not one to leave well enough alone, I decided make cherry clafoutis using my favourite recipe.
I love the classic version with a bit of flour to lend structure to the delicate custard. Last I made it, it was extra special with marzipan stuffed inside each pitted cherry. However, I always remember the ethereal version I sampled at Gerard Mulot’s patisserie in Paris. It is a bit unconventional with tart crust but I think it is a brilliant idea. With the support of the buttery crust, the flour-free crème fraîche custard can be all the more delicate. Lucky for me, I don’t have to travel to Paris to experience this treat. Dorie Greenspan got the recipe from chef Mulot and included in her cookbook Paris Sweets. I usually revisit this recipe once a year to celebrate cherry season. This year is no exception.
Rather than using pâte sucrée, I went with pâte brisée. Just as buttery, but not as sweet. I wanted the filling to shine. The simple custard of eggs, crème fraîche, sugar, and vanilla bean could not be easier to maker. I poured the thick creamy liquid into a par baked crust packed with pitted sweet cherries. My cherry clafoutis tasted as good as I remember.
With the abundance of cherries, I did not stop at just one tart. Playing on the same theme of custard and cherries, I found Samantha & Samuel Clark’s tarta de cerezas very intriguing. The recipe comes from Moro: The Cookbook, a treasure trove of Spanish and Muslim Mediterranean flavours. The tarta is a bit more involved than the clafoutis. First, I poached the pitted cherries in Pernod (any sweet anise liqueur would work). I never thought of pairing cherries with anise but the hint of liquorice flavour was amazing. Next, I cooked a crème anglaise with cream, milk, whole egg, egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla. The barely sweetened custard was poured into the par baked tart crust with plenty of boozy cherries scattered throughout. The tart was baked just enough to set the custard. While it was baking, I added sugar and lemon juice to the cherry infused Pernod. I reduced the ruby red liquid until it was syrupy and drizzled over the tart at time of serving.
The two cherry tarts could not be more different. The cherry clafoutis had a firmer custard with an underlying tang thanks to crème fraîche. It was classic. By contrast, the tarta de cerezas was sexy and exotic. The liquorice Pernod heightened the juicy cherries. The custard wobbled and threatened to spill out of the crust. Somehow it miraculously stayed put and oozed in every bite. I loved it.
Thank goodness I stashed away half of my cherries in the freezer. I can extend the joy of cherry custard tart all summer long. Or until I run out. Oh I hope that will not happen.