- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Cherry pie may be an American favorite, but once you try this recipe from France, you may switch your allegiance.

When it’s cherry season, what better way to celebrate this sweet, luscious fruit than by tucking it into a batter that puffs up into a giant baked pancake showered with confectioners’ sugar. This spectacular dessert is a true crowd pleaser — and the good news is it’s a cinch to put together.

Cherry clafoutis became popular in the 19th century in Limousin, France, where the unpitted cherries were cooked in a vanilla-scented batter. Each family had its own closely guarded recipe. The thinking was that the pits added extra flavor. (They obviously didn’t have a cherry-pitter gadget that makes pitting cherries painless and quick.)

Any variety of cherry is fine to use, although I tend to prefer Bing, Queen Anne or Rainier — the sweeter the better. Make sure to remove the stems and then pit them using a pitter. If you are really in a hurry, you can use frozen pitted cherries, but thoroughly defrost and drain them first.

Essentially a country pudding, this clafoutis — sometimes called clafouti — can be served directly from an ovenproof baking dish, or you can cook it and serve it from any nonstick gratin dish or cast-iron skillet, which gives it a casual, homey touch.

This fluffy custard-style batter studded with bright red cherries bakes up into a puffy pancake that is best served right out of the oven.

Help is on the way: Look for cherry pitters in cookware stores or on online. I am a devoted fan of the OXO pitter. (Go to oxo.com.)

Use this recipe as a template for other seasonal fruits, such as apricots, peaches, plums, apples or pears. This also is good for breakfast, brunch or as an afternoon teatime treat.

Cherry clafoutis

1 cup granulated sugar

3 cups pitted fresh sweet cherries or thawed, drained frozen cherries

1 cup all-purpose (plain) flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Pinch of salt

4 large eggs

13/4 cups half-and-half

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Grated zest of 1 lemon

Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Place the baking dish on a baking sheet.

Sprinkle the bottom of the dish with 2 tablespoons of the granulated sugar. Spread the cherries in the bottom of the dish and bake for 10 minutes. There may be a lot of juice, but do not drain. Set aside.

While the cherries are cooking, in a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the eggs with 3/4 cup of the granulated sugar until blended, about 1 minute.

Add the flour mixture in 2 additions, alternating with the half-and-half in 1 addition. Add the vanilla and lemon zest and stir to combine.

Pour the batter over the cherries. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Bake until puffed and golden brown, 30-35 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly. Using a fine-mesh sieve, dust the top with confectioners’ sugar and serve immediately.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Diane Rossen Worthington is the author of 18 cookbooks, including “Seriously Simple.” To contact her, go to www.seriouslysimple.com.

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

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