Perhaps you already know how to say “cherry pitter” in Italian. If so, skip down a few lines. If not, let me be the first to tell you that the word is snocciolatore. Meaning, at least to my way of top-level linguistic thinking, that one would be correct enough to call the instrument, in English, a “snoculator.” It’s a handheld device for pitting a single cherry or olive. I forgot I had one. Then I remembered. (For the record, in case you are clicking over to fact-check this story on Google Translate, you will be told that “snocciolatore” in Italian translates to “stoner” in English, but if you ask GT to translate “stoner” to Italian, it remains primly mum on the subject. If you just google up “snocciolatore,” the first thing that will happen is you will see some images of pitting devices, and then the second thing, if you are anything like me, is that you will begin corrupting the lyrics to the Three Stooges version of Bizet's “Toreador” song in your head to accommodate this word. If you are not anything like me in this regard, count your lucky stars.)
With only a few pounds of cherries to show for my second pass at the trees this week and plenty of snackers in the house, the stock was dwindling for that clafoutis adventure I said I would tell you about. Before the last pound vanished, I set the youngest offspring to work with the snoculator. Twenty minutes later, we had one boy, obscured by cherry juice from fingertips to elbows and from ear to ear, and maybe a half pound of neatly pitted cherries. (It’s important to taste every fourth or fifth one that you pit, to compare it to the three or four with pits that you are eating every two minutes to keep your strength up.)
When I was a tot, my mom often cooked from a book called “How to Grow And Cook It.” I am pretty sure the clafoutis of my youth came from there. It was a dandy. We ate it all the time, with all kinds of fruits. It whips up in a moment and satisfies all kinds of desires. Years later, when my thoughts ran back around to this custardy dessert that rhymes with "patootie", I turned to a recipe in Molly O’Neill’s New York Cookbook, and I loved that one pretty much too. And then, once again, I took some years off from clafoutis-making. But last Friday’s clafoutis was made from that recipe, and wouldn’t you know it but the bloom was off the rose. The texture was not quite as I hoped, and the flavor only so-so.
Two of my heroines have made clafoutis recently, and their takes—quite different—intrigued me, (here's one, and here's the other) as did a Food52 version. In the end I triangulated, and what a triangle it was. If you have never clafouted, think of something along the lines of a dense cake, or a sweet version of Yorkshire pudding, or a popover that has failed in all the right ways. Think of eating it, as Laura suggests, with a little mascarpone or creme fraiche on top, or think of eating it, as I just did, standing up at the counter.
A classic version gives the snoculator the day off and claims that extra deliciousness results from baking the thing with the pits in place. I knew someone here would break a tooth, so I sacrificed that element of flavor. But try it if you feel brave. If you lack cherries, rest assured a peach or apricot clafoutis will rock your world just as profoundly.
- about half a pound of cherries, pitted and halved
- a good scraping of lemon zest
- a nice splash of white wine
- 1/3 c sugar (divided)
- 1/4 c heavy cream
- 3/4 c whole milk
- fat pinch of salt
- 3 eggs
- 1/3 c all-purpose flour (I used a gluten-free one and the result was tasty)
- 2-3 T almond flour or meal (this is probably optional, but it was quite yum)
Mix the cherries, lemon zest, white wine and 1T of the sugar in a small bowl, and let them settle while you mess around with the rest of the tasks.
Preheat the oven to 350. Generously butter a 10" glass pie plate or ceramic baking dish.
In a medium bowl, combine the remaining sugar and all the other ingredients. Whisk or blend (with an immersion blender, say) until perfectly smooth.
Pour the cherries and the juice they have accumulated into the prepared pie dish. (I won't tell anyone if you taste this mixture.) Now pour the batter over the fruit, and pop that bad boy into the hot oven. Bake until puffed, set in the center and browned at the edges, about 30-35 minutes--but keep an eye on it after 25 minutes, as ovens vary a lot.
It will deflate rather quickly on its way to a temperature you can safely eat it at, but do not fret. Still delicious, either gilded with a tart dairy product on top, or eaten as is. Makes a superior breakfast snack, if you have any left over.