It is cherry season: Pears may be the state fruit and locally, berries might come in more colors and flavors than a Crayola 8 pack, but cherries hold a special place in Oregon. The Bing cherry, the largest cultivar grown in the US, is from Oregon and is named after Ah Bing – An agricultural worker who, according to legend, either discovered or propagated the landrace in Seth Lewelling’s orchard. 12,500 acres of cherries are grown in our state and the crop brings in close to $30 million annually for Oregon growers. Although not market fresh, the process for preserving Maraschino cherries was perfected at Oregon State (go, Beavers) earning the fruit/preserve the distinction of being the official fruit at the Corvallis campus.
There isn’t a wrong way to enjoy cherries: In pies, in/on ice cream, thrown in iced peppermint tea, baked in cobblers, spooned over shortcake, topped with whip cream or mascarpone cheese or eaten straight out of hand. For me, there is only really one cherry dessert, and that is clafoutis.
Clafoutis (Cla-Fu-tea), translates as well, clafoutis with all the online translating tools. There really isn’t an English language designation for this dessert. In lieu of an exact word, the preparation can be described as baked-crepe-custard-cake. Cherries are baked in what is essentially a crepe batter and sprinkled with powdered sugar before serving warm (although it is pretty good chilled the morning after with a cup of coffee). The dessert is elegant, simple and delicious.
Preheat oven to 425°. Use 1 Tablespoon of butter to grease the inside of a 9-inch pie pan.
Mix batter together by combining:
6 Tablespoons melted butter – Melt butter on stove or in microwave; let cool.
1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup milk
½ cup flour (cake flour if you have it, all-purpose is fine too)
2 Tablespoons cherry brandy (or 1 Tablespoon almond extract)
¾ to 1 Pound, pitted, washed and stemmed cherries.
Whisk batter together until all the lumps disappear and set aside to rest for a few minutes. Now is a good time to pit cherries*.
*Traditionally/historically, the pits were left in the cherries – imparting a subtle, bitter almond flavor to the dish. My teeth might not be the straightest or the whitest in the world but they have suffered enough with the orthodontia, caps and miscellaneous dental work – If you like your teeth, I strongly recommend pitting the cherries before baking.
Spread the cherries over the bottom of the buttered pie plate, pour the batter over the top, place in oven. Immediately, reduce heat to 350 and bake for 25 minutes. Like a custard or cake, the clafoutis is done when you can stick a knife in the near center and it comes out clean…you might need an additional 10 minutes of baking time.
Sprinkle powdered sugar on top and serve warm.