Every year at about this time, pictures of cherry clafoutis start to crowd the pages of my favorite magazines and blogs. Cherry clafoutis is just the kind of thing I would make, I always think, high on myself and my second cup of coffee. Rustic but photogenic, sweet but not too sweet, a chance to get a little handsy with the local produce. Nothing could be more up my alley. I am the very essence of a cherry clafoutis baker.
I have never baked a cherry clafoutis.
I have bought cherries with the promise of clafoutis ripe and lusty in my mind, washed them in a colander and set them in front of a sunny window. I have prohibited my daughters from eating the cherries because the cherries are For the Clafoutis! I can’t say for sure, but I may have pitted a cherry or two for the express purpose of tossing them, devil may care, into a baking dish soon to be brimming with lush clafoutis batter. I have peered over the precipice at the mighty clafoutis. But I have not spread my arms and let the wind push at my back, launching me belly and soul over the edge.
I don’t know why. Do I shy away from the work of pitting the cherries, vaguely romantic at first with its blood-stained fingers and whispers of generations past, but quickly dissolving into drudgery? Do I worry that the result will disappoint, leaving me unsatisfied and gunning once again for the next new thing? Do I wonder, just a little, whether I’m not such a natural-born baker after all — and would I rather walk away than know for sure? Or am I more concerned that I am, in fact, on the cusp of fulfilling my potential, and that it will prove to be too much, or not enough?
I have never baked a cherry clafoutis. There are a lot of things that I have never done, and sometimes the thought of it starts to crowd the pages of my mind. The times I could have swallowed my fear, or my pride, or my overzealousness for the status quo, and reached out a little farther — to other people, to other challenges, to other ideas. Even if none of those times by themselves would have altered my fate, or ours, much at all. When you add up a lifetime’s worth of clafoutis that never quite made it into the oven, you start to feel like you might’ve been a lot better off if you’d cranked up the heat and baked a few. You might’ve changed the world. Or you might’ve simply found the peace that would come from knowing exactly where you stood, arms wide open and fingers stained with cherry juice. That in itself would be really something.
My friend Cheryl is good at a lot of things. She writes words that find their way into minds and hearts. She bakes clafoutis that make it to the oven. And maybe more than anything, she opens spaces where people can come together and share ideas about the words that they would like to write and the clafoutis that they would like to bake. Most recently, she’s set her sights on cherries.
And see? Just like that, she’s gotten us somewhere already. Not all the way to a clafoutis just yet, sure. But to cherry vanilla crisps, which, in themselves, are really something.
You can prepare a batch of these, screw the lids on tight, and freeze them before baking. Give them as gifts — to others, or one at a time, after a too-long day, to yourself. If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that gifts to yourself are a good idea. For now, a crisp. And maybe someday, a clafoutis.
Recipe: Individual Cherry Vanilla Crisps in Jars
- For the filling
- 1 1/2 pounds cherries, stemmed, halved, and pitted
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- For the topping
- 3/4 cup rolled oats
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup light muscovado or other brown sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 8 Tablespoons (1 stick) butter, diced
- To make the filling: Preheat the oven to 375°F with a rack in the middle. In a large bowl, toss together the cherries, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla extract and lemon juice until well combined. Set eight half-pint canning jars on a heavy, rimmed baking sheet and divide the filling equally among them.
- To make the topping: In a medium bowl, combine the oats, flour, muscovado sugar, and salt. Stir together thoroughly. Add the diced butter and, using your fingers, pinch the ingredients together until they form a cohesive, crumbly topping and no lumps of butter or loose bits of flour or sugar are left. Divide the topping evenly among the jars.
- Bake for about 40 minutes, until the topping is browned and the filling is bubbly. Alternatively, you can freeze lidded, unbaked jars for up to 6 months and bake individually in a toaster oven when you’re craving a little treat. You can bake directly from the freezer, but you may need to add a few minutes to the baking time.
Preparation time: 20 minute(s)
Cooking time: 40 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 8