Summer is in full swing! The farmer's markets are filled with gloriously colored, and deliciously smelling, fruits and vegetables. People are walking around the city with a slight tan, and the pavement is warm to the touch. As I type this I am laying in the sand at Chicago's Oak Street Beach on Lake Michigan, watching children play in the water, listening to the ice cream vendors pull their carts through the sand while ringing the "ice cream here" bell, and running sand through my toes. Life is good.
A few Tuesdays ago I was perusing my neighborhood farmers market—the one in front of the MCA in Chicago—when I came upon a farmer who had the most deeply black-colored cherries. I sauntered over to them as if I was courting them with, "Hey sexy, wanna come home with me?" – so I felt my eyes were saying! As I approached I could smell the sweet aroma in the air. Before I knew it, a couple of pounds of cherries were in my market tote, money exchanged hands (and I didn't even feel cheap!), and I headed back to my apartment to create a dessert.
Not just any dessert, I created a dessert that would showcase these richly colored, flavored, and luxurious cherries: Dark Cherry & Almond Clafoutis. A clafoutis (claw-foo-tee) is a baked French dessert of fruit, traditionally black cherries, then baked in a flan-like batter. There isn't any fancy dough, special techniques, or even complicated directions, which makes it a perfect mid-summer dessert.
While fresh cherries are very flavorful, it's a very mild flavor. I wanted this dessert to sing with lush cherry flavor, and each bite to be filled with a burst of sweetness. After a few versions (and many taste-tests!), I just wasn't getting what I had conceptualized in my head. The prior versions were good, but it just wasn't doing the cherries proper justice. Ryan, with his mouth full of version 4, said, "Try cherry liqueur, and see if that helps to bring out the cherries." He is so brilliant!
I had just the thing, a bottle of Luxardo Maraschino Cherry Liqueur was sitting in our bar. On a recent shopping trip to Eataly (though you can find it at many spirits stores), I had picked this bottle because of its beautiful design and twine-wrapped exterior. As with many of the fun ingredients I have procured I figured I would find a use for it later. And later was now!
After another two tries, and many trips back to different farmer's markets around the city, I had finally reached the flavor and texture I had designed in my head: Rich, softly sweet, and sophisticated. My Dark Cherry & Almond Clafoutis is a dessert that you can always count on when you need an amazingly delicious, reliable, and no-fuss signature finale. It comes together will little effort and in under an hour. I am so excited to serve this dessert to friends and family. A mid-summer night's dream, made into reality, with the help of booze! Happy Summer!
It's time for a dip :)
Dark Cherry & Almond Clafoutis
Ingredients (serves 6)
Light Brown Sugar - ¼ cup, lightly packed
Granulated Sugar - ¼ cup, plus 1 tablespoon for preparing dish
Dark Sweet Cherries - 1½ pounds, pitted and halved
Eggs - 3 extra-large, at room temperature
Half-and-half - 1¼ cups, at room temperature
Butter - 3 tablespoons, unsalted, melted and cooled, plus 1 tablespoon for preparing dish
Almond Flour - ⅓ cup, also known as almond meal
Cherry Liqueur - 2 tablespoons (Luxardo Maraschino recommended)
Almond Extract -½ teaspoon
Vanilla - 1 teaspoon, pure extract
Nutmeg - ⅛ teaspoon, freshly grated
Fine Sea Salt - ½ teaspoon
Cornstarch - 3 tablespoons
Slivered Almonds - ¼ cup
Powdered Sugar - for dusting
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch pie pan with 1 tablespoon of butter. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar.
Arrange the cherries in a single layer in the prepared pie pan. Set aside.
In a large bowl, add the eggs, half-and-half, butter, almond flour, cherry liqueur, almond extract, vanilla, nutmeg, cornstarch, sea salt, light brown sugar, and remaining granulated sugar. Whisk until completely smooth. Pour evenly over the cherries.
Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and the center is set.
Meanwhile, in a small, dry sauté pan set over medium heat add the slivered almonds. Toast for 3 to 5 minutes, tossing occasionally until lightly browned. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 20 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar and sprinkle the roasted almonds over top. Serve warm or at room temperature.