Cherry Oh Cherry Oh Baby!

The cherries came back. The bright red fruit covering the tree in our front yard that caught me so by surprise exactly two years ago  has – oh happy day – returned. And this time, there’s no guessing about what kind of cherries they are.

The cherry tree was given to Ted by his (now our) dear friend, William Clayton, after Ted’s father Bob Axelrod died in 2000. They named it Bing, for Bing Crosby, in a tribute to Bob’s longtime love of Big Band and jazz.

In June 2010, when I first looked out our front windows to see Bing festooned with fruit. I was thrilled, thinking they were the hard-to-find sour cherries of my childhood.

I rushed out to pick them and gathered enough to make a sour cherry pie.

A few days later, I noticed that the remaining cherries had darkened to a deep purplish red. These weren’t sour cherries, they were, of course, bings! We climbed precariously high to collect as many as we could to bake into a classic clafouti (from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking) which we shared with friends at a Sunday afternoon party.

Last year, there were no cherries at all –  I figured the birds had gotten wise enough to get them all early.  Or perhaps Bing is some sort of biennial cherry tree …

This year, because Bing has grown, we got out the BIG ladder. I greedily picked them before they were fully ripe, fearing to lose them to the birds, and baked another clafouti, this one from Dorie Greenspan’s fabulous book “Around My French Table.” Her recipe – as authentic as Julia’s but richer, due to heavy cream – says to leave the cherries whole, but I didn’t dare, worrying someone might crack a tooth. I also wanted to make sure there were no surprises (i.e. bugs) inside and while I’ll spare you the details, I’m glad I checked.

Dorie Greenspan’s Cherry Clafoutis

Serves 6

1 pound sweet cherries, pitted (make sure they weigh a pound after you pit them – pre-pit weight is probably about 1 ½ pounds.

3 large eggs

½ cup sugar

Pinch of salt

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

½ cup all-purpose flour

¾ cup whole milk

½ cup heavy cream

Confectioners sugar, for dusting

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan (or another baking pan with a 2-quart capacity).

Put the cherries in the pie pan in a single layer

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs until they’re foamy, then add the sugar and whisk for a minute or so. Whisk in the salt and vanilla. Add the flour and whisk vigorously – usually you should be gentle when incorporating flour, but this is an exception – until the batter is smooth.

Still whisking (less energetically), gradually pour in the milk and cream and whisk until well blended. Rap the bowl against the counter to knock out any bubbles and pour the batter over the cherries.

Bake the clafoutis for 35 to 45 minutes, or until it’s puffed and lightly browed and, most important, a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer the clafoutis to a cooling rack and allow it to cool until it’s only the least bit warm or comes to room temperature.

Dust the clafoutis with confectioners sugar right before you bring it to the table.

And yes, Julia’s recipe is for “clafouti,” Dorie’s is “clafoutis.”

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