Among my Paris apartment's many assets is its proximity to Gerard Mulot's pastry shop: I can walk there in five minutes flat—and do so often. Pass by the shop and you might find me, surrounded by like-minded admirers, marveling at the tarts topped with arrangements to rival any fruit-filled cornucopia painted by Caravaggio. Yet as stunning as these tarts are, the tart that consistently sells out is M. Mulot’s simplest tart, his clafoutis. In fact, the tart is so popular he makes it three times a day, the better to ensure that its crust is crisp and its filling custardy, morning, noon, or night. The traditional clafoutis is a specialty of the Limousin region of France, where it is always made with fresh cherries and almost always with unpitted cherries, since the pits are thought to give the fruit more flavor. This clafoutis strays from tradition in that it is baked in a crust (the original was crustless, which could explain why the French Academy declared it a cake rather than a tart) and studded with griottes, small ruby-colored sour cherries. Griottes are available frozen (M. Muiot’s preference) or jarred at specialty shops. They are also often seen imported from Italy, packed in syrup in blue-and-white-patterned milk-glass bottles. However, as good as these Italian griottes are, they are OK but not ideal for this tart because of their heavy syrup. If you cannot find griottes either frozen or jarred, stick with tradition: make this clafoutis with fresh cherries, pitted or not.
NotesKEEPING: The clafoutis will keep for about 12 hours at room temperature. It is best served shortly after it is made and is always best unchilled.
AN AMERICAN IN PARIS: I’ve made this clafoutis with winy dried cherries and loved it—the tangy dried cherries are wonderful with the rich custard filling. But before you plop the dried cherries into the tart shell, make sure they’re moist and plump. If they’re not, steam them for a minute or two, then pat them dry before proceeding. Of course, you can also make this tart with poached (or high-quality canned) apricots or peaches, purple prune plums, or an assortment of raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries.
Total Timeunder 4 hours
Make Ahead RecipeYes
OccasionCasual Dinner Party
Taste and Texturebuttery, fruity, rich, sweet
Type of Dishdessert, tart
- 1 partially baked 9-inch (24-cm) tart shell made from Sweet Tart Dough
- 3 large eggs
- 6 tablespoons (75 grams) sugar
- 1 cup (240 grams) creme fraiche , homemade or store-bought, or heavy cream
- Pulp of ½ moist. plump vanilla bean or 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 11 ounces (330 grams) frozen griottes or sour cherries, defrosted and patted dry, or sour or sweet fresh cherries, pitted or not (see headnote)
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F (200°e). Put the tart shell on a parchment-lined baking sheet and keep the setup on the counter.
Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl just until they are blended. Whisk in the sugar, followed by the crème fraîche (go easy on the crème fraîche—beat it too energetically, and you’ll have whipped cream) and the vanilla. Switch to a rubber spatula and gently stir the cherries into the batter.
Turn the batter into the crust, poke the cherries around a bit if necessary so that they’re more or less evenly distributed, and slide the baking sheet into the oven. (If you have too much batter for the tart, as might be the case if you are using heavy cream, pour in just enough to fill the tart and bake for 10 minutes, then pour in as much of the remaining batter as possible; continue baking as directed.) Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the custard is set at the center— tap the tart pan, and the custard shouldn’t jiggle. Transfer the clafoutis to a cooling rack. You can serve the clafoutis after it has cooled for about 15 minutes (the temperature at which Gerard Mulot prefers his clafoutis), or you can allow it to come to room temperature.
2002 Dorie Greenspan