On Cooking French Clafoutis: The Original

My French mother-in-law is quite a cook. Over the years, I've asked for her recipes, but she cooks mostly from memory. I've tried to look over her shoulder and take notes, but she's too quick. When I want to know how she does it, I go to the source, Larousse Gastronomique. I've eaten clafoutis in many forms. (Please don't tell my mother-in-law, but I've made it with ripe summer peaches before. Delicious!) No matter how many variations I try, the classic, with unpitted cherries, remains a favorite.

I've made clafoutis, using the recipe from Larousse, many times. But this time, I decided to follow it to a T, including weighing the cherries, flour and sugar. So I bought a food scale, something I've been meaning to do for years, ever since college, when I bought the Larousse, actually. In the encyclopedia of classic cooking, measurements are given by weight, in grams. (So far, I'm digging my OXO Good Grips food scale.)

I weighed, I dusted, I sifted, mixed, buttered and poured. I even put regular sugar in the food processor to turn it into caster sugar. I learned something new: Powdered sugar has cornstarch in it and is not the same as caster sugar. This information had been at my fingertips, in my pantry for years, but I didn't know until I looked it up on the all-knowing internet. I did not pit any cherries. I was going for perfection. Did I achieve it? Probably not, but I am eating my third slice as I type. In defense of Larousse, my clafoutis was puffier a few minutes before I shot the photo. I missed its finest moment. (Or did I? This third helping is pretty darn delicious.)

Speaking of those cherry pits, they add a little bitter almond taste — a good thing — to the clafoutis. More than one source recommended soaking the cherries in amaretto, a bitter almond liqueur, if they were already pitted, or if you just can't stand the idea of pits in your pudding. I like them, because they force me to eat slower and really enjoy my sweets, like a real French woman.

How strict are you when you follow a recipe? My Larousse Gastronomique is my bible when I want to do it exactly right. Do you have one cookbook you always trust?

(Images: Anne Postic)