It’s cherry season and I’ve been totally cherry obsessed! I think my son has a lot to do with it, because he’s been devouring bags and bags of them over the past couple of weeks. I’ve always been a casual cherry fan, but our household is now in love with them with a capital L.
The cherries I buy disappear in a blink, so I’ve started squirreling away a few cups as soon as I get home from the market because I’ve been secretly conducting baking experiments with them. See, what I love most about cherries is that they hold their shape really well through cooking and baking, and I’ve always found that their deep burgundy shade creates spectacular-looking treats.
One of the cherry desserts I’ve been making for years is clafoutis. It’s one of the few super-elegant French desserts that are actually easy to make. Cherries baked in a custard! What’s not to like about that? Though I do love the traditional form, this year I wanted to switch things up. I’ve been on a hunt for portable desserts—cookies, bars, and such—treats I can easily pack up for a picnic or bring to a friend’s house. So I wondered, would there be a way to make clafoutis portable?
Yep, I’ve turned clafoutis into a bar. And I managed to sneak brown butter into the equation. I think cherries and hazelnuts are a match made in heaven, and these clafoutis bars prove it. The buttery crust contains ground hazelnuts, and the idea of using brown butter in the filling actually came to me from a play on words: in French, brown butter is beurre noisette, or hazelnut butter, because of the delicious aroma it develops when you melt and simmer it for a while.
I first intended to use brown butter in the crust, but I was looking for a bigger flavor punch. Plus, to make sure the filling would hold its shape (as a good bar should), I had to change the usual clafoutis custard ratio: less cream, more flour, and—yes!—brown butter. The resulting texture comes close to that of a blondie, one that’s dotted with juicy, delicious cherries throughout. Are you having beurre noisette dreams yet?
I know what you’re thinking: pitting cherries is a pain. I know. I’ve probably halved and pitted thousands of cherries in my time. It’s not that hard, but this year, I succumbed to the lure of a cherry pitter. The purchase was motivated by both a hungry toddler and an impulsive want for a shiny new kitchen gadget (because I deserve it! haha). The Oxo cherry pitter had been in my Amazon wish list for years and let me tell you, it’s worth every penny. Like all Oxo gadgets, it’s sturdy, comfortable to use, efficient, and easy to clean. I’m not looking back! I know this sounds like an infomercial, but it is not, in any way. I just have to tell you that if you’re a serious cherry lover, this gadget won’t gather dust at the back of your drawer.
So if you, too, manage to save a few cherries from the ravenous cherry lovers around you, please give these clafoutis bars a try. They’re a celebration of all good things about summer, in bar form.
Makes 16 bars.
These juicy and rich Brown Butter, Hazelnut, and Cherry Clafoutis Bars are a celebration of all good things about summer, in portable form.
25 minPrep Time
55 minCook Time
1 hr, 20 Total Time
For the crust: Preheat oven to 350°F (275°C). Grease an 8 x 8-inch baking pan with cooking spray, then line with parchment paper, letting two sides overhang. (This will make unmolding the bars easier later on.)
In a medium bowl, whisk the ground hazelnuts, flour, sugar, and salt together. Drizzle in the melted butter and mix until the ingredients are wet. Transfer into the prepared baking pan and press down all the way to the sides of the pan to form the crust. Bake until the crust is turning golden around the edges, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and set on a cooling rack while you prepare the crust. (Keep the oven on.)
For the filling: Use a cherry pitter to pit the cherries, or do it by hand, then set the pitted cherries aside. Melt the butter in a small stainless steel saucepan (see note) over medium heat. Simmer, swirling the pot from time to time. If the butter bubbles up preventing you from watching closely over the color changing (that’s the water evaporating), lift the pot off the heat for a few seconds until the bubbles recede, then put back on the heat. The butter is ready when the milk solids at the bottom of the pot turn a light brown color and the concoction gives off a delicious hazelnut aroma. When it does, remove the butter from the heat, pour in a small bowl, and let cool for 10 minutes. (Congratulations, you’ve just made brown butter!)
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the eggs sugar and eggs together. Gradually whisk in the flour to make sure there are no lumps. Whisk in the heavy cream, lemon zest, vanilla extract, and brown butter.
Distribute the pitted cherries over the crust. Pour the clafoutis mixture over the cherries and use a spatula to spread it all over. Sprinkle with the crushed hazelnuts. Bake at 350°F (275°C) for 35 minutes, or until the clafoutis is puffed and set in the center and golden brown around the edges. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let cool completely.
Run a sharp knife along the two sides that are not covered by parchment paper. Pull on the parchment paper to lift the bars out of the pan. Use a very sharp knife to cut the bars into squares, making a gentle sawing motion to cut through the cherries without smashing them down. Store the bars in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a day, or in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- To make brown butter, it’s best to use a stainless steel saucepan because the change in color is easier to monitor over the pale metal. If using a non-stick pan, you can use a spoon to scoop up some butter throughout the cooking process (just make sure to dip the spoon all the way down to the bottom of the pan to catch some of the milk solids).
- How to toast and peel hazelnuts: Place the hazelnuts on a baking tray covered with parchment or aluminum paper, and bake at 350°F [170°C] for 10 to 15 minutes, giving the tray a good shake every five minutes. When the hazelnuts’ skin is shiny and crackled, remove from the oven and transfer to a clean dish towel. Close the towel up into a bundle and rub the hazelnuts against one another vigorously to remove the skin. Open the towel and pickup the peeled hazelnuts. Some bits of skin will remain but that’s ok! Keep the peeled hazelnuts in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to use.