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Cherry clafouti - to pit or not to pit?

So, I've heard a rumour that the flavour of cherries is enhanced by cooking them with the pits. True? Not so much? I suppose mostly I'm wondering if the improvement is big enough to compensate for the relative annoyance of having to watch out for pits as you eat.

Thanks!

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  1. That's what Alton claimed on the recent 'dutch oven' episode (but didn't do himself). Apparently leaving the pits in is common in traditional French preparation of this dish. So far I've only used frozen fruit for this dish, so I can't say anything based on experience. Maybe it depends on the type of cheery.

    2 Replies
    1. re: paulj

      The black cherries traditionally used for clafoutis (singular and plural are spelled with a terminal s, though it's not pronounced) in the Limousin, its native region, are smaller and have a much lower fruit to pit ratio than, say, bing cherries, so pitting beforehand is a lot of work. It also increases the possibility of leaked juice making the clafoutis soggy.

      I find that bing and other common North American varieties aren't particularly juicy, so pitting is less risky. To be on the safe side, you can roast the pitted cherries (tossed with kirsch if you like) for 5-10 minutes before placing them in the baking dish. Save any expressed juices for flavouring whipped cream or vinegar. That said, I almost never pit. Clafoutis is such a quick and homey dessert and pitting both doubles the prep time and reduces the homey quotient. Can't say I've noticed a huge difference in flavour between pitted and unpitted, though, not with bings at least.

      1. re: carswell

        wow - thanks for the excellent answer
        I have a quart of sour cherries . . .

    2. I never pit and prefer it that way, but admit I have never done a blind taste test.

      1. The pits do impart some flavor, but I don't think it's worth the bother of eating around them. Some people worry about prussic acid in the seed, but you have to crack the kernal to get to that, so I don't think it's an issue here.

        1 Reply
        1. re: jlafler

          no, but cracking your teeth IS an issue. I'm an unabashed Francophile, but I don't care if they want to leave the pits in, I don't! (and, fwiw, I've never been served it with pits in in France, so I'm sure it's not a hard and fast rule).

        2. I follow the recipe from the Chez Panisse Fruits cookbook, and I never pit. This recipe calls for cooking the cherries in a pan with sugar and cinnamon and butter (how can you go wrong!!!) to cook them before covering them with the batter. This makes them into little swollen bombs of cherry flavour that explode in your mouth when you eat the clafouti. It is to die for! Pitting them would not allow the cherry juices to stay in the body of the cherry, and I think you'd lose that wonderful flavour explosion. So I never pit.

          1. Interesting discussion. Since I don't live in France, I think I'll pit my cherries. I just think most Americans would not like eating a dessert with cherry pits.

            1 Reply
            1. re: NYCkaren

              So I often have served cherry desserts with the pits, and my American friends never have an issue with it - I just warn them first.

            2. I always pit, don't want to eat around the pit and have to remove it from my mouth. I follow the same technique noted by carswell, that is roasting the cherries first (but using the same baking dish as the finished dessert). The recipe I've used is from Patricia Wells At Home in Provence.

              1. I have done a blind taste test of both. I detected a slight difference in flavor between the pitted and unpitted cherry clafoutis. My guests, however, preferred the pitted version. They could not taste a difference and did not like spitting out the pits much.

                1. Add a bit of almond extract to boost the flavor is lieu of the pits.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: monavano

                    That is what I was just going to say! I remember home canning with my mother and when we did peaches and apricots, we always put a pit in every jar for better flavour. And you are right, monavano, they have an almond flavour. Even if the pits added flavour, I would pit because I hate spitting them all out at the table.

                  2. In "Paris Sweets," Dorie Greenspan says the French never pit the cherries first, but she does give us permission to do so.

                    1. With all due respect to traditional French methods... I hate pits. I much prefer to savor the flavors without having to gingerly chew around and spit out pits.