Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Plum Clafoutis

There are two things I almost never say no to: making dessert and eating dessert.  And there was a point last week when I desperately needed to do both.  I was stressed, tired, and having a craving for something sweet.  I also had some beautiful plums from the farmer's market that were perhaps a little too ripe on the counter that I needed to do something with.

Of course, I had to bake something.

But I was busy.  I had no time to make a cake or complicated dessert that involved multiple steps and a lot of time creaming butter or adding ingredients one at a time.  I needed to make something simple.  Something that would satisfy me.  Something that would allow the flavor of my beautiful plums to shine.  And something that would be just as delicious straight from the oven as it would be after some time on the counter or in the fridge.

It was clear what I needed to make: clafoutis.

Clafoutis is an eggy, creamy, smooth almost-custard, not-quite-flan, traditional French dessert.  It's the kind of thing grandmothers make for their grandchildren, the kind of thing you can serve at a dinner party to guests, and the kind of go-to recipe you want for cold or rainy days when you want your kitchen to smell like heaven.  It is a breeze to make and it satisfies a sweet tooth without being too much (even if you decide to go for that second piece when you really know you shouldn't).  I've been having a love affair with clafoutis.

It's a breeze to make, it requires no special ingredients, and the recipe is easily tweaked to fit personal preferences.  Really, there is no reason not to make clafoutis.  Even if you're a new baker, you shouldn't be intimidated; this recipe is very forgiving if you make mistakes!

I happen to like my clafoutis with a fairly high cream-to-milk ratio, but don't let this throw you off.  If you don't have much cream on hand, you can still make clafoutis!  I just happen to keep heavy cream in my fridge for my coffee in the morning (this may sound unhealthy, but I like the richness it provides).  But for those who don't want to buy heavy cream or who are more health conscious, you can see my note below in the recipe.
And I personally love the aroma of rum in my baked goods and I adore how the flavor melds with baked fruit and vanilla, but if you don't have rum handy, you can easily replace it with another liquor (something with an appropriate flavor, such as brandy) or you can leave it out entirely.  If you don't like cinnamon, you can omit it.  I actually forgot to add vanilla once, and the flavor of the rum and plums was so wonderful, you couldn't even tell something was missing.

This plum clafoutis is delicious served warm or cold.  I can actually never resist digging into it as soon as it comes out of the oven, golden, puffed up, and pipping hot.  A slightly burned tongued is a small price to pay for the instant gratification of the silky, creamy, slightly tart but simultaneously sweet taste of a clafoutis that has just finished baking.  And when this clafoutis cools, its nuances are somehow revealed and you can better appreciate the subtle notes, the beautiful way the rum melds with the vanilla to complement the earthier, muted jam tones of the plum.  With its simple elegance, this clafoutis is not just any dessert, and it satisfies a craving much deeper than just a desire for something sweet.

Plum Clafoutis
adapted from Vanilla Garlic

3-4 plums, skins washed well
scant 1/3 cup granulated sugar
3-4 tbsp rum (the amount is really a personal preference thing)
3 eggs
*1 cup of milk or cream  (see note below!)
1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract (depending on how much you like the flavor of vanilla)
1/3 teaspoon of salt (I know this measurement isn't common; you can guesstimate it)
1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
scant 1/2 cup of flour

Slice your plums into quarters (or halves, depending on what look you're going for) and then put them into a plastic container and cover with the sugar and rum.  Allow to "marinate" for at least 2 hours or, preferably, overnight in the fridge.  (You can leave them there for as long as 2 days in my experience)

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Lightly butter a 9-inch or 8-inch baking dish or tart pan (round or square doesn't matter; square pans allow for prettier and more even slices, while round pans tends to be more traditional and aesthetically pleasing). Carefully pull the marinated plums out of their rum/sugar bath and arrange them evenly on the bottom of the baking dish, skin side down.

*Note: I use ¼ cup 1% milk and ¾ cup heavy whipping cream, but any ratio will work!  This recipe works with any combination of skim milk, cream, or half and half.  I wouldn't recommend making it with only skim milk, because without any milk fat it won't taste as smooth and creamy and it won't puff up beautifully since you can't whip air into skim milk the way you can cream, but if you want to cut back on some calories or only have skim milk on hand, this recipe won't suffer for it.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, cream, vanilla extract, salt, and rum-sugar mixture until smooth.

Add the cinnamon and sift in the flour one-third at a time and whisk to combine, making sure there are no lumps. Gently pour into the baking dish or tart pan. If the plums begin moving/floating away, just rearrange them after you have finished pouring.

Bake for 35-40 minutes on the middle oven rack, rotating the pan after the first 25 to ensure even baking. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 5 minutes before tasting (or else you will burn yourself!). The clafoutis will deflate a bit, which is completely normal.

Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.
Keeps in the fridge, covered with foil or saran wrap for about 4 days (if you can resist eating it for that long!).


  1. Yum. My kind of recipe. I may give this a shot this weekend!!

  2. This is a very poetic and romantic hymn to the clafoutis!