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Cue the clafoutis

Summer sneaks up on us. It tiptoes in with the first 5:30 sunrise sometime in late spring, and it lies in wait with the green tomatoes, scrappy and promising. It doesn’t make a fuss; there’s no ruckus or fanfare. But slowly—so easy, instinctive, almost imperceptible—it takes over. With the first tentative jump of the thermometer, we slip off our long sleeves, our socks, our boots and pullovers and wool pants. The windows fall open; the blankets throw themselves back; and everything, whether by reason or reflex, warms and awakens. The onset of summer is, to hijack a (completely unrelated) quote by former U.S poet laureate Stanley Kunitz, “like stepping into the ocean when the temperature of the water is not much different from that of the air. You scarcely know, until you feel the undertow tug at you, that you have entered into another element.” Whether by way of a juice-heavy tomato; a flawless spicy-sweet peach; or maybe a black plum, shimmering darkly on a shady table, looking eerily like a sparkly lure at the end of a fishing line—when it comes to summer, we’re all an easy catch.

But between summer and me, it’s not so much a matter of luring and trapping: it’s more a mad embrace, half-hunger, half-hysteria. I may not be the quickest to feel the season’s tug, but when it comes, I throw myself at summer, and shamelessly so. I spit the pits out the window, lick avocado from the knife; I snare corn between my teeth and snag my fingers on the blackberry bush. I hold on tight while I can, because after all, I’m working with a finite deadline: just as quietly as it came, summer will go. It’s a system of catch and release, if you will. And if the calendar is to be believed, the release will come awfully soon.

To make the most of what little time we have, I cue the clafoutis, a classic country-French custard with a texture that straddles soufflé, popover, and flan. Its eggy, lightly sweet base is a perfect catch-all for summer fruits, especially those of the soft, fleshy variety. Whatever fruits you send its way, a clafoutis receives them gracefully, and fifty minutes later, it releases them transformed, bettered—soft, melting, resting lightly in their own sweet-tart juices.

Traditional clafoutis are made with cherries, preferably unpitted, but I’ve been known to veer more apricot, myself, especially when they’re at their rosy peak. That said, if pressed to play favorites, I’d likely fall into the pro-plum camp—at least this week. But the oven is preheated and the fork is on the table, and I won’t let summer sneak away without another clafoutis or two.

Black Plum Clafoutis
Adapted from Christopher Kimball at The New York Daily News

The Daily News version of this recipe calls for blueberries, but you should feel free to substitute any fruit you like, as I have. I’ve been known to use cherries, as per the classic recipe, but I’ve found myself more intrigued by the less strictly traditional: apricots, blackberries, Italian prune plums, or black plums, as I use here. In the fall and winter, thin slices or chunks of apple or pear work nicely, and I’ve heard tell of a prune clafoutis as well, for which the pitted dried fruits are first marinated overnight in armagnac. When it comes to serving, a clafoutis is delicious when still slightly warm from the oven, but I’ll freely admit to eating it straight from the fridge on the second day. It makes a luscious breakfast too, warm or cold.

3 medium black plums, pitted and cut into eight wedges each
3 large eggs
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup whole milk
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
A pinch of salt
½ cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
Powdered sugar, for serving

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and lightly butter a 9-inch pie dish*. Arrange the plum wedges, skin side down, in a decorative pattern on the bottom of the dish.

Whisk the eggs and sugar in a medium bowl until pale yellow, about 1 minute. Add the milk, vanilla, and salt, and whisk to combine.

Sprinkle the flour over the batter, and whisk until smooth. Pour the batter gently over the plums, trying to disturb them as little as possible (some will float and move around no matter how gentle you are). Bake the clafoutis until puffed and nicely golden around the edges, about 45-50 minutes. Remove the clafoutis from the oven, and allow it to cool for a half hour or so, during which time you’ll see it deflate and settle a bit. Serve it warm or at room temperature, dusted with powdered sugar.

Yield: 6-8 servings

* I used a 9-inch silicone tart mold.


Blogger Clare Eats said...

this is so unfair molly! I don't know if I can let you go on with this any more *clare stamps her foot* All these delicious dishes with glorious summer fruits, and then you go and list a whole heap of other ones..... AHHHHH
I can't wait for summer so I can make all you northen hemisphere's jealous!!!!

Did you see my mangosteens post? you cant even get them in the USA at anytime of the year :P....... sorry... i have a really unnerving urge for revenge today, hmmmm *grin*

11:13 PM, August 07, 2005  
Blogger Zarah Maria said...

Uhhh... Breakfast! With a dollop of thick, Greek yoghurt for that healthy touch... I've never made a clafoutis, I think it might be time for a change.

2:23 AM, August 08, 2005  
Anonymous sam said...

Any thoughts on a savory clafoutis? I've got hundreds of yellow pear and red grape tomatoes right now and it seems like a tomato custard might be just the thing. What to do besides replacing the sugar and vanilla?

5:47 AM, August 08, 2005  
Blogger Nic said...

Looks great, Molly. I tend to agree with you about using the less strictly tradtional fruits. How did the silicone tart pan work out? I've never been a fan of how unstable those things seem....
Oh, and Sam, you might want to toss in some goat cheese with your savory clafoutis. Yum!

6:23 AM, August 08, 2005  
Blogger foodiechickie said...

Love your enteries. They are so relaxing and colorful. I hope to see them someday soon in culinary print magazines too!!

8:33 AM, August 08, 2005  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Oh... yum... and Sam's idea was marvelous too. Now I'm not sure which one to make.

12:18 PM, August 09, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

So sorry, Clare. Mea culpa! But yes, next winter (or rather, summer, for you) you'll get your revenge, reveling in all sorts of luscious things while we're eating cabbage and stews. But then again, mmm, I do love cabbages and stews...

Zarah Maria, the time for clafoutis has come--and you'd better not miss it! Speaking of which, thanks for the Greek yogurt idea. I'll have to try it before the season is through...

Sam, I heartily second Nic's suggestion for goat-cheese, and I also thought of feta, fresh ricotta, or maybe a clafoutis with finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano. You could whisk the cheese into the batter and also (maybe) sprinkle a bit on top of the whole thing before baking. If you wind up trying it, please keep me posted on the outcome...

Nic, thanks so much for replying to Sam's query--and with a great suggestion, no less. As for the silicone pans, I love mine. I have the pan I mentioned here, as well as a couple of smaller (7-inch) ones, and my mom has little muffin molds and larger cake mold. They are a breeze to use--just put them on a baking sheet before you fill them--and to clean. They do take a bit more careful handling, though, when it comes to removing the finished cake or whatnot. I tend to only use them for cakes (so I can simply invert the mold to remove the cake) or for cupcakes, but not for tarts (too hard to remove from the mold, since you can't invert a tart). Ordinarily, I wouldn't do the clafoutis in a silicone mold, since it would be very hard to unmold and present it, but in this instance, I--brace yourself, Martha Stewart, wherever you are--served the clafoutis straight from the mold. Oof.

Foodiechickie, thank you. That makes me ridiculously happy.

Jennifer, either way, I hope to hear about the results!

12:54 PM, August 09, 2005  
Blogger nosheteria said...

I ran out and made a clafoutis yesterday with Italian plums per your post. I had a slice last night with tea, but better yet a slice this morning for breakfast. An ideal breakfast treat! Delicious, thanks for the idea.

2:49 PM, August 09, 2005  
Blogger latifa said...

WOW.....looks delicious. Good job

11:56 PM, August 09, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Adrienne, so glad to hear that you're a fellow clafoutis-for-breakfast enthusiast! I'm jealous of your Italian plums. I'm still waiting for them to start popping up in the markets here this year, or, for those moments when I'm into thievery, on my neighbors' tree down the street...

And latifa, it's very nice to meet you. A new food blogger on the scene, and from Kuwait, no less! Welcome to the community.

9:15 AM, August 10, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mmmm. I made it with blueberries, which all floated straight to the top as soon as I poured in the batter! And the whole thing looked marvelously comical through the oven door as it puffed up, and I worried it would explode, but I decided to trust you and Christopher both. And it was perfect.

My dinner party mates and I all thank you. This pretty lady will definitely become a who-knew-it-was-last-minute-? standby. You've got to plan for the baking time but otherwise it takes almost no effort at all. Yum.


11:02 AM, August 11, 2005  
Blogger Nic said...

Thanks, Molly. And I have to admit that I have never unmolded one of my clafouti - I serve it straight out of a fulted edge ceramic baking dish. Of course, if the dish were ugly I would have to rethink this strategy. I'll give the silicone a shot!

4:06 PM, August 11, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Lisa, I always love your next-day recipe reports! I'm so happy to have contributed--however indirectly--to a successful dinner party, m'dear.

And Nic, I'll keep my eyes open for silicone molds over at bakingsheet...

10:39 PM, August 11, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know! I should hire you as my personal chef. Except I love to cook. And I couldn't afford it. And I think I would be bad at having someone work for me. So maybe that's a crap idea. Thanks though, more than express, for bringing such bits of delight into my day and into the mouths of my dear ones. Also, although your writing is unflagging in its quality, I am ever wowed by it. (Here's a secret: My mom and I love your stories the best of all!)


10:10 AM, August 12, 2005  
Blogger the food therapist said...

your clafouti looks incredible. i've been thinking about getting over my fear of clafoutis & trying them. i've had my eye on the recipe in linda dannenberg's paris boulangerie patisserie, but your photo looks so darn good that i might just try yours first. alas, i better get cracking before cherry season is long gone.

5:04 PM, August 12, 2005  
Anonymous Embla said...

Hi, Molly. :)

I just tried your clafoutis recipe and it came out great. I had some white peaches and blueberries in the fridge so I used those, baking it in an 8-inch tart pan and a smaller one, so I could start eating while the larger clafoutis cooled. I was halfway through the smaller one before I realized it. Yummy! Thanks for the post!

12:08 AM, August 13, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Lisa, if you ever change your mind about the personal chef gig, let me know. And thank you again, many times over, for your blush-worthy compliments!

Food therapist, I just read your post about breakfast at Tartine, and I'm thrilled to learn about Dannenberg's book...what a hot little tip! I'll have to get my hands on a copy! In the meantime, I can't vouch for her clafoutis recipe, but whether you use hers or mine, get going on that thing...

And Embla, thanks so much for trying the recipe and reporting back! Mmm, peaches and blueberries. A terrific idea that I may very well have to steal...

11:40 AM, August 15, 2005  
Blogger Margaret said...


I came across your blog through Seattlest, and have been thinking about your clafoutis recipie since I read it. Today I finally made it for a work function, and even though I haven't yet tasted it, I am so excited by the way it looks that I had to post a comment. I didn't have any vanilla, so I used almond extract, which I think will work nicely with the pears, nectarines and raspberries I used.



12:47 PM, August 21, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Margaret, I always love hearing from a fellow Seattlite, so it's lovely to meet you. I hope the clafoutis lived up to its looks! Your combination of fruits certainly sounds delicious--I may have to give it a go for my next one, before all the nectarines disappear from the markets. Sniffle, sniffle.

9:28 PM, August 22, 2005  
Anonymous Bittysid said...

Thanks Molly for the great recipe. I did make the clafoutis with very glorious blackberries and a farmer's market nectarine at 10:00 pm, went to sleep smelling like sugared fruit (which made for nice dreams) then ate it for breakfast (with greek yogurt and honey - thanks for the tip Zarah Maria). So good and so easy! Onward to salted cod torte and canning green beans.

8:03 AM, August 26, 2005  
Anonymous Alisa said...

So beautifully written. Thank you.

4:19 AM, August 27, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Bittysid, your clafoutis sounds wonderful, and it must have been gorgeous too, what with the deep purple blackberries and a golden nectarine. But best of all, I think you've stumbled upon a great trick for ensuring sweet dreams...

And Alisa, thank you.

2:22 PM, August 29, 2005  
Blogger Ruth said...

Molly, thanks for dropping by my site and pointing me to your clafouti recipe. It looks gorgeous and makes me feel better after making my first - I thought the falling after it came out of the oven was a mistake - glad to see it's just the norm.

And I can't wait to try out a savory one as mentioned in the comments threads.

I always love visiting your site because it's beautiful and I learn something new every time.

8:38 PM, September 23, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Ruth, it's my pleasure. Thank you for dropping by Orangette--and for leaving such sweet comments. If you do make a savory clafoutis, please report back. I haven't yet tried one myself--got quickly sidetracked, it appears!--but am itching to hear how one turns out...

11:02 PM, September 25, 2005  
OpenID thirtyaweek said...

Can you use soy milk?

12:45 PM, August 13, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you so much for this post! i just tried it out with a slightly over ripe mango i have (i live in hawai'i) and it was fabulous! mine seems to have puffed more than usual. the edge was well above the pan when i pulled it out.. dangerously easy! :)

7:02 PM, August 18, 2009  
Anonymous shayma said...

i love your clafoutis recipe.

5:21 AM, October 30, 2009  
Anonymous wandering educators said...

of course, i needed a clafoutis recipe and thought of YOU. in the oven now - thank you!!

9:31 AM, September 21, 2011  
Anonymous Embla said...

This post introduced me to clafoutis seven years ago, and I still click back to it when I need a clafoutis recipe. :)

6:54 PM, October 25, 2012  
Blogger Melting said...

Best recipe I have found of clafoutis! I bake at least one once a week (cherries and plumb season in Argentina right now). Gracias!

1:28 PM, January 11, 2015  

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