- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 13, 2005

In many Parisian bistros and small restaurants, I’ve noticed that clafoutis, a dessert, is frequently listed on the menu. It is a simple country confection of fresh fruit baked under a pancake-like batter.

Chefs love the ease of preparation and endless variation potential of this dessert. I have to confess that after all these years of living and working in France, only recently have I realized how perfectly suited the clafoutis is for home entertaining.

From the Limousin area of south central France, clafoutis is traditionally made with dark unpitted cherries, which are sometimes a shock to the unknowing diner.

When baked, the batter — a combination of flour, sugar, eggs, milk and melted butter — becomes a cross between a pudding and a cake. However, the people of the Limousin are adamant about describing their clafoutis (pronounced kla-foo-tee) as a cake with cherries. The name comes from an old French verb, “clafir,” meaning to fill.

Although cherries are traditional, all manner of fruit can be used, and spices and liqueurs are common additions to the batter. This summer I sampled an apricot version, and I’ve seen recipes for raspberry, pear and prune clafoutis as well.

Several days ago as I planned a summer supper for friends, I decided to create a plum clafoutis. I cut dark red plums into wedges and covered them with the traditional batter, to which I added ground cardamom and a touch of Grand Marnier. The assertive sweet taste of the spice and the intense citrus accent of the liqueur complemented the fruit beautifully and took only a few seconds to incorporate into the batter.

At serving time, I dusted the warm clafoutis with confectioners’ sugar, garnished it with a bouquet of fresh mint, then offered each portion with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Our guests helped themselves to seconds and even asked for the recipe. When they saw how easy this dessert was to prepare, they told me they were going to make clafoutis for their next dinner party.

Plum clafoutis

11/4 pounds (4 large) ripe dark red plums (Santa Rosa plums work well)

4 large eggs

½ cup sugar

½ teaspoon ground cardamom (see note)

3/4 cup whole milk

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for buttering the baking pan

1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or other orange-flavored liqueur

3/4 cup flour

Pinch salt

Confectioners’ sugar

Mint sprigs for garnish, optional

1 quart best-quality vanilla ice cream, optional

Butter a 2-quart oven-to-table baking dish at least 2 inches deep. (I used an oval 12-by-9-by-2-inch baking dish.) Halve plums lengthwise and remove and discard pits. Cut each half into 4 wedges and arrange wedges in single layer in baking dish.

Place eggs, sugar and cardamom in a medium bowl and whisk until mixture is well blended and slightly frothy, about 2 minutes.

Add milk, melted butter, Grand Marnier, flour and salt, and whisk several seconds to incorporate. Pour mixture over plums.

Bake on rack in center of preheated 375-degree oven for 15 minutes, then lower temperature to 350 degrees. Bake 30 to 35 minutes more or until the clafoutis puffs and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove and cool 15 minutes.

Clafoutis will deflate slightly as it cools. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and garnish with mint sprigs, if desired. Serve each portion with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, if desired. Makes 6 servings.

Note: When cardamom is very fragrant, it will have a strong, intense flavor. Ideally, you should smell this spice before using, and if it isn’t fragrant, try to replace it. An economical way to buy cardamom is to purchase it in small quantities from a grocery or food store that sells spices in bulk.

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