Clafoutis — rhymes with “patootie” — may be the perfect dessert: Impressive to look at, easy to make, light on the tummy, relatively short on fat and calories, and made with local fruit, although there’s a perfectly acceptable version of it made with canned peaches. The French don’t even pit their cherries in the most traditional version of clafoutis, believing the pits add irreplaceable flavor. This is the laziest route I know to a great French dessert that charms — even wows — in every way.
Originating in the Limousin region of 19th century France, clafoutis is a simple batter made by whirring eggs, milk, flour and sugar in a blender. This was probably almost as easy to make even in the 19th century. Lighter than a custard, the batter is poured over the fruit in a pie pan, baked, sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar and served warm. According to our friends at Wikipedia, the traditional clafoutis (from the verb “clafir,” meaning “to fill”) was made with, as mentioned, cherries and their pits, but many other fruits nestle happily into a clafoutis — plums, prunes, cranberries and blackberries. The canned peach version is a delicious, just-sweet-enough, warm dessert to make mid-winter when fresh fruit is dismal. To be accurate, I learned that when clafoutis strays away from cherries, apparently it’s no longer officially clafoutis, but flaugnarde.
This seems to be a banner year for fruit in New England, and our local prune plums, which stay firm and sweet, without releasing a lot of juices when baked, make a version of clafoutis that is perfect, a certain challenge to those French cherries and their pits.
6 tablespoons white sugar, divided
14 Italian prune plums, halved and pitted
1/3 cups milk
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 pinch salt