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Late Summer Clafoutis

Clifford A. Wright’s recipe on for fig tart inspired me to buy a couple of pounds of figs at the farmers market last week. I knew just where they were going (those that I couldn’t resist eating): into a fig and honey clafouti.

If you don’t like to make pie crusts but you love fruit tarts, a clafouti (sometimes spelled the French way, clafoutis) is a perfect dessert for you. It has the cachet of a tart but it doesn’t have a crust. A French dessert from the Limousin region, the name comes from the Occitan verb clafir, to fill. The mother of all clafoutis is a cherry clafouti, made by filling a big ceramic tart pan or baking dish with unpitted cherries, covering them with a pancake-like batter and baking until set, a little bit puffed, and golden. Its consistency will be somewhere between that of a flan and a pancake. It’s not cakey. It’s moist like a flan, but it’s dense. You can cut it into wedges, another reason why it’s reminiscent of a pie or tart. Purists insist that the cherries in a clafoutis aux cerises must retain their pits because the pits contribute flavor to the dish; and, indeed, when you pit the cherries, the cherries bleed into the batter. Also, when you know there are pits in the cherries, you will eat your clafouti slowly and thoughtfully; you will savor every bite.

The clafouti is an utterly seasonal dessert, a wonderful way to show off whatever fruit is at its peak. The French love to wax eloquent about the memories evoked by this dessert, of doting grandmothers and leisurely childhood summer vacations in the country. “If we associate the clafouti with precise moments,” says one of my French cookbooks, “it is perhaps because it follows the seasons.” Right now, I’m making clafoutis with figs and with stone fruits. Soon I’ll be making them with pears (stay tuned). In nine months time, I’ll be able to make cherry clafoutis again.

The amount of fruit you use in a clafouti depends on the fruit and the way it fits into your baking dish. You want it to fit in one layer. I have best results when I use a 10-inch ceramic tart pan. I have a lovely 9-inch clafouti pan with a nice scalloped edge, but I’ve found that my batter cooks more evenly if it’s spread out a little thinner in my 10-inch dish. It doesn’t have to be cooked in a round dish, though that is traditional, as is earthenware (but I can’t say with absolute authority that this is the only type of baking dish to use).

As for the batter, it’s a simple combination of flour, eggs and milk. I’ve substituted yogurt or buttermilk for some or all of the milk, and often some of the liquid that fills my measure is the honey and/or dissolved sugar and eau de vie I’ve used to marinate the fruit, along with the juice that has been drawn out of the fruit during the time it has marinated.

Each recipe, I’ve found, is a little bit different, though generally what has worked for me is a batter with 3 eggs, 2/3 cup flour (sifted), 1 cup liquid and a pinch of salt. Rarely do I make a clafouti without vanilla, preferably the seeds from a bean. Some recipes call for 4 eggs, some for cream or crème fraîche or melted butter. Susan Loomis has a wonderful pear clafouti in her book “On Rue Tatin” that calls for the eggs to be separated and the whites beaten and folded into the batter. Clafoutis are just one of those country dishes whose recipes vary from cook to cook. This means that it’s difficult to screw them up.


Nectarine, Plum and Blackberry Clafouti

Makes 8 servings

Note: This can be made several hours ahead of serving. Leftovers are great for breakfast.


1/4 cup mild-flavored honey, such as clover or acacia

1 pound red-fleshed plums, pitted and quartered

1 pound ripe but firm nectarines, pitted and cut into sixths

Unsalted butter for the baking dish

1 heaped cup blackberries

About 3/4 cup milk

3 large eggs

1 vanilla bean, scraped

Pinch of salt

5 tablespoons sugar or vanilla sugar

2/3 cup unbleached white flour, sifted


1. Warm the honey so that it’s easy to work with. Place the plums and nectarines in a bowl and toss gently with the honey. Let sit for 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375ºF and butter a 10-inch ceramic tart pan or baking dish.

2. Lift the plums and nectarines from the honey and juice that has accumulated in the bowl and arrange with the blackberries in the baking dish. Pour the juice in the bowl into a measuring cup and add enough milk to measure 1 cup. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment, or using a regular whisk, beat together the eggs, the seeds from the vanilla bean, the salt and the sugar. Gradually beat in the flour and combine well. Add the milk and liquid from the fruit and beat until smooth.

4. Pour the batter over the fruit in the baking dish. Place in the oven and bake 40 to 50 minutes, until the top is beginning to brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Fig and Honey Clafouti

Makes 8 servings

There’s a Greek idea behind this French dessert. Think honey, yogurt and figs.

Note: This can be made several hours ahead of serving. Leftovers are great for breakfast.


Unsalted butter for the baking dish

1/3 cup mild honey, such as clover or acacia

1 1/2 pounds fresh figs

1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt

About 1/4 cup milk

3 large eggs

1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped

1/4 cup sugar

Pinch of salt

2 teaspoons finely chopped orange zest

2/3 cup all-purpose flour, sifted


1. Generously butter a 10-inch ceramic pie dish or baking dish. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Heat the honey so that it’s easy to brush onto the figs.

2. Cut the figs in half and place cut side up in the baking dish. Brush each one with honey. Whisk whatever honey remains in the measuring cup or bowl into the yogurt (or whisk the yogurt into the honey). Add enough milk to measure 1 cup liquid.  Set aside.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment, or in a bowl and with a whisk, beat together the eggs with the seeds from the vanilla beans, the sugar salt and orange zest. Gradually add the flour and beat until the batter is smooth. Beat in the yogurt and honey. Pour over the figs.

5. Place in the oven and bake until set and lightly puffed and golden, about 50 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Photo credit: Martha Rose Shulman

Zester Daily contributor Martha Rose Shulman is the award-winning author of more than 25 cookbooks, including "The Very Best of Recipes for Health" and "The Simple Art of Vegetarian Cooking," both published by Rodale. She also joined Jacquy Pfeiffer in winning a 2014 James Beard Award for "The Art of French Pastry."