“Fancy” is often the descriptor that comes right before the words “French dessert,” but they’re not all fussy macarons and crème brûlée. Some beautifully rustic sweets hail from France as well, including clafoutis (pronounced cla-foo-tee, and sometimes spelled without the “s”). Think of it as a sort of sweet, eggy, puffed pancake studded with fruit. It’s quite similar to a Dutch Baby but with a more custardy texture, and is a great way to make any ripe summer fruit into an ultra-easy dessert. In fact, it’s even quicker to throw together than a cobbler, yet far more elegant. It’s made with pantry staples too, so you can whip one up pretty much anytime—if you can’t wait all day to try it, don’t; it makes a lovely breakfast too.
All you do is arrange (or casually dump) a bunch of fresh fruit in a pan, whisk up a thin, crepe-like batter of eggs, milk or cream, sugar, vanilla, butter, and a small amount of flour (which can easily be gluten-free), pour it over the fruit, and bake it until it’s set. The golden-brown edges puff and rise and the center stays creamy and dense; as with soufflés, it’s only a relatively short matter of time before the clafoutis collapses, but that won’t affect its flavor or its charm. You can bake it in a cast iron skillet, a heavy frying pan, round casserole dish, or a glass or ceramic pie plate. Round cake pans can work too, but since they’re often thinner, you run the risk of burning the edges. If you have a bigger group to feed, you can also double the batter and fruit amounts and make a larger clafoutis in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish (it may take an extra 10-15 minutes to bake). The dessert is usually finished with powdered sugar and served warm. A bit of fresh whipped cream is a perfect accompaniment, as is vanilla ice cream.
The original clafoutis recipe, from the Limosin region of France, is so undemanding that you don’t even pit the cherries—potentially hazardous to your teeth, but a boon to the lazy cook. The pits are said to impart a faintly bitter, almond aroma and flavor, which is plausible, since almonds and some types of cherries are botanically related (nectarines, peaches, and some plums and apricots are in the same family too). But if you’d rather not risk cracking a molar, ditch the pits and add a scant splash of almond extract to the batter instead.
You can also forgo the cherries altogether, if you prefer; clafoutis is the perfect showcase for any fruit you have on hand (even grapes!) or particularly love. Technically, you would call clafoutis made with fruit other than cherries flaugnarde, but almost no one does. If you find yourself wanting to get even more creative, savory clafoutis is a natural evolution, but here are some delicious dessert options to keep you content this summer.
The classic. No frills, except for the ruffly puffed edges, and the gentle shower of powdered sugar on top. If you want to make it just a little different, try topping it with vanilla crème fraîche in place of good old whipped cream. Get our Cherry Clafoutis recipe.
This peach clafoutis with orange zest and whiskey calls for mixing the batter in a blender, which you can do with any clafoutis batter if you’d rather, although it’s not difficult to whisk in a bowl; you don’t need to pump much air into it, just combine everything. It’s even okay to leave a few tiny lumps of flour. Here, as in a Dutch baby recipe, you melt the butter in the pan first before putting in the fruit and batter. The whiskey can be replaced with additional milk if need be. Get the recipe.
Continually proving how easy-going it is, clafoutis can even be made in a Dutch oven while you’re camping. Fresh blueberries and lots of lemon juice and zest make this a wonderful alternative to the usual blueberry pancakes for breakfast too. Get the recipe.
A plain old clafoutis with blackberries subbed in for the cherries would be deliciously endearing on its own, but add some lavender and white chocolate and it’s worthy of an ooh la la. Get the recipe.
Strawberries, especially when they’re in season and perfectly ripe, are a natural choice for clafoutis, whether you use a traditional batter or one like this, with gluten-free flour and almond milk (which, of course, will also work with any other fruit you favor). Get the recipe.
Raspberries and dark chocolate are always a delightfully decadent pair, and the bourbon is a nice touch (but can be omitted). Maple syrup stands in for the usual sugar here too. If you don’t want to deal with the metric measurements, just follow the classic cherry clafoutis recipe but scatter raspberries and chocolate chunks in the pan instead. Get the recipe.
This recipe is a bit more work, since you do need to cook the rhubarb before pouring over the batter, but if you have the time to plan ahead (and a taste for rhubarb), it’s definitely worth it—and still pretty easy, all told. You can use the same method to make clafoutis with other firmer fruit as well, like apples and pears, so you can keep on eating it through fall and winter too. Get the recipe.
Plums of a single shade make for a fetching clafoutis, but mixing a few different colors is prettier still, and the additions of almond flour and orange blossom water make it even more gorgeous. Mahleb is an intensely fragrant Middle Eastern spice made from ground wild cherry seeds. It adds a cherry-almond flavor and can be purchased online, but as the recipe notes, you can also substitute nutmeg here instead. Get the recipe.
If you want a chocolate clafoutis, simply add a little cocoa powder to the batter. This one has a bit of cinnamon too, plus dark chocolate chips for good measure. Sliced bananas make it a year-round dessert/breakfast option. If you want to get marginally fussier, try this roasted hazelnut, Nutella, and banana clafoutis, but you won’t be disappointed if you take the easier route. Get the recipe.
Tart apricots nestled in a rich, eggy clafoutis batter get a veritable blizzard of powdered sugar, but you can lighten it up a little if you’re adding whipped cream or ice cream too. A touch of rum and lemon zest make things even brighter, but you can replace the rum with an equal amount of heavy cream if you want. Get the recipe.
Soft, sweet figs straddle the seasons of summer and fall, and they make a delicious transitional clafoutis, especially when the fruit’s cut sides are coated in brown sugar before they’re embedded in the batter so they caramelize. You could also use brown butter too, in this or any other clafoutis where you wouldn’t mind a nutty nuance. It truly is an endlessly adaptable dessert. Get the recipe.