Chocolate Cardamon Plums 'Clafoutis'

This is a new 'Seasonal Sweets' column written and photographed by me over at Serious Eats. I am happy to be on board as a writer for the fine folks at Serious Eats. I hold them in high regard. Their delicious food postings are always well researched and superbly written.

I hope you enjoy this simple yet decadent, classic French dessert I infused with some, no surprise, Indian cardamon. I confess I made this clafoutis just in time for Rosh HaShanah and went directly for dessert before dinner, not once but twice. I wish you could see IRL (in real life) the pudding-like consistency and how during the baking process the plum's skin bled fuscia red into the yellow flesh. This clafoutis version has subdued intricate textures and colors and a sensational flavor. I baked it within a week four times for different holiday parties and entertaining at home. Super easy to whip together in literally moments time.

In the 1st American edition of 'Larousse Gastronomique' published in 1961, clafoutis, a custard like breakfast or dessert, from the Limousine region in France, is described as “a kind of a fruit pastry or thick fruit pancake, made usually with black cherries.”

In the 'Joy of Cooking', circa 1997, clafoutis is described as a “a simple French country dessert, similar to an old American dessert called Batter Pudding.” Joy of Cooking further sites that “according to Larousse Gastronomique, the Academie Francaise defined the clafoutis as a “sort of fruit flan.” Under protests from residents of Limousine, the definition was changed to a “cake with black cherries.” I gather Joy of Cooking is referencing the earlier French Larousse Gastronomique edition.
Traditionally, a classic clafoutis is baked with un-pitted whole cherries. The pits are said to add a flavor similar to almonds to the flan-like baked custard. In Middle Eastern, Greek and other nearby countries' cuisines, the seeds inside the St. Lucie's cherry stones are ground and the ground seed spice is called Mahlab. The Mahlab is then added to Greek and Middle Eastern baked goods and desserts to achieve the same almond-like flavor desired in the traditional French clafoutis. The Mahlab is also added on some occasions to certain savory dishes.

Cherry season has come and gone but often clafoutis is baked with other stone fruit, berries or seasonal fruit and referred to as Flangnarde or Flongnarde. The term clafoutis is reserved exclusively to the dish made with cherries.

There are a couple beliefs on the etymology of clafoutis. Clafoutis is believed to be derived from the old French word claufir which means attach with nails. The other belief is that clafoutis is derived from the Occitan word clafir which means to fill.
Plum and Nectarine Clafoutis
When baking clafoutis in the past, at times I used Julia Child's two step baking method and recipe from her classic 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking'. Pour part of the batter first, bake for approximately ten minutes, then add the fruit and pour the remainder of the batter over it and continue baking for an additional 45 minutes. While I understand the logic behind the two step baking technique, it is not a necessity but a good option if you wish to experiment with a different method in the future.
The Chocolate Cardamon Plums Clafoutis recipe here is a whisked together quickly and no fuss dessert. I paired cardamon and chocolate with the plums here, but chocolate and cardamon will pair beautifully with cherries when they are back in season. It also pairs beautifully with peaches that are so succulent right now at the market and with figs and pears as they are starting to show up for the Fall season. The batter will sink somewhat when coming out of the oven. Dust it with confectioners sugar and serve warm. We even like it cold. We should be so lucky it lasts and not devoured on the spot.

Chocolate Cardamon Plums 'Clafoutis' 
6-8 servings

4-5 firm large plums***, pitted and sliced
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 unprocessed cocoa powder (not Dutch)
1/2-3/4* cup sugar or Sugar in the Raw
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamon
Pinch of salt (optional)
Butter for greasing the pan
1/4 cup confectioners sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 10 inch pie dish or a cast iron skillet.

Line the bottom of the pie dish or cast iron skillet with the plums flesh side down and set aside. I line each sliced half plum slightly fanned so the custard sips in between the sliced fruit.

You can process all the ingredients, except the plums, butter and confectioners sugar, in a food processor just until incorporated. Do not over mix the thin batter.  Pour the batter over the plums. Bake for approximately 45 minutes - 1 hour**. Test with a wooden skewer. If it comes out clean, the clafoutis is ready. Dust with confectioners sugar a few minutes after it comes out of the oven and serve. If dusting immediately after when the clafoutis is super hot, the confectioners sugar will melt on the top and be grainy.

Alternatively, whisk the eggs in a large bowl and beat for a few seconds, add the milk, vanilla, sugar and cardamon and whisk together. Add the flour and cocoa powder and mix until just incorporate. Do not over mix the thin batter. Pour the batter over the plums and bake for 45 minutes - 1hour**. Test with a wooden skewer and dust with confectioners sugar as directed above.

You can bake individual clafoutis servings in 6-8 small ramekins. Adjust baking time accordingly.

Baker's notes:
*1/2 a cup sugar will be lightly sweetened dessert.
**Ovens vary. It took the clafoutis to bake in my oven about 47 minutes.
***Use ripe but firm fruit so it won't release too much water. The more ripe the fruit is the longer it will take to bake.

Related Cardamon and Fruit:
Orange Confetti and Cardamon Speckled Creme Brûlée
Rolled Oats Cardamon Cara Cara and Blood Oranges Porridge
Cardamon Cherry Ice Cream
Rolled Oats Cardamon and Cherries Upside Down Cake