On a cold afternoon in January, I took out my beloved round pan to make a delicious confection that always warms my heart—as well as my husband’s. Even though Valentine’s Day is several weeks away, I’m thinking ahead to all the ways we show love these days. From gifting chocolates and flowers to greeting cards and balloons and sexy lingerie, we’re accustomed to giving our loved ones material items on the holiday.
For me, the best present that I can give to my husband is food. And this year I wanted to make something that is simple yet fulfilling at the same time. This is where clafoutis comes in.
I learned about clafoutis via Molly Wizenberg’s food blog, Orangette. I was immediately smitten by her storytelling, in particular this one about how she discovered clafoutis and ate it for the first time when she was 23 and working in France, shortly after graduating from college.
Stories that involve France often conjure up images of romance, adventure, and discovery, and this one about a dessert was no different. Molly describes this sweet, fluffy confection as, “a cross between a baked pancake, a flan, and a soufflé,” and I couldn’t agree more. Its fluffy interior with a nice golden crust brings to mind an image of a Vietnamese mung bean cake, called bánh đậu xanh, that I ate a lot while growing up in Vietnam. I knew I had to try it right away.
On this particular January day, I slice a pear into thin, quarter inch slices and place them gently into a buttered pan sprinkled with sugar. Then I mix in the milks (a combination of almond and whole milk) along with the sugar, eggs, vanilla extra, salt, and flour, putting it in a blender for a quick minute, pouring the result on top of the pears, and placing the pan into the oven. It’s the easiest thing I’ve done all day. Thirty-five minutes later, I am rewarded with the most deliciously warm, homey smell and a golden sheen on top. The fruit married the sugar, creating a sweet, delectable treat—it almost tasted like pudding.
Unlike other baked goods, this particular clafoutis is better when it is chilled. Thus, after cooling it down, I place it in the refrigerator. An hour later, I hand a slice to my husband, and together we enjoy a bite of this caramelly goodness. The result is a soft, tender crossbreed between cake and flan that fills up the room with the sweet smell of butterscotch candy, perfect for cold months such as February, when you are huddled inside together. In the warmth of a partner, I couldn’t think of a better way to show love than to bake this clafoutis.
Adapted from Molly Wizenberg, Orangette
Yield: 6 servings
- Butter, for greasing the pan
- About 2 teaspoons granulated sugar, for dusting the pan
- 1 large ripe pear
- ½ cup whole milk
- ½ cup almond milk
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/8 tsp. fine sea salt or table salt
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
A note about the pears: Because there are a variety of pears and different levels of ripeness, the choice of which type of pear is up to you. For this recipe, I used D’anjou pears, which were slightly firm when I cut them into slices (not the ripest pear around, but they still turned out great). I suggest looking for a very ripe, soft pear and cutting it into very thin slices or small cubes.
A note about the milk: For those who are lactose intolerant, consider using 1 ¼ cup of almond or soy milk as a substitute.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter a 9 ½-inch pie plate and dust it lightly with granulated sugar. Shake out any excess.
Peel and core the pear, and slice it thinly. Arrange slices on the bottom of the prepared pan.
In a blender, combine the milk(s), brown sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, salt, and flour. Blend on high speed for about a minute. Pour the liquidy batter over the pears, ensuring that it covers all the pear slices.
Bake until the custard is puffed and golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool completely before cutting. The custard will deflate a little as it cools.
Serve at room temperature or chilled.
Perfect with a cup of hot tea.