While I enjoy making delicate profiteroles or a frosted cake, I’ve never been one to take myself too seriously when it comes to the details of pastry making. I much prefer effortless desserts like this clafoutis aux poires.
Clafoutis aux poires
I feel there’s a constant battle within me between my perfectionist tendencies and my impatient side.
The perfectionist in me demands frosted cakes be smoothly finished, while my lack of patience will hold me back from creating something as intricate as handmade meringue flowers for the top of the cake. I admire those of you who commit to the art greatly, but it’s just not my cup of tea.
That’s why French country cooking has always been my happy compromise. A dessert like this clafoutis aux poires delivers the elegance and beauty my perfectionist side seeks, and yet maintains the simplicity and ease that my impatient side is all too eager to take advantage of.
Clafoutis, in general, is a flan-like dessert whose origin lies in Limousin, France. The region is typical of French country living and sits south of Paris.
Originally, clafoutis was made with cherries, but now it’s been adapted to be made with plums, apples, or in this case, pears. I personally love a good pear clafoutis, or clafoutis aux poires, because you can usually find pears available at your local market year-round.
I also think this clafoutis aux poires is one of the best examples of French home baking vs. American home baking. The French don’t measure ingredients at home quite as precisely as Americans do, striving for ease rather than perfection.
Ironically, it’s that lack of effort that leads to the most perfect parts of their desserts. For example, look at the crispy, bruléed parts of this clafoutis. The first time I saw a home-baked French dessert, I thought maybe the host had left the dessert in the oven just a little too long. Then I noticed that this was a repeated trend among home bakers, not to mention an absolutely scrumptious one at that!
Those small “home-baked” touches are a marvelous thing because they are usually one of the best aspects of desserts like this.
I adapted this recipe by using Anjou pears, rather than Bartlett, as I find they hold up better in baking. You want the pears to be ripe, but that can be a bit tricky to decipher with the Anjou variety, as they don’t change colors when they ripen. Instead, gently press down near the neck of the pear, and if it slightly gives, it should be ready.
To really highlight the flavor of the pear in this clafoutis aux poires, I added some of my favorite spices: ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. The trio give this clafoutis the most sensational scent. I swear, if I could bottle this clafoutis’s fragrance up and sell it as my own personal perfume, I would! The scent is sweet, spicy, and warm, making this clafoutis smell just as good as it tastes.
The pears soften up, but not to the point where they’re mushy. Instead, they provide just the slightest bit of bite and texture against the bread pudding-like batter that surrounds it.
Most importantly, as the impatient part of me would point out, this clafoutis is a cinch to whip up, making it a wonderful dessert for an impromptu dinner gathering or lazy day off.
Clafoutis aux poires
A custard dessert made with warm spices like ginger and nutmeg, as well as sweet pears.
- 3 eggs
- 2/3 cup + 2 tsp sugar divided
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- pinch of salt
- 1 tbsp cognac or brandy
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 large ripe Anjou pears
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter softened
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Begin by whisking the eggs with the in the bowl of a stand mixer. Once the yolks are broken up, gradually stream in the 2/3 cup of sugar with the mixer speed on medium-low.
Add in the flour, salt, cognac, heavy cream, whole milk, spices, and vanilla. Whisk for 2 to 3 minutes until combined and starting to foam.
Let the batter rest in the bowl for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare a 10-inch oven-safe pan by rubbing softened butter all over the inside of the pan. Add the 2 teaspoons of sugar and move the pan from side to side to evenly distribute the sugar along the inside of the pan.
Peel, core, and cut the pears into 8 large wedges each. Place the pear wedges in the pan. Pour the batter over all the pears just until the batter reaches just about near the rim of the pan (about 1/2" to 3/4" below the rim).
Bake the clafoutis for approximately 40 to 45 minutes until it's golden brown. If desired, turn on the broil setting for the last 2 to 3 minutes to get the top extra crispy and dark brown. Serve the clafoutis warm (not hot).