This pear clafoutis is a twist on the more common cherry version, but is just as easy and delicious (if not more so). The tender, sweet pears combine perfectly with the custard-like base for a comforting treat, perfect for pear season.
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While the global image of French cooking is more fine dining and fancy patisserie, the more everyday French cooking is a lot simpler and more rustic.
Hardly any French home cook would bake croissants, but a French lemon yogurt cake would be top of the list for any celebration, for example. And other popular desserts, like galettes, are similarly unfussy.
What is clafoutis?
Clafoutis is a French dessert that combines fruit with a custard-like mixture that you then bake. The base is similar to flan, made with eggs and milk with a touch of flour and a few flavorings. It sets once it is baked and is best enjoyed warm.
With no pastry and minimal preparation, it's a very easy dish but with the fruit dotted through it and a dusting of sugar, it looks deceivingly fancy.
What kind of fruit can you use in clafoutis?
The most famous and classic filling is cherry clafoutis where there is a tasty balance of sweet and tart. You can also use many other summer berries and fruit like raspberry, apricot or blueberry clafoutis.
However it's not just a dessert for summer, it can also be made with fall fruits like apple and pear. Pear works particularly well in this dish as the fruit becomes wonderfully tender and sweet when baked.
Should you use milk, cream or yogurt in the base?
If you search through different recipes for clafoutis, you will find a mixture of ways to make it, despite how relatively simple it is. Some recipes use just milk, others cream, others a mixture of milk with cream or yogurt.
From what I can establish, milk is the most traditional but I can understand why some recipes use some cream or yogurt. It makes the base slightly thicker and richer. For me, all cream is too rich compared to the original dessert but feel free to swap out say ¼ of the milk for cream if you would like it a little richer.
Other ways pear clafoutis can vary
Clafoutis is traditionally baked in a ceramic baking dish, but you can also make it in a cast iron skillet, as I did here. Either will work, though the result may be a little different. You will probably get more browning around the edges with a skillet, and it may crisp slightly, while you may need to cook a minute or two longer if you use a baking dish.
A number of recipes add some pear brandy either to soak the pears in or in with the base. This would certainly give a little extra flavor, but I decided not to use it. I was conscious that I didn't want it to overpower the pears themselves which to me are the star.
I instead kept with the classic vanilla and lemon zest (with a relatively high amount of vanilla to get the slightly nutty flavor coming through). It works wonderfully like this, and is also more family-friendly but as you prefer. If you use brandy, I'd suggest no more than ½tbsp and reduce the vanilla by half.
Some recipes I found had you cook a little of the base before layering in the pears. The idea is to make sure there is a layer of the base underneath the pears.
I found this both unnecessary and potentially hazardous. The pears floated up slightly when I added the base, so it formed a layer underneath naturally. Plus, it avoided trying to add the pears to a hot dish.
What kind of pears should you use?
I would recommend Bartlett or D'Anjou pears for this which have a good texture, flavor ad hold their form when cooked. They are also less likely to be "mealy" which you definitely don't want when cooking.
How ripe should the pears be?
For recipes like this where you are cooking the pears you want them to be just ripe but not too ripe. They should be a slightly yellow color rather than green, if using Bartlett or D'anjou, and give a little when you gently squeeze them. If they are too ripe, they may disintegrate when cooked.
This pear clafoutis is a wonderfully easy fall-flavored take on the classic French dessert. Comforting and flavorful, it can also pass for brunch. Find whichever excuse you like, and enjoy!
Try these other fall flavored desserts:
- Pear frangipane tart with cranberries
- Pumpkin souffle
- Apple snack cake
- Tikvenik - Bulgarian pumpkin strudel
- Plus get more fall recipes and French recipes, both sweet and savory, in the archives.
- 2 eggs
- 3 tbsp sugar
- ⅔ cup whole milk 120ml
- ⅓ cup all purpose flour 45g plain flour
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp lemon zest
- 1 pinch salt
- 2 pears small-medium, just ripe
- ½ tbsp butter (7g) approx, to grease skillet
- Preheat oven to 375F/190C. Lightly grease an 8in cast iron skillet or similar sized baking dish with some butter.
- Put the eggs and sugar in a bowl or mixer and whisk well until well broken up and combined. Add the milk, flour, vanilla, lemon zest and salt and mix/whisk until smooth.
- Peel the pears, cut in half and remove the core. Cut into slices and arrange in the bottom of the skillet - you can fan them out slightly as I did or arrange any other way you choose.
- Carefully pour the batter into the skillet/baking dish over the pears.
- Bake in the oven for approx 35 minutes until lightly browned around the edges and set. Allow to cool a couple minutes before serving. It will probably be puffed up when you take it out the oven and collapse slightly after a minute. Sprinkle with a little confectioners sugar to serve, if desired.
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I first shared this recipe for Pear Clafoutis on Curious Cuisiniere where I am a contributor.