Meet the flognarde: A custardy French dessert worthy of your late-summer fruit
Dorie Greenspan, you had us at "almost like a chubby pancake".
With so many berries and stone fruits in season at the end of summer, it’s tempting to simply eat them by the handful... after handful... after handful. But if you’re looking to bake them into a little something special, a flognarde is absolutely the answer. This French custardy dessert is simple to make and really lets the flavour of its star ingredient shine through — your favourite fruit. Which you choose is up to you — Dorie Greenspan shares a handful of variations in her cookbook Everyday Dorie. Get ready to experiment now and well beyond summer. And if you're wondering if this is a clafoutis, Dorie has some thoughts for you below...
Flognarde with Plums or Berries or Pears
By Dorie Greenspan
A flognarde (flow-nyard) is a custardy French dessert of fruit — plums, prunes, pears or berries — baked in a batter that most resembles the mix you’d use to make crepes. No matter what fruit you use, you’ll enjoy the way it softens and sweetens as it bakes for almost an hour. Tender fruits, like plums and berries, become almost jammy in the oven, the perfect consistency for the cake, which is soft and custardy — almost like a chubby pancake. Because the cake is purposefully plain, it’s important that you flavor it with good vanilla extract and, more traditionally, alcohol. If the flognarde tips toward boozy, many will declare it a success. (If you’d rather not use alcohol, up the extract a bit.)
A flognarde is a flognarde is a flognarde… unless it has cherries, in which case it’s a clafoutis (cla-foo-tee). That’s a specialty of the Limousin region, and according to local custom, the cherries should be baked whole and unpitted, so that they remain juicy — and dangerous to the unsuspecting: Warn everyone at the table. (The clafoutis in the photo in the book is made with frozen pitted cherries.)
- 1 lb small plums (about 4), not too ripe or juicy
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp ground star anise or a pinch of ground allspice
- Pinch of fine sea salt
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- ½ cup sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 2 tbsp cognac, or other brandy (see headnote)
- 1 ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup milk
- About ¼ cup sliced almonds, for topping (optional)
- Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting (optional)
Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees F. Choose a 9-inch pie plate, a porcelain quiche pan or another ovenproof pan (preferably not metal) with a capacity of 1 quart. Butter the pan and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Cut the plums in half, remove the pits and cut each half into 8 slices. Toss the slices into the pie plate and jiggle them around so that you get an even layer.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, spice and salt.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the sugar. When the mixture is homogeneous, beat in the eggs one at a time, followed by the liquor and vanilla. Whisk in the dry ingredients. The mixture will be thick, so get it as well blended as you can without beating it, and then start stirring in the milk, which will thin the batter considerably. You’ll have a pourable batter that might have a few lumps — ignore them. Pour the batter over the plums and scatter over the almonds, if using.
Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, until the flognarde is puffed all the way to the center, feels firm to the touch and is golden and cracked across the surface; the juice from the plums might be bubbling — so much the better. A skewer inserted into the center will come out clean. Transfer the flognarde, on the baking sheet, to a rack and let cool to room temperature.
Dust the flognarde with confectioners’ sugar, if you’d like, slice and serve.
Because strawberries can be watery and tend to become even more so when baked, it’s best to use blueberries, raspberries and/or blackberries for a berry flognarde.
Figure on about 1 pint berries — you want them to loosely fill the pie plate. While you can still use brandy or cognac, berries are lovely with kirsch (a floral cherry liqueur), Grand Marnier or (in lesser quantities, say 1 tablespoon) a nut liqueur like amaretto or Frangelico. Skip the star anise and go for a pinch of cinnamon or a few scrapings of fresh ginger instead.
Prune and Pear (or Apple) Flognarde:
Snip 15 pitted prunes into bite-size pieces and soak them in hot (or boiling) water for 3 minutes; drain and pat dry. Peel and core 1 large or 2 small pears and cut into chunks about 1½ inches on a side. Put the fruit in the buttered pie plate. Make the batter and bake as above. If you’d like, use apples instead of pears and raisins or dried cranberries instead of prunes. Do that, and I’d opt for Calvados as the booze.
How you want to treat the cherries — you’ll need about 1 pound — is up to you. Your choices are: Do nothing to them except remove the stems (but warn your guests about the pits); pit the cherries and leave them whole (you can do this with a cherry-pitter or a chopstick); or halve and pit the cherries. You can also use 1 pound frozen cherries; just be certain to drain and dry them as thoroughly as possible. For the spice, you can keep the star anise or choose cinnamon, ginger or even coriander. As for the liqueur, kirsch is a smart choice, since it’s made from cherries, but cognac or another brandy is good too. If you’d like, use 1 teaspoon vanilla extract plus ½ teaspoon almond extract.
WORKING AHEAD: The flognarde can be kept loosely covered at room temperature for 4 to 6 hours.
STORING: Some people think you must eat the flognarde at room temperature the day it’s made. I love it like that, but I also think it’s nice straight from the refrigerator the next day. If you’ve got leftovers, cover and chill them, and see what you think.
Yield: Makes 6 servings
Excerpted from Everyday Dorie: The Way I Cook © 2018 by Dorie Greenspan. Photography © 2018 by Ellen Silverman. Reproduced by permission of Rux Martin Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.