Plums are among my absolute favorite fruits, from white to the darkest red or black. I especially like the Italian prune plum variety, the dark blue almost black kind that are long and tapered at each end. They are more firm than the common round plums and are ideal for baking. They are also the plums used for making dried prunes. The best part about them is their freestones: the pits separate easily from the flesh unlike most plums. So for a recipe like this, freestone plums are a requirement to make pitting that much easier and less messy. Baked any which way, these prune plums will reward you with wonderful flavor and runny purple juice.
With plums I had purchased at the Tucker Square Greenmarket last week, I decided to make a country-style dessert, a flognarde. Originating from the Limousin region of France, flognarde is a fruit dessert made with a thin crêpe-like batter that when baked resembles a custard. When made with cherries it is called a clafoutis, but when made with any other fruit is called a flognarde. I was tempted to call this a clafoutis like many similar recipes I have seen, but once I did my research I knew that I had to be historically accurate. But whatever you call it, this concoction is more than worth making.
The key to this homey dessert is the batter, which is literally whizzed together in a blender. The preparation is as simple as cutting the plums, tossing them in brandy and sugar before adding them to the baking dish, and then covering them with the batter. Half way through baking, I like to sprinkle the top with sugar to create a sweet and browned crust. I tend to dislike a pale clafoutis or flognarde and prefer this crusty top to one dusted with confectioners sugar. The crunchy top; creamy, custard-like interior; and the juicy, sweet fruit create an elegant dessert, a fine way to elevate the humble plum.
2 pounds Italian prune plums
1/2 cup plus 4 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
2 tablespoons brandy
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons melted butter, plus more for pan
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a shallow 2-quart baking dish.
Cut each plum in half crosswise and remove the pit. Combine the pitted plums with brandy and 2 tablespoons sugar. Let macerate for 10 minutes.
Place plums in the bottom of the baking dish, reserving the liquid.
In a blender, combine flour, 1/2 cup sugar, salt, milk, eggs, butter, vanilla, and liquid from plums. Pulse until incorporated, scraping down the sides if needed. Pour batter over plums. Bake for 30 minutes until batter is set. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over the top and bake for an additional 20 minutes. The plum juices should be bubbling and the top brown and crusty. If darker color is desired, set under broiler for no more than 2 minutes to brown sugared top. Let cool before serving. Yield: 6 servings.