Cognac is a wonderful French brandy that is full of rich flavors that include raisins, apples, warm spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, toffee), wood and toast – and that is to name only a few of the flavors you might encounter. The exact flavor profile of cognac varies between blends, between brands and between cognacs that bear different age statements. Though some of the tasting notes may differ, dried fruit flavors are always present and give cognac its distinct sweetness. As a result, cognac can be an excellent addition to recipes that feature dried fruit, like this Prune and Cognac Clafoutis.
The prunes are soaked in cognac for a period of time before they are added to the cognac-scented custard and baked. The dish is firm enough to slice and serve easily, but eggy enough to make custard-lovers ask for a second piece as soon as they finish the first. The sweet dried plums are the stars and, while you may associate them with high fiber diets, their intense jammy plum flavor is only enriched by being soaked in brandy. I recommend soaking the fruit overnight before making this recipe to ensure that the prunes have time to plump up and absorb as much flavor as possible. If you are working on a timeline, heat up the cognac and prune mixture in the microwave for a few seconds to help speed it along. The top of the clafoutis is sprinkled with sliced almonds and sugar for a little “crust” on top of each slice.
If you don’t have cognac to use in this recipe, don’t worry. You can use armagnac (similar to cognac, but sometimes less expensive) or dark rum, both of which typically have the same dried fruit characteristics you would find in cognac. Both will yield tasty results. If you want to skip the alcohol entirely, you can soak the prunes in water with a little vanilla extract added. The clafoutis can be served warm, at room temperature or chilled.
Prune and Cognac Clafoutis
1 cup prunes (dried plums)
1/4 cup cognac
1 tbsp water
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
1 cup minus 2 tbsp milk
2 tbsp cognac
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2-3 tbsp sliced almonds, for topping
2 tsp coarse sugar, for topping
Preheat oven to 425F and lightly grease a deep 9-inch pie plate.
In a small, deep bowl, combine prunes, cognac and water. Cover with plastic wrap and let soak for at least 1 hour (and up to 12 hours, refrigerated). If the prunes are not covered by liquid, place a weight on top of the plastic to hold them down.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Beat in eggs, followed by milk, cognac and vanilla. Batter should be very smooth.
Drain prunes and arrange in a single layer in the prepared pie plate. Pour batter on top of prunes and sprinkle with sliced almonds and sugar.
Bake for 15 minutes at 425F. Turn oven down to 350F and bake an additional 25-30 minutes, until clafoutis is golden brown and a tester (sharp knife) inserted into the center comes out clean.
Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before serving. Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled.