Cook fresh fruit in a simple custardy batter

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September is a curious kind of month. It's the time of year that we wistfully bid farewell to the easy, carefree days of summer and say hello to the crisp apples, new school clothes and the more structured schedules autumn brings.

If you're not quite ready to let go of summer, The Culinary Institute of America has the perfect recipe for you. Delightfully French in name, our Plum Clafoutis is an incredibly simple way to use the last of summer's fruit.

French cooking and baking has a reputation for being fussy and overcomplicated. But here at the CIA, where French cuisine is part of the fundamental curriculum, we cook simple and rustic French food every day. Ratatouille, baguettes (four ingredients!), and the humble cheese plate are just a few effortless French foods we couldn't live without.

This clafoutis is no exception, doing what French food does best: taking the season's best flavors, adding a few pantry ingredients, and voila. A clafoutis is simply fresh fruit baked in custardy batter, ready in 40 minutes, start to finish. The fruit gets soft and juicy, the custard is lightly sweet and eggy, and just a touch of flour makes it cakey enough to enjoy with a cup of tea. Leftover, it is the perfect dessert-for-breakfast.

Stone fruits, such as peaches, apricots and plums, are classic clafoutis ingredients, and CIA Chef Martin Matysik explains, "In the French tradition, the batter is usually poured over fresh unstoned cherries." Some think the pits lend that special je ne sais quoi, but we've pitted our plums for convenient serving. With its light batter and neutral flavor, a clafoutis is exceptional with any of your favorite seasonal fruits, so don't hesitate to add a handful of fresh raspberries, sliced apples or even Concord grapes.

Red plums tend to be smaller than the more common black plums found at most grocery stores, but use any variety you can get your hands on. If they are small enough, you can just halve your fruits, but larger items such as nectarines or pears might be better sliced. You can fan them decoratively or scatter them for a rustic presentation.

This recipe calls for a cast-iron skillet, but you can use just about any 10-inch baking dish. Just be sure to keep an eye on your clafoutis because your baking time may vary. You can even use individual baking dishes for a sit-down dinner party. Served with a drizzle of cream, toasted almonds or even a scoop of vanilla ice cream, you'll help your guests forget about June's strawberry crisps with a sweet slide into autumn.

PLUM CLAFOUTIS

Servings: 10

Start to finish: 40 minutes (Active time: 10 minutes)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3 eggs

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2/3 cup heavy cream

1 pound red plums, halved and pitted

Confectioners' sugar, as needed for dusting

Preheat the oven to 400 F, and position a rack in the center of the oven. Coat a 10-inch cast-iron skillet with the butter and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt, and stir to combine. Set aside.

Combine the eggs, sugar, vanilla and cream in a blender, and blend until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add the flour, and pulse just until the mixture is combined, about 5 times.

Pour the mixture into the prepared skillet. Arrange the plums, cut side up, around the pan, nestled into the batter.

Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes before dusting with confectioners' sugar and serving.

Nutrition information per serving: 138 calories; 76 calories from fat; 8 g fat (5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 89 mg cholesterol; 171 mg sodium; 14 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 9 g sugar; 3 g protein.