WHAT IS A CLAFOUTIS?
This classic dessert dates back to at least the mid-1800s in the Limousin region of southwestern France, an area that once was part of the Roman empire and that, during the Middle Ages, England and France both fought to control. The region is known for the elegant porcelain produced in its capitol city, Limoges, the highly prized lean meat produced by its chestnut red cattle, and for the oak in its forests, which is used to make barrels for aging France’s premiere brandy in nearby Cognac. Limousin also is known for clafoutis, which gained popularity during the 1900s and now has national, if not international, dessert status.
So, what is a clafoutis? A clafoutis consists of an eggy batter poured over fruit in a skillet or low sided pan (a pie plate serves nicely) and baked until it is browned and puffed (the puff will collapse shortly after it leaves the heat of the oven). It is usually served warm and often dusted with powdered sugar or accompanied by a dollop of whipped cream.
The traditional fruit of choice is cherries, although other fruits also are commonly used (note that for reasons unknown to this writer clafoutis purists claim that the use of any fruit but cherries transforms the dessert from a clafoutis to a flaugharde, a similar eggy French dessert. The same purists also insist that the cherries not be pitted, to the detriment of your dentures, because the pits enhance the flavor of the mix.)
And don’t make the mistake made by L’Academie Francaise, an authority on matters relating to the French language, which categorized clafoutis as a fruit flan, raising cries of outrage from Limousins. In acknowledgement of the faux pas, clafoutis was recategorized as “a cake with fruit.” Clafoutis also has been described as a thick pancake, a custard or a crustless tart. Whatever you call it, clafoutis is a casual dessert, easily prepared and thoroughly delicious.