What is Clafoutis?

Clafoutis may be French, but refined it ain’t. It’s a rough country dish from the Limousin region, which is in the south-central part of France, near the mountainous Massif Central. No one knows just how long the people of Limousin have been making clafoutis, though it’s fair to say that the dish became famous all over France sometime in the 19th Century.

All that said, there is considerable disagreement over what clafoutis is, exactly. Some maintain it’s a kind of pancake, others say it’s a type of dense soufflé. I’ll go on record as saying it’s a custard, since a clafoutis batter is made up primarily of milk and eggs, with flour and sugar added. In fairness, I should add that clafoutis batter is really just a binder that holds a large mass of whole sweet black cherries together.

I emphasize whole because in a traditional clafoutis, the cherries aren’t pitted. And while I initially eschewed the idea of a pastry made of cherries with their pits still in, my experiments of this week have revealed that there is method in this seeming madness, method that I’ll get into that a bit later. For now, though, I’d reconcile myself to the idea that like a slice of good watermelon, the experience of a good clafoutis includes some measure of spitting. Add paper napkins to your shopping list.

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