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Clafoutis, also sometimes spelled clafouti, is a baked dessert which originated in the Limousin region of south-central France. Its name, which derives from the word clafir, meaning “to fill,” provides an accurate hint as to its preparation, which involves lining a dish with cherries and then “filling it up” with a batter mixture. A traditional clafoutis is always made with cherries, although many cooks have adapted the dish to center around their favorite fruits or even savory ingredients.
Classified by some as “peasant food,” clafoutis is a simple dish which was created as a way of utilizing a fruit which has historically been abundant in the French region of Limousin: cherries. While the exact date of clafoutis’ invention is not known, the dessert has been popular in Limousin and beyond since the 19th century. As its popularity spread throughout France, many cooks devised altered versions of the dish which allowed them to showcase the produce of their own regions.
Making a classic clafoutis is a fairly simple process. First, cherries are layered in a greased baking dish. Purists insist that the cherries should not be pitted, alleging that the pits enhance the flavor of the finished dish. Whether a cook opts to pit or not to pit, the layer of cherries is covered with a batter mixture containing flour, eggs, milk, sugar, and, in some cases, liqueur or butter. The baking dish is then placed in a preheated oven until the batter has risen and taken on a golden-brown hue. Many agree that the dish is best served before it has cooled fully, with a simple dusting of powdered sugar for garnish.
Traditionalists hold that only the original cherry version of this dish can properly be called clafoutis, with all adapted versions cast beneath the umbrella term flaugnarde. Cooks the world over rebel against these traditionalists, however, attaching the clafoutis name to desserts containing such varied sweet bites as pears, blueberries, blackberries, clementines, and chocolate. Some have even ushered this dessert into the realm of the savory, devising dishes like bacon and cheese clafoutis.