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Eatymology: Clafoutis

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Eatymology: Clafoutis
Photography by Helene Dujardin

Clafoutis [kla-foo-tee]

n: a baked French dessert of thick batter and fresh fruit

 

The kitchens of southern France have given us ratatouille, bouillabaisse, and cassoulet. But perhaps no dish is more suited for summertime below the Mason-Dixon line than clafoutis, a simple and rustic fruit-studded dessert with a texture that hovers between cake and custard. It originated in the rural farming region of Limousin, France. While its date of origin is unknown, clafoutis increased in popularity and spread beyond Limousin in the nineteenth century, when chefs all over the country began baking the custardy dish.

Clafoutis comes from the verb clafir, meaning “to fill.” Indeed, after arranging fruit in a buttered baking dish, clafoutis is made by filling the pan with a mildly sweet, egg-rich batter. Traditionally, the featured fruit is un-pitted black cherries; when heated, the cherry pits infuse the batter with a subtle almond flavor. And while purists maintain that a clafoutis made with anything other than cherries is properly called a flaugnarde, the dessert is also accommodating to blueberries, peaches, and apples, to name a few. It’s an easy, elegant way to savor seasonal fruit. So this summer, we’re taking a cue from the French but are putting a Southern spin on the classic. We use buttermilk, which adds a bright tang to the batter, and ripe, juicy figs that are weighing down trees across the South at this very moment.