Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Clafoutis Bakeoff

It's probably a bit late in the season to be writing about clafoutis - my sour cherries were all picked by 5 June this year. Nevertheless, the latest summer edition of Régal ('Feast') features no less than three clafoutis recipes, on pages 60, 76 and a whole page article on the subject on page 114 (which I have shamelessly cribbed for most of the information in this post).

Unlike the Limousin griottes, Tourangelle sour cherries are
pale fleshed and red skinned, and known locally as guignes.
In the interests of scientific research and Simon's stomach, I decided to make all three recipes and see how they all turned out. They ranged from a family home cooking style classic to one credited to a big name chef. Both the cheffy version and the classic had a bit of butter in the batter, and the cheffy version and the one presumably created by a magazine staffer contained cream (the classic restricted itself to whole milk). Cooking times and temperatures varied from 150 - 180°C and 25 - 40 minutes. Apart from that, the recipes were much the same as my usual one and much the same as each other.

The cheffy version didn't live up to its promise of cherry flavour impact.
Clafoutis is a dialect word from central France, dating to the middle of the 9th century. It's a contraction of the old French claufir (from the Latin clavo figere), which translates as 'to fix with nails'. It's also derived from the word foutre, in the sense of 'to stuff full'.

The original recipe for this cake (in the Limousin, where it comes from, it is referred to as a gâteau) is a type of thick batter poured on the black sour cherries known as griottes noires du Limousin (ie a type of Morello cherry). Once upon a time it was cooked in the bread oven, after the bread was baked. The cherries are not stoned because to do so would result in the loss of a great deal of juice during cooking. The stones also enhance the flavour, by boosting the cherry flavour and adding a woody note. A good clafoutis rises during cooking, but inevitably drops once cool.

The family classic looked a bit stodgy, but was easily the best of them all.
The aim is to contrast the creamy batter and the juicy cherries. These days you can get all creative and make savoury clafoutis, with tomatoes, peas, carrots or fennel. Nevertheless, a cherry flavoured clafoutis remains a must during the French summertime.

The basic ingredients are flour, eggs, sugar, milk, fruit and if you like, a dash of eau-de-vie de cerises. It's quick and easy to prepare, often traditionally using the windfall cherries, and is best eaten warm.

Not sure this recipe went through the Régal
test kitchen before publishing.
Another speciality of the Limousin, the flognarde, is a winter version, with the batter poured over apples, pears, dried fruit or nuts. The tartouillat from Burgundy and the millard from the Auvergne are both dishes made from flour, eggs, sugar, milk and cherries, bearing a remarkable resemblance to clafoutis. An early 20th century food writer from the Périgord, which borders the Limousin, suggested a mixture of grapes, sliced apple, dark plums and sultanas.



Diane said...

I will stick with your usual recipe. It is by far the best I have tried and it never fails to impress. Diane

ladybird said...

Hi Susan, sorry, but the 3rd one doesn't LOOK very appetizing. I hope it tasted alright, though. The others look fabulous. Are you sure Simon's stomach is up to it?

P.S. Each time I see cherries, they remind me of our visit and lunch at the Ferme in Betz-le-Château in 2009 :)) Have you ever been back there? Martine

GaynorB said...

I used my cherries before I remembered your recipe from last year. I'll be sure to try yours next year, as it had rave reviews and Simon is still with us.......


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