Wednesday, 30 June 2021


Apricot clafoutis. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Apricot clafoutis.

Clafoutis is a dessert for the all too brief cherry season. I make it about once a week when we have cherries, and all the traditional workers restaurants serve it. It’s a home baking classic here, not something that you buy at the patisserie. 

Mixing the batter for clafoutis. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Mixing the batter.

It is a sort of riff on the Dutch Baby style of thick puffy pancake. It's really a pancake batter with fruit in it and baked in the oven. I habitually spiff it up a bit by replacing some of the flour with almond meal.

Individual clafoutis ready for the oven. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Individual clafoutis ready for the oven, in old paté dishes.

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' (because the batter is studded with cherries, like a hobnailed boot). It's also derived from the word foutre, in the sense of 'to stuff full'.

Individual clafoutis. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Individual clafoutis in old ceramic pâté dishes.

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). Here in the Loire Valley, we have adopted the clafoutis as our own, but we use a different sort of sour cherry, one which is ruby skinned and yellow fleshed, known as a uigne. I have four guigniers (sour cherry trees) in my orchard, which is one reason why I make a lot of clafoutis. 

Classic clafoutis. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Made in a quiche dish, with sour cherries from my orchard and fresh out of the oven.

Once upon a time it was cooked in the bread oven, after the bread was baked [see my post on bread ovens for the history of this practice]. The cherries are traditionally 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 clafoutisrises during cooking, but inevitably drops once cool.

Clafoutis, ready for the oven. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The quantity in the recipe fits perfectly in a standard 24 cm ceramic quiche dish.

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. 

Stoneground flour. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Flour made from locally grown wheat. Christophe Chaussé is a craft miller operating the last traditional family run windmill in Indre (Berry).

 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.

Sour cherries (left) and sweet cherries (right). Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Sour cherries (left) and sweet cherries (right) picked in my orchard.

 Another speciality of the Limousin, the flognarde, is a winter version, with the batter poured over apples, pears, dried fruit or nuts. One of Brittany’s classic desserts is Far Breton, basically clafoutis with prunes. 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. In the Loire Valley, and other parts of France it is very common to make a variant with the small yellow plums called mirabelles, which are only slightly larger than cherries. Lots of people (including me) also make it with sweet cherries, but Grandma probably tuts at this sort of behaviour.

Lait ribot (buttermilk). Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Lait ribot (buttermilk).

Recipe for Clafoutis 

Butter, to grease the dish/es
50 g plain flour
50 g almond meal
2 eggs
100 g castor sugar
250 ml milk or buttermilk (Fr. lait ribot)
300g cherries, washed, stems removed

1. Turn the oven to 180°C and set your baking dish or dishes on a baking tray. You can make one large clafoutis, round (eg in a quiche dish) or retangular (eg in a gratin dish), or 3 - 4 individual clafoutis (eg in souffle dishes).
2. Butter the dish/es.
3. Put flour, almond meal, eggs, sugar and milk into a tall jug and mix to a batter with a stick blender.
4. Pour the batter into your prepared dish/es.
5. Drop the cherries on top.
6. Cook for 30-40 minutes.
Can be frozen and gently reheated in a very low oven .

Clafoutis aux mirabelles. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Mirabelle clafoutis (mirabelles are small plums).

Sour cherries prepared for clafoutis. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Sour cherries from my orchard, destemmed and washed, ready for clafoutis.

Sour cherries. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Unlike the Limousin griottes, Tourangelle sour cherries are pale fleshed and red skinned, and known locally as guignes.




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chm said...

When the short cherry season was over, I made banana clafoutis with great success!

Jean said...

Your clafoutis recipe is the one I always use, it's lovely.

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