Clafoutis – A Fruit Dessert Extraordinaire
Here in the Anderson Valley, blackberries can be found in profusion along most back roads and at the edges of fields. Armed with plastic gallon jugs, tops cut off to make handled carriers, my husband and I head out to our favorite road-side spots to gather blackberries at their peak of flavor, late in summer. Most of them wind up in the freezer, and those that don’t get baked into Blackberry Pie will be served up in mid-winter in a clafoutis.
Clafoutis – pronounced “claw-FOO-tee” – is one of the simplest fruit desserts imaginable, beyond plopping some fruit on a plate. In her exquisite culinary excursion through the French countryside, The Country Cooking of France, British food author and television personality Anne Willan tells us that clafoutis originated in the Limousin region and that versions of it can be found in a number of agricultural regions of France.
Clafoutis is made by scattering fruit in a baking dish, surrounding the fruit with a simple batter, then baking it in the oven. The most popular version of the dish is made with cherries, but really any beautifully ripe soft fruit will do. Berries and cherries can be left whole, and larger fruits such a peaches, apricots or plums can be cut into smaller pieces. My favorite clafoutis is made with berries.
In her cookbook cum memoir of Provençal food and her farmhouse in the south of France, Patricia Wells At Home In Provence, Wells’s version of the batter includes eggs. This makes the dish lighter texture and gives the batter a lift around the berries, a bit like a soufflé.
- 1 tablespoon softened butter
- 3 to 4 tablespoons, plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 lb blackberries, fresh or frozen*
- 2 large eggs
- 1½ cups milk
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- Pinch of sea salt
- Grated zest of half an organic lemon (optional)
- 1 tablespoon confectioners (powdered) sugar
- Preheat the oven to 375º. Butter a shallow gratin or other oven-proof dish that holds 1½ qt. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of sugar, tilting the dish to coat evenly and discarding what doesn’t stick to the butter. Scatter the berries evenly on the bottom of the dish.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs until frothy. Add remaining sugar, adjusted to the sweetness of the berries, along with the milk, flour, salt and lemon zest (if using). Whisk until the batter is just free of lumps. Do not over-beat.
- Strain the batter through a sieve over the berries and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the berries are bubbling and the batter has puffed up and browned. Serve warm or at room temperature.
* Berries must be frozen “loose” and can be used without thawing.