All the dessert world is not either cake or pie

Steph Shih on Facebook today:

There is this dessert that Darya [Kavitskaya, who is natively Russian, which will eventually become important, but not in this posting] sometimes makes and she calls it a “pie” when really I insist it falls better into the category of a “cake”. So finally today, I drew this.

(#1) Steph’s objection framed as a Magrittean disavowal (it’s obviously a pie, but… — except that for Steph, it just isn’t a pie)

But, as it turns out, it’s not much of a cake either, as most people use that label these days. It looks a lot like a clafoutis, but most of you won’t even know that name — for anything, much less a fruit flan (a term also unknown to most of you).  Unlike pie and cakeclafoutis and flan are specialized cooking terms

Steph’s photo of Darya’s dish in question:


Compare this to the photo of strawberry clafoutis from the bubbly Shockingly Delicious site (by Dorothy Reinhold on 6/17/10):


Clafoutis is a custardy, flan-like, thick pancake. The French usually make it with cherries and serve it as a dessert, but in the Shockinglydelicious kitchen, we like it for breakfast. Eggs + milk + fruit = breakfast of champions in our house!

Magrittean disavowals.A vein of apparently paradoxical art originated by the wry artist René Magritte; my latest posting in an extended series: on 4/2/18, “Another Magrittean disavowal”.

Categorization and labeling. An perennial topic on this blog. People group the things of the world into (conceptual) categories, and they have labels to refer to (some of) these categories. These two things are imperfectly aligned; there is variation (at least: from social group to social group, from person to person, over time, according to ordinary vs technical context); and both categories and labels are delineated by function in particular cultures (like desserts vs. main courses) as much as by objective criteria (like sweet vs. not).

It’s (fairly) clear that the things canonically called cakes and pies are central members of a category (which has no customary label — CAKEPIE?); that things canonically called pies fall into a category (which, again, has no customary label — PIEESQUE?) with other things canonically called tarts, flans, and quiches; and that things canonically called cake(s) (including some things canonically called tortes in English and some other languages) fall into a category (BREADCAKE?) with things canonically called bread(s).

There’s a lot of complex category structure here and a hell of a lot of lexical items — and I remind you that all of this is variable — so there’s a lot more to be said on categories and labels. Which I’ll put off for today.

The rest of today is about…

Clafoutis. [The S is silent.] From Wikipedia:

Clafoutis, sometimes in Anglophonic countries spelled clafouti, is a baked French dessert of fruit, traditionally black cherries, arranged in a buttered dish and covered with a thick flan-like batter. The clafoutis is dusted with powdered sugar and served lukewarm, sometimes with cream.

A traditional Limousin clafoutis contains pits of the cherries. The pits contain amygdalin, the active chemical in almond extract, so during baking a small amount of amygdalin from the pits is released into the clafoutis, adding a complementary note to its flavor.

The clafoutis comes from the Limousin region of France, and while black cherries are traditional, there are numerous variations using other fruits, including red cherries, plums, prunes, apples, pears, cranberries or blackberries. When other kinds of fruit are used instead of cherries, the dish is properly called a flaugnarde [not by anybody I know of, and that includes Julia Child and Patricia Wells].

The dish’s name derives from Occitan clafotís, from the verb clafir, meaning “to fill” (implied: “the batter with cherries”). Clafoutis apparently spread throughout France during the 19th century.

From Beck, Bertholle, and Child, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, p. 655, on “Fruit Flans: Clafoutis”:

about as simple a dessert to make as you can imagine: a pancake batter poured over fruit in a fireproff dish, then baked in the oven. It looks like a tart, and it is usually eaten warm.

With a recipe for black cherry clafoutis and then Variations, pp. 656-8:

cherry flan with liqueur, pear flan, plum flan, apple flan, blackberry or blueberry flan, cherry or pear flan with almonds

Ann Daingerfield Zwicky’s note (from about 50 years ago) in our copy of BBC, p. 656 (Ann was fond of clafoutis as a simple dessert):

froz. apricots w/ 1/4 c. of vermouth make a v. nice clafoutis

And Patricia Wells, Bistro Cooking (Workman, 1989) has attractive-sounding recipes for fig clafoutis and pear claufoutis. Especially fig.



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