Sunday, 20 July 2008

Cherry and almond gratin

Future generations will look back on this time as the golden age of food blogging – there are so many lovely food sites out there that it quite cheers my heart! One of my favourites is Zen Chef’s Chefs Gone Wild and when I saw this recipe on his site, I knew I had to make it!

Luckily, the recipe coincided with the rather brief (and, alas, rather expensive) English cherry season. Nowadays everyone is more concerned about where their food has come from and how it has been grown. My cherries listed the grower on the box so I googled him and – lo and behold – he has a website! Paul Mansfield of Kent is rather an expert in soft fruit and I only hope he approves of how I have used his delicious cherries!

A bowl of pitted cherries – aren’t they beautiful?

And here they are after their brief frolic in sugar and kirsch:

This recipe requires a lot of pitted cherries. I used my new gadget, for the first time and it certainly sped things up:

Similar to a clafoutis but different due to the inclusion of almonds, this is a comforting dessert with a nice balance of fruit and light spongy batter, which goes temptingly crisp on top but remains soft underneath. I made it in one big dish but it would also work in smaller bowls (indeed, this is how Zen Chef served his). As I had some meringue cream already made up, I served it with that but cream or ice cream would work just as well. Meringue cream is my new favourite cream - foamy and light. But I'm fickle and no doubt some other cream will turn my head next week:

Making it in individual bowls would probably look prettier come serving time but I don’t mind it looking a bit rustic, it adds to the 'comfort food' feel of the dish:

If the quantities look strangely precise it’s because I converted the recipe from the US cup system. For those cup-lovers out there, I include the cup quantities in brackets.

For the cherries:
907g (2 pounds) fresh cherries – rinsed, stemmed and pitted
1 tablespoon kirsch
2 tablespoons caster sugar

For the almond cream:
85g (1 cup) ground almonds
114g (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 eggs
2 tablespoons double cream
130g (1 cup) icing sugar
Several drops of almond extract
Optional - Additional icing sugar for dusting the top before serving

For the meringue cream:
2 egg whites
6 tablespoons caster sugar
178ml (3/4 cup) double cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

How to make:

- Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C/375°F/Gas mark 5.
- Butter a large baking dish – I used a 25cm square dish.
- Place the cherries, kirsch and sugar in a large saucepan and cook over a low heat for 5 minutes, stirring often.
- Transfer the cherries to the baking dish and put to one side.
- Now make the almond cream. Beat together the ground almonds and butter until the mix is smooth.
- Beat in the eggs, cream and icing sugar and mix until you have a thick, smooth batter.
- Beat in the almond extract.
- Spoon the batter over the cherries.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until the gratin is firm to the touch and a deep golden colour. As I baked mine in one big dish it took almost double this time until it was cooked in the centre.
- Leave to cool on a wire rack.
- Dust lightly with icing sugar and serve either warm or at room temperature. The dessert doesn’t keep well and should be eaten on the same day as it is baked.
- If you wish to serve with meringue cream here’s how to make it: Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.
- Gradually beat in the sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form.
- In a separate bowl beat the cream and vanilla until the stiff peak stage.
- Fold the cream into the egg whites and refrigerate until needed.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.


Swati: Sugarcraft India said...

The cherries look absolutely gorgeous..Ala, the season for getting cherries here is over now..
The dish is abosolutely adorable!!

Anonymous said...

Aww thank you for making this gratin and for the kind words! I'm glad you liked it. Looks like you did a terrific job with it. I love the idea of a meringue cream. Yum! Damn that sounds good! :-)

And that cherry pitter, i want!! Genius! hehe. I was so mad when i saw it.. i pitted tons of cherries manually last week. haha.

Mansfields said...

Thank you very much for the lovely comments about our cherries and for the wonderful recipe, it looks absolutely delicious- I am most definitely going to have a go at it this weekend myself. Love your blog- mouth-watering ideas!

daphne said...

that gratin looks divine!!! And that cherry pitter-what a saver in the kitchen! Wish I have one of that!

Cakespy said...

Ooh, looks like a delicious rendition! I have so many cherries right now, I might have to take the plunge! It looks so good!

cakewardrobe said...

What a beautiful summer dessert!

Dee said...

Frollicking cherries, whatever next ;) The almond cream sounds lovely; is this what a frangipane is?

Snooky doodle said...

that looks yummy. cherries and kirsch ahhhhh

Emiline said...

Yum! This looks delicious. I'm sure Paul Mansfield would be proud.

I want that cherry pitter.

Y said...

Wait. You have a cherry pitting machine!?! Awesome! I love cherries that frolic in kirsch. :)

Margaret said...

Love the cherry pitter - I saw Nigella on TV demonstrating that!
Frolicking cherries, and so they should, they are very expensive.

fatboybakes said...

what is that contraption? a cherry pitter?

fatboybakes said...

ooops, i should've read the comments properly. WOW, a cherry pitter!!! how cool. what else can it pit?

The Caked Crusader said...


I reckon it could handle olives....and I can't think of anything else that size with stones in!

The Caked Crusader

Mike of Mike's Table said...

Its funny, I've been thinking about that very same dessert for a while now, looks wonderful. And that pitter? I never knew such things existed--I need to get that. That looks like it would more than pay for itself in one use.

jen said...

I've been thinking about a cherry and frangipane tart for a while - but this looks much better! Yum!

The cherry season may be short and expensive but worth it!