How to make cherry clafoutis – recipe

Cherries, like asparagus or the 99 Flake, are one of those foods I can’t get enough of during their brief but glorious season. My favourite way to eat them is straight from the bag, but I occasionally manage to hold off long enough to cook something, and this juicy French batter pudding is usually top of the list.

Prep 20 min
Macerate 2 hr
Cook 30 min
Serves 6

500g fresh cherries
75g caster sugar
3 tbsp kirsch
, or other brandy
20g butter, plus extra for greasing
2 tbsp demerara sugar
50g plain flour
1 pinch salt
2 eggs
270ml whole milk
3 drops almond essence
Finely grated zest of ½ lemon

1 Prepare the cherries

Start by washing the cherries and removing the stalks; you might like to pit them, too, especially if you’re serving this to very small people or those with delicate dentistry, but roasting them stone in gives the fruit a more intense flavour, and also saves you a fiddly job. Just tell your guests it’s what Larousse Gastronomique recommends (and not to eat them).

2 Time is on your side

This is a dessert that relies on the contrast between the rich, creamy batter and the intense sweetness of the baked cherries, so if you have time, it doesn’t hurt to give the latter a helping hand – if you’re in a rush, however (and this is a very forgiving dessert for those in a hurry), move straight on to step 4.

3 Macerate the fruit

Put the fruit in a bowl and lightly crush it, so the skins split but the individual cherries still retain their shape.

Add two tablespoons of caster sugar and the kirsch (you could also use cherry brandy, or indeed any spirit that you think would work with cherries; amaretto would be particularly good), toss to coat, cover and leave to macerate for two hours.

4 Get the baking dish ready

Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan)/350F/gas 4. Use a little butter to grease a baking dish that’s just wide enough to hold the cherries in one layer, then sprinkle over half the demerara sugar.

Spin the dish around so the inside is coated with sugar, then set aside.

Melt 20g butter in a small pan and put to one side.

5 Start on the batter

Sift the flour through a sieve into a large bowl, and add a pinch of salt and the remaining caster sugar.

Beat the eggs in a jug, then slowly whisk them into the flour, followed by the milk and melted butter, until you have a smooth batter. (If you’re worried about lumps, strain it all through the sieve).

6 Flavour the batter

Add the almond essence and lemon zest, if using – or substitute vanilla essence, orange zest, ground cardamom, rosewater … if it pairs well with cherries (and isn’t a confit duck leg), give it a go. You could even throw in a handful of chocolate chips, if you fancied, though I prefer to keep it simple and leave the batter plain.

7 Cover the fruit in batter, then bake

Spoon the cherries and their juices into the prepared dish.

Now pour the batter over the top, then carefully slide into the oven and bake for about half an hour, or until just set but still a bit wobbly in the centre; exactly how long will to some extent depend on the shape and material of your dish, so check from 25 minutes onwards.

8 Cool, then serve

Remove from the oven, scatter over the last tablespoon of demerara, then leave to cool to warm – like many egg-based dishes, clafoutis tastes better when it’s not very warm, and indeed in France it’s often served at room temperature.

Chantilly cream (that is, cream whipped with a little vanilla and icing sugar to taste) or vanilla ice-cream are common accompaniments, but I rather like a dollop of creme fraiche.

9 Cherries are not the only fruit

This recipe works with most late summer fruits – small plums and apricots (best cut in half and stoned), sliced peaches and nectarines, blackberries and even, going into autumn, chopped apples and firm pears. Skip the maceration step with those last two, and with more delicate fruit such as berries, and use them straight away (tossed in sugar and booze first, if you like).