Cobblers are often thought to take the place of pies--if you don’t know how or don’t want to bake a pie. I beg to differ. Cobblers, along with crisps, buckles, fools, and pandowdies, etc., are their very own lovely desserts…or breakfasts. True, they’re a bit quicker or easier to both make and bake as they have only one layer of some sort of crust, but they differ in many other ways. (Fools have no crust at all!) For me, the filling of a cobbler, in particular, isn’t nearly as sweet and surely isn’t as caloric as that of a pie with two crusts. Instead of pie pastry or pâte brisée, there is–for cobbler– a soft, billowy-pillowy biscuit topping with a crunchy edge that merely sets off the great big bite of fruit. And, while others might disagree, I’d typically only make a cobbler when the fruit was at its peak. Mid-winter apple cobbler might be the exception. Yes, it’s hot to bake right now and yes, it’s perfectly luscious, too.
Ochef.com (thanks very much) says this about the difference between these homey fruit desserts:
Betty — a baked pudding made of layers of spiced and sugared fruit and buttered bread crumbs.
Clafoutis — a French cobbler, with fruit (usually cherries) on the bottom, custard, and a rough batter crust baked on top
Cobbler — a spoon pie (more like a fruit stew with dumplings), in which biscuit dough is dropped onto the fruit before baking. The consensus is that the dish got its name because the lumps of cooked dough resembled cobblestones.
Crisp — a deep-dish fruit dessert made with a crumb or streusel topping and baked.
Crumble — a British dessert in which raw fruit is topped with a crumbly pastry mixture and baked. One reference says a crumble is like a crisp, but not as rich.
Grunt — a spoon pie, with biscuit dough on top of stewed fruit, which is steamed, not baked
Pandowdy — a spoon pie, with fruit on the bottom and a rolled crust on top, which is broken up to allow the juices to come through
Slump — a spoon pie, including cooked or uncooked fruit topped with biscuit dough or piecrust, which can be baked or steamed, and can be made upside down.
Fools are not included in the above, but a quick wiki check says this:
A fool is an English dessert. Traditionally, fruit fool is made by folding pureed stewed fruit (classically gooseberries) into sweet custard. Modern fool recipes often skip the traditional custard and use whipped cream. Additionally, a flavouring agent like rose water may be added.
I’ve made most of these things more than a time or two in my life, but cobbler –being one of my husband’s favorites–probably topped the list. I can make a cobbler pretty much off the top of my head because of three things:
- I have biscuit dough ingredients and method memorized and cobbler dough is biscuit dough with a tish added sugar.
- I don’t like things too sweet, so the regular recipes don’t suit me.
- Nothing much is easier for dessert except biting into a ripe peach: pile a casserole full of fruit, add the amount of sugar you think you need (could only be 1/4 cup if the fruit is really sweet or none at all if that’s your thing), dot with butter, and #justaddbiscuits. Bake in a hot oven until bubbly and browned. Et voila! C’est fait. You’ll maybe remember I’m practicing my wretched French as we’re going to France in September. Merci! (That’ s about all of it.)
Could you use pop biscuits (tube biscuits you pop on the counter to open)? I haven’t tried it, but I’m guessing they might work. I’d dip each pop biscuit in melted butter and then into a bowl of cinnamon and sugar rather than the other way around, which is how this cobbler is made.
Since peaches are at their zenith, it’s time to make peach cobbler however you do it. Gently grab some easily bruised peaches ( I know southeastern peaches are at a premium; maybe you have some gorgeous Colorado peaches!) and try this…
SWEET CINNAMON BISCUIT PEACH COBBLER
6-8 servings or a 9-inch square pan
- 6 large peaches blanched briefly*, peeled, pitted, and sliced into 6-8 pieces
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into tiny pieces
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 6 tablespoons cold, salted butter
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon milk
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a rack at oven center and another below it with a baking sheet on it to catch drips.
- PEACH FILLING: Stir together peaches and lemon juice in a bowl. Tip into an ungreased 9-inch square baking pan and sprinkle with sugar. Dot evenly with pieces of butter. Set aside.
- BISCUIT DOUGH: Stir together flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl or food processor bowl. Using a food processor or a pastry blender, cut butter into flour mixture until it resembles cornmeal. Slowly add milk, pulsing if using a food processor, or stirring right along with the pastry blender, until the dough comes together. On a floured board, or counter, knead it briefly until the dough holds together and is smooth. Pat out until large enough to get about 6 -7 2-3-inch circles out of the dough. Using a floured round cookie cutter or cup, cut into 6-7 circles. Re-roll or pat out again and cut out the last one or two. (Alternately, you can pat or roll out the dough to one square piece the size of the pan and place it on top of the fruit filling.) Place biscuits in a single layer evenly over the peach filling.
- TOPPING: Stir together the topping of sugar and cinnamon in a small cup. Sprinkle the biscuits with the cinnamon sugar. Drizzle the biscuits evenly and gently with the melted butter.
- BAKE: until bubbling and golden-brown crispy– about 30 minutes. Let cool on a rack at least 10 minutes to let the cobbler set before cutting and serving with vanilla OR my homemade Armagnac ice cream (recipe below). Best served warm, but scrumptious at room temperature or cold from fridge with a big cup of hot coffee come morning .
*TO BLANCH, PEEL, AND SLICE PEACHES: Bring a 3-quart pot of water to boil and dip clean peaches, one or two at a time, into the water for about a minute. Remove to a cooling rack or cutting board. Peel, using a knife, pit, and slice on a cutting board.
Storage: Store at room temperature, covered for 2 days except in hottest, most humid weather when the wrapped cobbler should go into the fridge after serving. Cobbler will keep in the refrigerator up to 3 days and doubled-wrapped in the freezer for 3-4 months. Defrost overnight in fridge and warm in 350 degrees oven for 20 -30 or until hot.
Baker’s Note: If your peaches aren’t really up to par, add a tiny pinch of ground mace to them.
HOMEMADE ARMAGNAC ICE CREAM
makes approximately 1 1/2 quarts
- 1 cup whole milk
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/4 cup Armagnac or any Brandy
Stir together all ingredients. Refrigerate 8 hours or overnight. Freeze in ice cream freezer according to freezer instructions. Will make very soft ice cream. If you like a harder dessert, make early, place in a freezer-safe container, and freezer for 2 hours or more.
Update: 8/21–I made this again last week and we didn’t eat it all. I froze it, tried it again 2 days later and pronounced it WONDROUS!! It’s now my favorite way to eat this creamy-dreamy boozy cream, despite the fact that I love soft-serve anything. The 2-day frozen version is still soft enough to scoop up easily, but it maintains its shape, character, and tastes even better than when first made. Up to you!
IF YOU LIKE THIS, YOU MIGHT LIKE MY…
Have lots of any kind of fruit??? Make some cobbler for fall dinners or even for Thanksgiving!
Have a few baking pans? (No? Buy some disposable pans at the store.) Make cobblers, double wrap in plastic and foil, and freeze for 3-4 months. For 9×12-sized cobblers, check out Melissa Clark’s New York Times recipe, FRUIT COBBLER WITH ANY FRUIT.
I’m a faithful person, so I’ll look toward for peace in our world as I close. Last week, we were holding our breaths over the possibility of nuclear war and this week our country has unraveled spiritually, emotionally, and politically over the attack at Charlottesville–even as all of North Korea’s diplomats have been recalled to North Korea.
Just now, as I posted, I see reports of a horrific terrorist attack in Barcelona, a much-loved city of my heart. Tears.
Cook for someone; it’s a very positive and peaceful thing to do in our world.
So: Sing a new song; make a new cobbler,