A Peach of A Cobbler

Sunday July 2, 2017

Good summer desserts should be able to be made with little fuss: a pile of fragrant, ripe fresh fruit and a few staples from the everyday pantry. Midsummer is here and with it comes the favorite of all stone fruits–the peach. After eating your fill out of hand, a lightly sweetened stewed fruit filling can be topped with a roughly-shaped layer of biscuit dough and made into a homey cobbler. This is way easier to make than a pie.

Cobblers probably get their name from the method of spoon-dropping the dough over the fruit, which bakes up into a lumpy, cobbled effect of golden-brown, sugar-crusted shortcake.  The dessert is deceptively simple, with a balance of sweet and tart flavors.  Always taste your fruit first and adjust the amount of sugar, if necessary, and assemble the entire dish just before baking so that the thick slices of fruit, or whole berries, will retain their shape.

Cobblers tend to be juicy rather than thickened like a pie.  The top dough will act as a lid during baking, creating the steam needed to cook the fruit in its own juices.  Never completely cover the fruit layer with the dough; leave enough space for the steam to evaporate.

Peach cobbler is probably the most popular of the genre.  Use firm textured fruit from yellow freestone and Clingstone varieties.  The most common varieties in supermarkets are the First Ladies, the Empress towards the middle of July, and the O’Henrys at the end of the season.  Look for small crops of fruit too delicate for large commercial orchards, such as the fragrant Elberta, at fruit and vegetable stands, pick your own at one of the family owned ranches, or beg a few tree-ripened orbs from a neighbor’s yard.  Save the delicate white peaches for eating out of hand, as their flesh is not suited for cooking.  Peaches have velvety skins that will slip off when peeled with a paring knife, but for big jobs, place the firm fruits one at a time in a large slotted spoon and plunge into boiling water for a few seconds to loosen the peel.

The following recipe is adapted from the Cooks’ Round Table of Endorsed Recipes published by Better Homes and Gardens in 1949, standing up to the supreme test of time by being served to decades of family connoisseurs.  It is still voted the best-tasting peach cobbler ever, possibly due to the pinch of almond extract that accents the beautiful filling that heats in the oven before being topped with the biscuit dough.

Serve warm or at room temperature with scoops of cinnamon ice cream (recipe follows) or plain cold organic heavy cream poured over.

still life with peaches/artist: bob dylan

The Absolute Best Peach Cobbler

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 6 cups fresh peaches (about 3 pounds), peeled, stoned, and thickly sliced
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Grated zest of 2 lemons
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons pure almond extract

Biscuit Dough

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/3 cup (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup milk, plus additional drops, if necessary
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons sugar, for sprinkling

Instructions

photo courtesy of King Arthur Company

Preheat the oven to 400º.  Arrange the fruit in a greased shallow 9-by-13-inch rectangular baking dish or 10- to 12-inch oval ceramic gratin dish. Toss with the sugar, zest, lemon juice, and almond extract.

Place the fruit in the hot oven 10 minutes while preparing the shortcake.

photo courtesy of King Arthur flour

Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar in a medium mixing bowl.  Cut in the cold butter with a fork or electric mixer until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  Make a well in the center and add the milk and egg, mixing until just evenly moistened; do not over mix (I use a Danish dough whisk, one of my favorite tools, for this).  Working quickly, drop the dough by large tablespoons over the hot peaches so that the edges do not touch the sides of the dish and sprinkle the top with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar.

Immediately return to oven and bake 25 to 30 minutes, until the topping is golden brown and firm to the touch. Cool at least 15 minutes to serve hot, or cool to room temperature and reheat to warm.

Cinnamon Ice Cream

Makes 1 quart

  • 1 quart vanilla ice cream
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

Let the ice cream soften slightly at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes.  With an electric mixer or by hand, beat the ice cream until just creamy.  Add the cinnamon and blend on low speed until evenly distributed.  Working quickly, scrape the ice cream back into the carton with a large rubber spatula.  Refreeze at least 6 hours before serving.

Excerpted from The Best Quick Breads, by Beth Hensperger. (c) 2000, used by permission from the Harvard Common Press.

Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2017

Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.


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