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A Tale of Two Cobblers

Quincy
Posted by Quincy on Aug 28, 2019

 

Some of my favorite food blogs I’ve written have originated from dinner parties I’ve hosted. It might be somewhat selfish of me, but I will use the occasion as the perfect vehicle for a blog topic. But it could also be laziness on my part. As the old cliché states, why not “kill two birds with one stone”? 

Years ago, I discovered that one of my co-workers and her husband were good friends with a couple that lived across the street from me. Very soon after that, a friendship developed between all six of us. This friendship evolved into potluck dinners. We call ourselves “the dinner crew” and every six months or so, we take turns hosting these potluck dinners. 

It was now my turn, and for about a month I thought about the menu, including what everyone else would bring. But the course I struggled with the most was dessert. I went back and forth between pies, cakes and even Pot de Crèmes. Eventually, I decided on a fruit cobbler. It’s the end of summer, and I wanted to highlight the end of the season with two of my favorite summertime fruits: peaches and cherries. I couldn't choose one over the other so I decided to do both.  

peaches in half

I grew up with peach cobblers being served at family dinners most of my life, and practically each one was made with canned peaches. The recipe originated from the South, and this cobbler was syrupy sweet, with a buttery peach filling, peppered with tons of cinnamon, and always topped with a buttery, flaky, lattice-like crust, similar to something that would be on a pie. That may not seem like a true Southern cobbler with that crust and the canned peaches, but I know that you never want to argue with anyone from the South. I know I would never question my sisters or my aunt Gloria about their cobblers, and why would I? They’re sweet, syrupy, buttery, flaky, delicious, desserts from heaven. 

Those were the peach cobblers that I grew up to love and appreciate. But I wanted to take my peach and cherry cobblers to a different level. I planned on using fresh peaches for one and frozen cherries for the other. I’ve really grown to appreciate frozen cherries to use in fruit pies, crumbles or cobblers. They’re very fresh tasting, convenient and extremely time saving.  

thawed frozen cherries

To clarify exactly what a cobbler is, I looked to Google and discovered tons of information on its origins. In brief, cobblers originated in the British American colonies. English settlers were unable to make traditional suet puddings due to a lack of suitable ingredients and cooking equipment. So, what they did instead was to cover a stewed filling with a layer of uncooked plain biscuits or dumplings and bake it to produce a suitable dish. 

The origin of the name “cobbler” dates back to the year 1859, and it’s thought to be related to the archaic word “cobeler” meaning wooden bowl.

The one definition of cobbler that stood out the most for me was on Wikipedia, and it goes on to say “Cobbler is a dish consisting of a fruit or savory filling poured into a large baking dish and covered with a batter, biscuit, or dumpling, before being baked.” It goes on to say that “Some cobbler recipes, especially in the American south, resemble a thick-crusted, deep-dish pie, with both a top and bottom crust," just like the cobblers that I grew up with. Cobblers are part of the cuisine of the United Kingdom and the United States, and should not be confused with a crumble. 

I was fascinated to discover that cobblers have been and are still being called by various names, such as crisps, crumble, brown betty, buckle, grunts, slumps, bird’s nest pudding, sonker and pan dowdy. I’ve made several crisps and crumbles, and hope that soon in my future I’ll take it upon myself to make some of these other forms of cobblers, especially a grunt, slumps, bird’s nest pudding and sonker. I have no idea of what the recipes might entail, but just from the names alone, they must be tried. 

Back to the dinner party! The date is set, menu is planned, all guests are on board for a night of good food, great conversation, lots of laughs and plenty of fine wine. I decided to grill several proteins:

  • Peruvian chicken skewers with a spicy green sauce
  • Marinated flank steak with a chimichurri sauce
  • Chipotle shrimp skewers
  • and a variety of sausages, the star of the bunch being the apple brandy duck sausages. 

I also decided to serve as the first course a chilled watermelon gazpacho garnished with diced cucumbers, cubed watermelon, diced red pepper, crumbled feta cheese, toasted buttery brioche croutons and a drizzle of basil olive oil. By making the watermelon gazpacho, I was able to include my third favorite summertime fruit into the menu. 

sara garnishes watermelon gazpacho

Chef Sara Salzinski (and dinner party guest) garnishes the gazpacho

A delicious potato salad and mini corn muffins were brought by one couple, another brought an exquisite cheese platter with homemade pickles, and the other couple brought the fixings for a delicious, fresh, and colorful green salad with a homemade balsamic dressing that was crazy good.

cheese platter

This was all rounded off by a pot of New England-style baked beans flavored with salt pork, which is really challenging to find! 

buffet

We began the night with a specialty cocktail, my version of a Paloma. My recipe includes grapefruit juice, tequila, Aperol, Ancho Reyes liqueur, lime juice, jalapeno, rosemary-infused simple syrup, a garnish of rosemary sprig, and grilled grapefruit wedges. Each glass was rimmed with a dried lime and grapefruit zest, Tajin and salt mix.  This is definitely becoming my favorite cocktail to make and serve to friends and guests. 

paloma cocktail

We ended the night with the cobblers. I called this blog “A Tale of Two Cobblers” because other than the fruits chosen and a few other minor changes, the recipe is practically the same for each. 

For one of the biscuit toppings, I wanted to try a new technique of cutting cold butter into the flour mixture.  This was done by taking frozen butter and using a grater to shred it, making it easier to cut into the flour. 

grated chilled butter

For the other biscuit topping, I wanted to use the traditional method of taking very cold, small chunks of butter and cut those into the flour mixture, using a pastry cutter. 

chilled butter cubes

I suggest if you happen to have a pastry cutter on hand, use it. I happened to give mine to my sister a couple of years ago and haven’t taken the time to replace mine as of yet. So instead, I used the two-fork method. There is also the method of using two butter knives and if you work fast enough while the butter is still cold, you can crumble the butter into the flour mixture with your hands.   

I was very excited to see the results of how each method would impact the biscuit dough after it was baked off.  And the end results were very surprising to say the least. Although much quicker and easier, the grated butter method produced a biscuit dough that didn’t hold up and spread across the fruit filling. But the biscuits were still very moist, tender and quite flavorful. 

The biscuits where I used the traditional method of cutting in the cold cubes of butter into the flour mixture, produced a sturdier, moist, tender and flavorful biscuit. I’m including photos of both cobblers and the recipe for each in order to show the finished results. You’ll notice that both recipes have very similar ingredients and involve some of the same directions and techniques.

Here’s my slightly adapted recipe version of “Southern Peach Cobbler” thanks to allrecipes.com and barefeetinthekitchen.com.

Southern Peach Cobbler

Peach Filling

8 medium-size fresh peaches, peeled and sliced into thin wedges or bite size chunks. For my cobbler, I ended up using 6 very large peaches. I provide instructions for blanching, shocking and peeling fresh peaches at the end of this post. 

1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup white sugar

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

3 teaspoons of cornstarch

1 tablespoon of diced candied ginger (candied ginger is very sticky, so be very careful when chopping it with your knife)

1 tablespoon of softened butter for greasing the baking dish

peach cobbler filling ingredients

Crust Topping

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 sticks or 12 tablespoons of chilled and grated unsalted butter

1 tablespoon of diced candied ginger 

1/2 cup of boiling water

 

Cinnamon Sugar Topping 

1/3 cup white sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place a large baking sheet covered in foil on the lowest rack in the oven, just in case the cobbler overflows a bit. That way the sheet pan and foil will catch the drips and prevent a mess in the oven.

2. In a large bowl, combine the peaches, lemon juice, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, cornstarch and diced ginger. Stir to coat and then pour into a 9x13 buttered baking dish.

3. Place the baking dish with the peach mixture in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.

peaches in buttered baking dish

4. While the peaches are baking, combine the dry ingredients for the biscuit, (crust) topping and whisk to combine. Toss the chilled grated butter into the flour mixture. Pour in the boiling water, and stir just until combined, leaving plenty of lumps of butter.

5. Remove the peaches from the oven and using a tablespoon or a medium size cookie scoop, drop the biscuit topping over the peaches and place pieces of the diced ginger on each scooped biscuit. Sprinkle the cobbler crust with the cinnamon sugar topping.

scooped biscuit topping on peach filling with candied ginger

4. Bake until the crust is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the crust comes out clean, about 28 minutes. You can serve this cobbler warm or at room temperature, with a generous scoop of ice cream. 

baked off peach cobbler

FREEZER DIRECTIONS: The peach filling can be prepared and frozen in advance for up to a year without any problems. Just combine the peach filling ingredients in a large Ziploc bag, press the air out and freeze flat.  When you are ready to bake the cobbler, thaw the peaches in the refrigerator and then pour into the baking dish and proceed with the recipe.

 

Southern Cherry Cobbler with Almond Topped Biscuits

 

Cherry Filling

6 cups of thawed frozen cherries, with most of the juices drained. You can also use fresh cherries that have been pitted and halved.

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon almond extract

3 teaspoons cornstarch

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup white sugar

1 tablespoon of softened butter for greasing the baking dish

cherry filling ingredients

Biscuit Topping

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup brown sugar packed

1/2 cup white sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 1/2 sticks or 12 tablespoons of chilled, unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

2 tablespoons of toasted, sliced almonds

1/2 cup boiling water

biscuit topping ingredients

Sugar Topping 

3 tablespoons Demerara sugar or white sugar

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

3. Put the 2 tablespoons of sliced almonds on a baking sheet or skillet, place in the oven for 6-8 minutes until toasted. Make sure to keep an eye on the almonds as they toast. They can go from slightly golden brown to burnt in just seconds. Remove from the oven after toasting and set aside.

3. In a large bowl combine the thawed cherries, lemon juice, almond extract, sugars and cornstarch. Stir to coat and then pour into a 9x13 buttered baking dish.

cherry filling ingredients added to cherries

4. Place the baking dish with the cherry filling into the preheated oven for 10 minutes.

cherries in buttered baking dish

5. While the cherry filling is baking, combine the dry ingredients for the biscuit topping and whisk to combine. Combine the chilled butter with the flour mixture and using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the mix, until it begins to resemble fine pea sized crumbs. There may be some pieces that are larger than pea-sized, that’s fine. Add boiling water and stir until just until mix is slightly moistened, leaving plenty of lumps of butter.

biscuit topping after adding boiled water

6. Remove the cherries from the oven and using a tablespoon or a medium sized cookie scoop, drop the biscuit topping over the cherry filling, creating a small space in between each biscuit. Place a few toasted sliced almonds on each biscuit, sprinkle each one with the Demerara sugar and place in the oven.

scooped biscuit topping on cherry filling with sliced almonds

6. Bake until the biscuit topping is golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Serve either warm or at room temperature with a generous scoop of ice cream.

baked cherry cobbler

 

How to Blanch, Shock and Peel Fresh Peaches 

1. Fill a pot three quarters full with water and bring to a boil.

2. Lightly score each peach with an X on the bottom before placing in the pot to blanch.

3. Working in batches of 3 or 4, add peaches to the boiling water for 2-3 minutes. If the peaches are fairly ripe, submerge for less time, probably no more than a minute. 

4. Have a large bowl with ice and filled with water on hand to shock the peaches after blanching.

blanched peaches

5. Using a slotted spoon, remove the now blanched peaches from the boiling water and place into the ice water bath to stop the cooking.

6. Carefully remove and peel the skins by using a paring knife.

peeled blanched shocked peaches

Both cobblers were enjoyed by everyone but the one I preferred was the peach cobbler. It wasn’t a very pretty looking cobbler, but it was the tastiest of the two. Or maybe it’s my Southern background showing! Both are definitely worth making, and I hope you try one or both before the summer ends.

We'll make a similar dish, Blueberry Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream, in The Chopping Block's upcoming Steakhouse DIY class:

Topics: peach cobbler, cobbler, peaches, cherries, desserts, baking, dessert, Recipes

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