Thursday, August 25, 2011

It's Not Pie But I Don't Care

There are two desserts for which I'm a stickler for traditional method - strawberry shortcake and peach cobbler.   These two items should be made a certain way and anything else ain't right!  I'll get on my soapbox about shortcake later, so for today I'm going to rant about cobbler.

According to the Food Lover's Companion (one of my culinary bibles), a cobbler is defined as, "A baked, deep-dish fruit dessert topped with a thick, biscuit crust and sprinkled with sugar."  There is also an alcohol based punch called a cobbler, but a dessert cobbler never has been, and never will be, ANYTHING but baked fruit with biscuits on top.  Cobblers got their name from the look of the biscuits, which resembles cobblestone.  If you see a recipe for "cobbler" that calls for making any kind of a thick or thin cake-like batter that envelopes the fruit rather than perching on top of it, that is not a cobbler!  Cobbler should have a high ratio of juicy fruit thickened with cornstarch (or flour if you like) topped with biscuits.  It should not be cake with bits of fruit inside of it.  It also should not have a crunchy topping using oats or nuts, because that is a crisp.

To me, the quintessential cobbler is peach.  I don't bother with apples, cherries, berries or anything else besides peaches.  Save those other fruits for pies, crisps and buckles.  I hold fast to my belief that a cobblers' entire reason for being is to be peach.  End of story.  Especially when those peaches are sweet, delicious, fresh and in season, like the Colorado peaches right now.  I don't add cinnamon or any other spices, just some sugar and the pure sweet flavor of ripe peaches.  It's so good it's worth getting up on my soapbox for!! I recommend serving this classic cobbler warm with ice cream or unsweetened heavy cream poured right over the top.  I'm a purist and I beseech the world, don't mess with the cobbler!  Life is complicated enough already.

Peach Cobbler
4 pounds peaches, peeled and sliced
sugar, depending on your peaches, I used 1/3 cup
cornstarch, I used 3 Tb.
2 cups flour
1 Tb. baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
6 Tb. butter, cut into small cubes
3/4 cup milk
1 Tb. raw sugar, for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  To make the cobbler topping, mix the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder and whisk to combine.  Add the butter and use your hands to rub the pieces into the flour, breaking them down into small bits.  When the mixture is sandy and crumby looking, stir in the milk and mix just to combine.  The dough will be moist and sticky.  Put it in the refrigerator while you make the filling.

To peel and pit the peaches first use a paring knife to score an X on the bottom and then drop them into simmering water for about 20 to 30 seconds.  Remove and drop into a bowl of cold water with ice to stop the cooking process.  If the peaches were nice and ripe you will be able to rub off the skins with a paper towel or clean dish towel.   Or you may need to use a paring knife to remove the skin, pulling it down from the X.   Cut the peaches into large chunks, be sure to remove the pits.  Toss the peaches with the sugar and cornstarch, stir  until well combined.

Coat a 13 x 9 baking pan with cooking spray or butter and add the peaches.  Use a small portion scoop to place the topping in 12 small mounds on the fruit, giving them space to expand.  Sprinkle the biscuits with the raw sugar.  Bake in the preheated oven for about 40 minutes to an hour, until the filling is bubbling and the biscuits are browned and firm to the touch.

Juicy and delicious Colorado peaches.
Biscuit dough scooped onto the fruit.
The real deal!

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