It was time to revisit cobbler. It’s been a few weeks and I’ve mellowed a bit. If you’ve been following along then you know all about my recent trials and tribulations. Over the July 4th holiday, I was back at my friends’ cabin for a few days and though I half heartedly hoped I wouldn’t run into the neighbor Willie, he stopped by. Of course he did and the family made absolutely sure I knew it. You see, they thought the whole cobbler/fat comment situation was hilarious. Turns out I wasn’t the only one who’s benefitted from his thoughts on fitness. It was hard to find an adult woman in the cabin that weekend that hadn’t also been blessed by Willie’s wisdom. I felt a surge of camaraderie.
Now, I was very pleasant to ‘ol Willie this time though much to my relief, I wasn’t asked to make anything. Dodged a bullet, yes sir, though I may have rolled my eyes when he said his visiting granddaughter was making a peach cobbler at his house. All that aside, the fact is this cobbler talk had me perplexed. Through my research, I discovered at least 5 different ways to make cobbler, not to mention it’s sisters such as pandowny, slumps, grunts and other fabulous sounding treats. I was baffled. It was time to get down to business and decide which cobbler was going to be MY cobbler.
First up: biscuit topping. In my mind, this is the classic cobbler. Not one with a pie crust, not a batter and most certainly not a double crust. We all know my thoughts on that. (Side note: the other day, I told this story to Chef Gale Gand. Before I could even finish she said, “But that’s a PIE!” Thankyouverymuch.) So biscuits it was to be – sweet, fluffy, crunchy on top, redolent of butter. As for the fruit, we’re in the middle of the all too short sour cherry season so rather than my usual classic cherry tart, I made the difficult decision to use those precious red beauties in a cobbler. This better be good.
It’s all very simple really. I used my favorite filling recipe, a cooked juice method that’s thickened on the stove and full of delicious things like orange juice and cinnamon. I spent about an hour pitting a flat of cherries and tossed about 6 cups of those with the tasty goo I had just cooked up. Now, you could use any kind of fruit but I think the key is to use fresh fruit if you can. Save the canned/frozen stuff for the middle of winter when your options are slim, the weather sucks and your standards are low because everything around you is just so damn depressing and you need a lift.
So into the gorgeous casserole my friend Amanda made (she’s so talented – isn’t it lovely?) went the glistening cherries. For the top, I consulted the man who came through for me in a time of need – Richard Sax and his great book Classic Home Desserts. His biscuit recipe for cobbler was just what I was looking for – sweet with a healthy dose of sugar, flavorful with a little vanilla, rich with butter and used one of my all time favorite ingredients – buttermilk – to bring it all together. Cut, rolled, placed on top and baked to a golden brown, it was perfection.
Is this my go-to from here on out? Well, I’m not sure. I’m the kind of person who needs all the facts in front of me before I make a decision and I have at least 3 or 4 more interpretations to work through first. I’m holding out for full discovery before committing to anything.
That said, this was DAMN good. So good I fear that I have to admit I ate half on my own. For dessert. For a snack. For dinner. For breakfast. And I suggest you do the same.
STRESS BAKING THERAPY FACTOR: MIND NUMBLINGLY GOOD AND VERY SHAREABLE. This is one of those super homey desserts that warm you from the inside out. You can certainly use any type of fresh fruit but it’s really good with sour cherries. As an added bonus, pitting a ton of cherries is rather mind numbing in a good, therapeutic, Zen kind of way. Repetition of motion is great when you just need something stupid to focus/not focus upon.
SOUR CHERRY COBBLER (BISCUIT VERSION) adapted from Richard Sax’s Classic Home Desserts
I used a handmade 12-cup casserole dish but any large baking dish would work well.
For the fruit:
6 cups fresh sour cherries, pitted
zest of 1 orange (about 2 teaspoons)
1 cup fresh orange juice (or juice from the cherries)
¾ cup light brown sugar
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
for the biscuit topping:
1 ½ cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
4 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter (½ stick), cut into ½” pieces
2/3 cup buttermilk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons milk or cream (for brushing on the biscuits)
1 Tablespoon sugar (for sprinkling)
- Preheat the oven to 400°F with a rack in the bottom position.
- Butter a casserole or baking dish and set aside until needed.
- For the fruit: put the pitted cherries in a large bowl with the orange zest and set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine 2/3 cup of the orange juice with the cornstarch, stirring until smooth. Set aside.
- In a small saucepan, combine the remaining 1/3 cup of the orange juice, the brown sugar, and cinnamon and bring to a boil.
- Once the mixture comes to a bowl, add the OJ/cornstarch mixture and bring back to a boil, whisking until thickened.
- Pour the thickened juice mixture over the cherries and stir to combine.
- Pour the cherries into the prepared baking dish to cool while you prepare the biscuit topping.
- For the biscuit topping: in the work bowl of a food processor, add the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Pulse to combine.
- Add the cold butter pieces and pulse a few times until broken up into smaller bits, about the size of peas.
- Add the buttermilk/vanilla mixture and pulse a few additional times until the dough just comes together. Do not over process.
- Turn the dough onto a lightly floured counter and lightly knead until all the floury bits are incorporated.
- Pat the dough into a ½” thick slab. If it is too warm at this point, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for ½ hour to firm up a bit.
- Lightly flour the top and cut out circles with a 2” round biscuit cutter or a juice glass.
- Place the circles on top of the fruit, lightly overlapping.
- Brush the biscuits with the milk or cream and sprinkle with the additional sugar.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes until bubbly and golden brown.
- Serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream or whipped cream.