In this next set of posts, I'll be introducing you (though you've likely already met) to some castoff members of the pie family. They're the distant cousins who show up late to every family function with their shirt untucked and hair a mess, but who once you get them going, make the party with their outrageous stories and ridiculous jokes. Yes, I'm talking about cobblers and crisps, buckles and pandowdies. Portions of these upcoming posts originally appeared in the piece "Cobbled Together: American Fruit Desserts" on NPR's Kitchen Window, which you can find here.
We'll start with the matriarch of this slapdash family--the cobbler. I didn't understand the dessert until I understood the word. A professional "cobbler" is often thought of as a shoemaker and repairman, but a true cobbler is only a mender of shoes. A cordwainer is the more masterful footwear maker.
A cordwainer would not want to be called a cobbler. And a delicately latticed pie would not want to be mistaken for the less artful dessert that's thrown or "cobbled" together with disparate bits of fruit and pastry. Though a cobbler may not be as pretty as a fresh pie or a new shoe, the result is just as functional, enjoyable and more economical, at least in terms of time and effort.
Cobblers appear in American cookbooks at least as far back as the mid-1800s, where they are described as a dessert or "luncheon" consisting of a biscuit or pastry dough and fresh fruit, often peaches. Though some boast a double crust, what characterizes the cobbler is the baked top crust that covers the sweet, bubbling fruit filling.
After all, you're cobbling it together. If the shoe fits, wear it.
For the biscuit top:
1 ½ c. flour
1 Tblsp. granulated sugar, plus 1 Tblsp. for sprinkling
1 Tblsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
¼ c. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cold and cut in to ½-inch chunks
¾ c. whole milk
For the filling:
3 lbs. peaches (about 8 cups or 6-8 peaches) cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 c. blackberries (about 1 pint)
½ c. granulated sugar
2 Tblsp. light brown sugar, packed
3 Tblsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. salt
1 Tblsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. fresh ginger, grated
1. For the biscuit top, in a medium bowl, whisk together flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, baking powder and salt. With a knife and fork or pastry cutter, cut in the butter until mixture resembles the consistency of cornmeal and peas. Add milk and stir gently to combine. Form dough into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Store in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes while you prepare the filling.
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a medium bowl, combine the peaches, berries, sugars, cornstarch, salt, lemon juice and ginger. Pour filling into a deep-dish, 9-inch (2 quart) glass oven-safe bowl, or an 11-by-7-inch baking pan.
3. Remove biscuit dough from the refrigerator and unwrap. Divide dough into 10 to 12 balls of equal size (an ice cream scoop works well for this) and spoon evenly over the filling. Sprinkle biscuit top with remaining tablespoon of sugar.
4. Bake for 55-65 minutes until biscuit top is golden brown and filling is bubbling. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. Serve warm with a scoop of ice cream.