Serious Eats: Recipes
Baking with Dorie: A Cobbler to Coo Over
You know how cooks are always cooing about how easy summer is? "I just put some stuff on the grill, toss a salad and it's dinner," they'll say. Well, we bakers can coo, too. Try this: "I just toss some fruit in a pan, cover it with a quick dough and it's dessert."
What it really is, is a cobbler, and it's fast, just about foolproof, great tasting and perfect for showing off summer's berries and fruits. Actually, it's not bad for just plain showing off either.
A cobbler is about the most flexible dessert you can think of it. In fact, it may even have gotten its name because of its flexibility: you can cobble it together with just about anything you've got around. That it's not meant to look neat, clean and tidy is only another of its virtues, and probably what earned it its sister name: pandowdy, that is, something that looks dowdy (what a great word) in the pan. (Truth in advertising: it looks pretty dowdy in a bowl or on a plate, too.)
This week, I made my cobbler with fat, juicy blueberries and a few farm-stand peaches, but you can use all kinds of fruits, singly and in combos (see Playing Around, below), and you don't have to be precise in how you cut the fruit or, within reason, even how much fruit you pile into the pan. (I use a Pyrex deep-dish pie plate and 5 cups of cut-up fruit and/or berries, but you can bake this in a regular pan, an oven-going pottery bowl or even make minis in custard cups.) However, you need to show a tad of discipline and a smidgen of restraint when you make the biscuity cobbler crust.
I make the crust by hand because a) I think I get a better crust; and b) it's fun. You'll have a thick, rich, flavorful and beautifully puffed biscuit topping if you pay attention to these few things:
- Make sure the butter you use is very, very cold; ditto the cream. (If your kitchen is super-hot, you can even use butter that's been frozen, and then left on the counter for 10 to 15 minutes.)
- Don't worry about being thorough when you squish the butter into the dry ingredients - your crust will be better if you end up with pieces of butter that are all different sizes.
- Here's the restraint part: Knead the dough only until it's evenly blended - no more (even if, like me, you love the feel of the dough under your hands).
One last thing: Don't forget to put the cobbler on a baking sheet lined with foil, parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, because this sweet is an energetic bubbler. In fact, if it doesn't bubble up and over the sides of the pan, it's probably not done.
Playing around: All kinds of juicy fruits make good cobblers, so you can mix and match with what you like and what you've got. And when winter rolls around and you're longing for this dessert - and you just might - you can even make it with frozen berries: Choose a mixture of berries that are frozen without syrup (don't use too many strawberries; they fall apart under heat). And you can use them without defrosting them, making an easy dessert even easier.
About the author: Dorie Greenspan is the author of several books on dessert, most recently Baking: From My Home to Yours. Dorie can also be found at DorieGreenspan.com and on the Bon Appétit website, where she is a special correspondent.