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Yet again this American Food Holidays list astounds me with the sheer illogical timing of things. Peach Cobbler Day? In mid-April? Wtf? Peach cobbler is a SUMMER dessert. It is sitting on porch swings on covered porches and hot, humid, sticky days redolent with the heavy, sweet scent of flowers and dry grass, it is the sound of dragonflies skimming across the reeds and the slightly muddy yet fresh smell of your hair after you’ve been for a dip in the pond. It is Huckleberry Finn, Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara, Clara, Calpurnia, Celie (why do they all of a sudden all have “C” names) and every other hero and heroine of the Deep South. And none of that happens on April-freakin-THIRTEENTH!!!!
I don’t get it.
I do, however, get cobbler. It is one of my favorite “I-don’t-really-have-a-sweet-tooth” desserts because it’s basically just fruit with a very slightly sweetened biscuit dough baked on top. It is also a most excellent conduit for whipped cream – and everyone must know by now how I feel about that. I found this great article in the Washington Post about cobbler, wherein Kim O’Donnell, the most excellent author, quotes from the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food & Drink in America, Volume 2 (I really have to get my hands on this mighty tome):
“Without the resources of brick ovens…colonial cooks often made cobblers — also called slumps or grunts — and their cousins, pandowdies, in pots over an open fire … In these types of pies, a filling made of fruit, meat or vegetable goes into a pot first; then a skin of dough is placed over the filling, followed by the pot’s lid. As cobblers cook, the filling stews and creates its own sauce and gravy, while the pastry puffs up and dries.”
If you do it right, the pastry on top actually sucks up some of the juice from the filling below and gets slightly doughy – just enough to have the texture of a biscuit taken fresh out of the oven and smothered in butter. If you do it wrong, the pastry will be rock hard and crumbly and take about 10 glasses of milk to wash down your throat.
I usually make the recipe from the Silver Palate Cookbook, but seeing as how I don’t have any fresh peaches handy (duhhhhhhhh), there was not a lot of point in following it religiously (like I ever do) since the whole basis of their recipe is fresh peaches baked in sugary/lemony goodness. So this is what I did (loosely based on the Silver Palate recipe, except for the pastry part which is almost the same and which I highly recommend, and taken completely without permission):
1. Preheat oven to 400º.
2. Take 3 cans of peach halves canned in fruit juice (not syrup – yech!). Drain. Arrange peaches in 10″ deep dish pie plate or other comparable baking dish. Sprinkle 1 tbsp. sugar, 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice, 1 tsp lemon zest and 1 tsp almond or brandy extract over them. Stick in oven while you prep the topping, or for about 10 minutes.
3. In mixing bowl of medium-ish size, sift (or toss with fork since you don’t have a sifter) 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tbsp. baking powder, 1 tbsp. sugar. Cut in 1/3 c. vegetable shortening until mixture has the texture of oatmeal. Realize you have some lemon zest left over so toss it in for good measure.
4. Lightly beat an egg. Mix it with 1/4 milk (preferably whole milk, not skim). Using a fork, gently mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined.
5. Pull the peaches from the oven. Drop the dough overtop in large spoonfuls trying to spread evenly(ish). Sprinkle another 1 -2 tbsp of sugar overtop and stick back in the oven for anywhere from 15 – 30 minutes. I left mine in for 30 ’cause I kept waiting for the sugar to melt like it does on a crème brulée, but it didn’t. Whatever you do, just pull it before you burn the biscuit topping. It should be nice and golden like mine was (and if only I had my stupid camera cord, I would show you – it’s coming – I promise!).
Now, I know I said peach cobbler is a brilliant conduit for whipped cream, and it is, but since I didn’t buy any because I am trying, trying to prevent my arse from getting any wider than it already has over the course of this blogging adventure, but mostly also ’cause I forgot, I whipped up my favorite summer fruit sauce instead:
1. Combine in a bowl: 1/2 c. plain yogourt, 1 – 2 tsp. honey (the runny kind), a pinch of nutmeg, 2 pinches of cinnamon. Whip furiously with a fork until all ingredients blended (seriously – you have to be fierce so that the honey doesn’t just lump up).
2. Pour overtop of fresh fruit, or cobbler as the case may be.
p.s. I promise, promise, promise I will have all the missing pictures up by the weekend!!!!