Cobblers are an American creation, really an adaptation to circumstances. In colonial America the traditional British suet pudding could not be made. Cost, ingredients and equipment all were hurdles too high for those colonial families. Instead, a base of stewed filling, fruit filling, was covered with a layer of uncooked biscuits or dumplings.
Variation on the cobbler abound and include the Betty, the Grump, the Slump, the Buckle, the Pandowdy, and the Sonker. Crisps and Crumbles have an oatmeal-based topping instead of that biscuit.
Cobblers have an inherent visual appeal with the biscuit atop the bubbling fruit. Lately, there has been a trend towards individual desserts served in ramekins or small Mason jars. People love these very “personal” desserts and there is a cottage industry out there of books and recipes where clever chefs and writers design new combinations.
And some great chefs have long endorsed this concept. This recipe is from Alfred Portale and reflects a sophisticated balance of fruit components, sugar sweetness, and vanilla aromas. This recipe comes from Alfred Portale’s Twelve Seasons Cookbook published in 2000. The book may have a few years on its pages, but this recipe is ageless.
For a weekend party or brunch, this recipe scales very well. Need kitchen help if you are making a herd of these? Enlist the kids. They love the tasks of stuffing fruit into jars and carefully positioning that top biscuit. This is a graceful way to introduce kitchen creativity to your kids. The benefits could be enormous. You may have a young Portale in your household, and it would be a sin to hold them back.
Summer Berry and Peach Cobbler
Yield: 8 servings
For the filling:
- 5 medium ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced
- 2 pints black berries, or assorted berries
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
- ½ cup sugar, or to taste depending on the ripeness of the peaches
For the topping:
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup unsalted butter, softened
- ⅓ cup plus 1 tablespoon buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Have ready 8 ramekins, each about 5 inches in diameter.
In a medium bowl, toss together the fruit and vanilla bean and reserve for the assembly.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine and flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and blend to combine. Add the butter and mix on medium-high speed, until the mixture is crumbly. Add the buttermilk and mix again until the dough is combined.
Remove the vanilla bean from the fruit mixture and discard it. Equally fill each ramekin with the fruit, leaving room for the topping. Top each ramekin with a dollop of the topping. Brush the topping with the last tablespoon of buttermilk. Bake for about 35 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling. Cool slightly on wire racks and serve with whipped cream or, even better, a Buttermilk Ice Cream.
Source: Alfred Portale’s Twelve Seasons Cookbook
Photo Information [top shot]: Canon T2i, EFS60mm Macro Lens, F/5.6 for1/60th second at ISO‑1600