Thursday, August 25, 2005

Berry Cobbler

Deep in August blackberries are redeemed, suddenly transformed from pernicious weed to kitchen staple. The bushes which crowd alleys and dead-ends are suddenly rich ground for back-to-nature foraging and the siren call of a warm cobbler for dessert sends me into the garage, scrambling for a bucket or basket to press into service.

A typical Saturday afternoon will find The Child and I berrying, perhaps accompanied by The Neighbor Girls. The kids will be motivated by filthy lucre, as they will likely set up a stand to sell their berries. (Being that they are all terribly cute and personable kids, passersby can't help but stop and pay the exorbitant sum of 5 cents a berry). I will be motivated only by pure, culinary desire.It won't take long for us to pick what we need for a hot summer will guarantee an abundance of berries.

If the day isn't too hot or the thorns too thorny, I might be tempted to pick enough berries to make jam. But all I really need is enough for cobbler.

Cobbler is, for me, the essential summer dessert. Though I have come to master claufoutis and a simple, gorgeous fruit tart (both recipes from Patricia Wells), it is a cobbler that says, "Summertime". While any stone fruit or berry will do, my favorite is a combination of peaches and blackberries. The peaches turn purple with berry juice but retain their firmness and flavor. Warm from the oven with a little dollop of whipped cream or ice cream, this is summer distilled...simple, redolent of jammy fruit, evocative of childhood. It's also really great for breakfast.

This is essentially my mom's recipe, with only a few, tiny modifications. It is one of the best ways I know to enjoy the dog days of summer.

Dame Judi's Fruit Cobbler

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

For the dough:
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 T. sugar
1- 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
3 T. butter
1/2 c. milk

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. Cut in the butter until coarse grains form.
Stir in milk and mix just until combined.

For filling:
3 c. prepared fruit of your choice
(If using stone fruits, remove stones and cut fruit into halves or quarters, depending on size of fruit. You don't want bitty pieces.)
1/2 c. sugar
1-2 T. cornstarch, depending on how juicy the fruit is
1/2 c. water (or less, again, depending on how juicy the fruit is)
Combine filling ingredients and place in a deep baking dish.
Glop dough by spoonfuls on top of fruit.

("Glop" - advanced culinary term usually used only by graduates of the Cordon Bleu)

Sprinkle dough with cinnamon sugar, if desired.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until filling is bubbling and biscuit dough is cooked through and browned on top. Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes to allow cobbler to set up a smidge before serving.

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