After quite a few pastry delicacies which have been posted on the blog so far —such as scones, biscuits, crumbles, pies and so on—, it was about time that some cobbler showed up around here. And as cherries are cornering the greengrocer’s these days, I thought a cherry cobbler would be just fine. I hope you don’t disagree. But then, how could you possibly disagree?! I thought as much…
Although nearly any fruit can be used for a cobbler, common sweet fillings are apples, blackberries and peaches. Cherries, of course, but also blueberries, cranberries, pears, rhubarb, berries with peaches or rhubarb with strawberries can bake you through a year of cobblers; just remember, the juicier the fruit is, the better.
As is so often the case around here, this ultimate, impossibly simpler version of a fruit tart or pie is the result of British and American cultures meeting together. There is every indication that early settlers of the New World, as was to be expected, brought their own, local recipes with them. Not finding some of the necessary ingredients, they would use whatever alternatives they could find.
In light of this situation, we must, however, make a distinction between the earliest cobblers and the ones we know today. In the UK and Commonwealth consisted, primarily, of a savoury filling (generally a meat casserole filling, such as lamb, beef or mutton), poured into a large baking dish and covered with a batter (like that of scones) before being baked. Sometimes, it was simply covered by a ring of cobbles around the edge, rather than a complete layer, to aid cooking of the meat. In the US, however, they are oblivious to this savoury version and the sweet, fruity filling is the preferred one and cobblers call for a soft biscuit dough baked over ravishing fresh fruit. Even so, the sweet version is getting more and more popular in the UK, and nowadays cobblers are found in both sweet and savoury versions.
More specifically, in the US we can even find quite a few varieties of cobbler, such as the grunts, the slump, the pandowdy (particularly New England and Canadian Maritimes varieties), the sonker (unique to North Carolina), the buckle and the Betty, which dates from native times and are made with bread crumbs (or bread pieces, or graham cracker crumbs), and fruit, usually diced apples, in alternating layers. In the Midwestern United States, apple Betty is often a synonym for apple crisp. All these are all simple variations of cobblers, all homemade and simple to make as they rely more on taste than fancy pastry preparation.
Those early colonists were so fond of these juicy dishes that they often served them as the main course, for breakfast, or even as a first course. It was not until the late 19th century that they became primarily desserts.
So if you have never either had a cobbler or heard of one before, you may likely think that I have a thing for desserts with anomalous names. And you would be right, for I absolutely do. Particularly, when summer fruit and/or berries plus some buttery, flaky, sconey pastry are involved. Then, I’m absolutely, irrevocably sunk.
My fixation has now gone so far about this cherry cobbler that for the last month, I’ve been raiding each and every greengrocer’s within over 5 miles and essentially harassing each and every greengrocer in town in order to get the very first cherries and bake my cobbler as soon as possible. So, I finally ended up buying cherries from all the greengrocers I’ve been tormenting all this time. So, let me thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for your endless kindness and patience 😀
Skillet by Le Creuset used in this recipe from Claudia & Julia
- 2 cups (1 lb or 450g) fresh cherries, pitted and halved
- ¼ cup (55 g) light or dark brown sugar
- 1½ teaspoons cornstarch
- ⅛ teaspoon ground allspice (opcional but highly recommended)
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- Zest ½ lemon
- 1 cup (130 g) self-raising flour (plus extra for dusting)
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 3 tablespoons (35 g) granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup (55 g) unsalted butter, very cold and cut into small cubes
- ⅓ cup (80 ml) buttermilk, very cold (plus extra for brushing)
- Sugar and ground cinnamon, for dusting
- Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, toss the cherries with the brown sugar, cornstarch, lemon zest and allspice (if using) in an 8-inch cast-iron skillet* until totally combined.
- Bring to a boil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally and cook until thickened for about 6-7 minutes.
- Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and vanilla extract. Taste and feel free to adjust to your liking adding more sugar and/or lemon juice if needed. Set aside.
- Preheat oven (electric) to 375ºF (190ºC).
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour and baking soda. Add sugar and salt and whisk until totally combined.
- Using a pastry blender, 2 knives or even your fingertips, work the cold, diced butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture forms a sort of coarse crumbs the size of small peas.
- Pour in the buttermilk over the flour and butter mixture and stir just until the liquid is just barely incorporated and dough just comes together. It will be a kind of soft, sticky dough. Working quickly, press the dough lightly to form a ball.
- Transfer the ball of dough to a lightly floured work surface, flatten with the heel of your hand and, using a floured rolling pin, roll it out into a ¾-inch (2 cm) thick disk.**
- Using a floured 2⅓-inch (6 cm) round cookie cutter (or a knife), cut out as many rounds of dough as you can until no more dough is left (I got 12 but I only used 11; I baked the extra scone separately).
- Arrange the scones evenly over the warm fruit; they will not cover the fruit completely but will spread during baking to cover it.
- Paint the scones top surface with a little buttermilk using a pastry brush and sprinkle some sugar and ground cinnamon evenly over the dough.
- Place the skillet with the cobbler on the lined baking sheet and bake in the middle position of the oven for 25-30 minutes until the fruit filling is bubbling and the topping is golden brown.
- Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Serve warm.
- In my opinion, a generous scoop of ice cream, a dollop of whipped cream, crème fraîche or Greek yogurt make a perfect accompaniment to the warm cobbler.
Store tightly covered in a cool, dry place. It keeps for up to 3 days at room temperature.
- **Some people would prefer to use the form-free kind of topping. If so, skip all the rolling pin-cookie cutter process and just use your hands. Drop the dough by heaping spoonfuls onto the hot fruit, spacing it evenly over the surface.
- Feel free to use any fruit of your liking; you just need to use the same amount of fruit and adapt spices and/or flavour enhancers (such as lemon zest/juice) to your liking.
- If you're feeling kind of bold, you can even spike your cherry cobbler with some Kirsch, Amaretto, Frangelico, rum, etc. Just add 1 tablespoon of your preferred liqueur the moment you add the vanilla extract and the lemon juice.
- Although cobblers are best served freshly baked and warm, if you happen to have any leftovers, try to briefly microwave on low in 20 second bursts until warm. It wouldn't be by far the same, but it's better than nothing.
- National cherry cobbler day: May 17th.