Thursday, August 27, 2015

crispy peach cobbler

crispy peach cobbler

I cannot resist a recipe that promises an odd outcome. To wit, prior to stumbling upon this curiosity in the wonderful A Boat, A Whale and a Walrus, an assembly of recipes and stories from restaurants on the other side of the country that I am now extra-sad I haven’t been to (yet! Like maybe in 5 or 18 years or so?), I understood cobblers to be more or less baked fruit topped with a soft cake batter or plush biscuit, while crisps had clusters of oaty and sometimes nutty cookie-like crumbs giving them their namesake texture. [Let us save comparisons with crumbles, grunts, fools, pandowdys, sonkers, bettys, buckles and slabs for another delicious day.] Crisps were not soft; cobblers were not crisp.


it was hard not to eat these all
into thick wedges

But not this one. Here, in technique that Renee Erickson, the author and chef, says she was handed down from the original owner of one of her restaurants, The Boat Street Café, a rather simple flour/butter/sugar/milk batter is beaten for longer than any proper cake recipe would usually advocate, spread thinly over unpeeled peaches that have been dressed only with lemon zest and juice — no thickeners, spices or sugar — coated with more sugar and then drizzled with hot water. In the oven, the batter develops a crisp lid that is as fun to impatiently tap your way through as the best crème brûlée.

batter, prepped peaches
dollops of batter
batter spread thin
hot water dribbled on top

It’s also kind of a mess beneath the surface, the glurping, sloshy, summery type. The peaches are going to slide around until they’ve cooled a bit and thicken up, and you should wait 30 minutes for this to happen or waive any textural complaints. Sure, you could add thickener, but I’ve never liked the way they muffle the flavor of baked stone fruits. Because the lid is a bit sweet, this is better with a drizzle of cold cream or dollop of crème fraîche than it would be with the usual scoop of vanilla ice cream or sweetened whipped cream. Mostly, however, this was a bonafide hit, as should be no surprise, given that it’s late August and the peaches in New York this year are the best I’ve had north of South Carolina and this provides all of the deliciousness of a classic peach pie — sweet collapsed fruit, a flaked buttery lid — with about 1/10 of the work.

crispy peach cobbler
crispy peach cobbler
crispy peach cobbler + cold cream

One year ago: Smoky Eggplant Dip and Strawberries and Cream with Graham Crumbles
Two years ago: Almond-Crisped Peaches and Key Lime Pie Popsicles
Three years ago: Leek Chard and Corn Flatbread
Four years ago: Naked Tomato Sauce
Five years ago: Eggplant Salad Toasts and Perfect Blueberry Muffins
Six years ago: Summer Pea and Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Salad, Lobster Rolls and Espresso Chiffon Cake with Fudge Frosting
Seven years ago: Key Lime Meltaways and Grilled Eggplant With Caponata Salsa
Eight years ago: Summer Berry Pudding, Mixed Bean Salad and Brownie Mosaic Cheesecake

And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Pecan Sticky Buns + News! and Perfect Corn Muffins
1.5 Years Ago: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake and Stuck-Pot Rice with Lentils and Yogurt
2.5 Years Ago: Fried Egg Sandwich with Bacon and Blue Cheese
3.5 Years Ago: French Onion Tart

Crispy Peach Cobbler
Adapted, just barely, from A Boat, A Whale and a Walrus

P.S. I halved this recipe and made it in 2 1-quart baking dishes. It did not affect baking time.

4 1/2 pounds (about 10 large or 2 kg) peaches, unpeeled, cut into 1-inch chunks or slices (I cut mine each into 8 wedges)
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
4 ounces (115 grams) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar, divided (I reduced this to 1 1/2 cups, and recommend the same)
1 1/2 cups (190 grams) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon coarse or kosher salt
3/4 cup milk (whole is ideal; almond will work too)
1/2 cup hot water
Heavy cream, cold, for drizzling

Heat oven to 350°F (175°C). Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, to catch drips, or regret it later.

Prepare the peaches: Place the peaches in a 9×13-inch baking pan and in roughly an even layer. Using a zester or a Microplane, finely zest the lemon evenly over the peaches and then squeeze the lemon juice evenly over the peaches, too, catching any seeds before they fall in.

Make the batter: With an electric mixer, beat butter and 3/4 of the sugar (1 1/2 cups if you use the full amount; 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons if you reduce it as I did) with sugar until sandy, about 1 minutes. Add the flour, baking powder and salt and beat until combined, about 30 seconds, then lower the speed and slowly mix in milk. Continue beating at a medium speed for 2 minutes more, until light and fluffy-ish.

Assemble cobbler: Plop the batter in a large blobs over the peaches. Using my favorite $3.20 kitchen tool, a small offset spatula, or if you don’t have one, a butter knife, carefully spread the batter evenly over the fruit so that it’s no more than 1/2-inch thick in any place. Sprinkle with remaining sugar and drizzle the hot water evenly over the sugar.

Bake cobbler: Place the baking dish on the foil-lined baking sheet and bake for 60 to 70 minutes, until the top is cracked and golden brown, and a toothpick inserted into the topping comes out batter-free. (It’s best to start checking it at 60 minutes.)

Be patient: Let the cobbler sit in the baking dish on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before serving, which will feel (and smell) like torture, but gives the peach juices a chance to slightly thicken up. To serve, scoop into bowls and drizzle with heavy cream.


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