I am ashamed to admit that I have been quietly bigoted against cobblers for as long as I can remember, the dessert that is, not those dudes that save my shoes from NYC sidewalks. And like so many other baseless biases, my issues were not hinged on actually trying one, but an assumption that there could be nothing good about them. I mean, biscuits and fruit? Biscuits? Why on earth would anyone want to bake a fruit dessert with biscuits on top when they could have thick crumbles, granola-like crisps and don’t even get me started on buckles, clafoutis, grunts, slumps, pandowdys and brown bettys, drool. Biscuits are for salty butter and barbecue and fried chicken, thank you very much.
Well, I am glad I have gotten over my issues, and no surprise here really, it came in the form of an old recipe I found from my current dessert guru fixation, Claudia Fleming. This is the cobbler that could challenge any cobbler-biased ways, and should you already be smitten with them, do know that this might be the best darn baked fruit dessert I’ve ever baked. The biscuit-like topping is amazing — cakey but still light and crisp, flavorful and rich. The rhubarb is tart but softened by the scrape from a fresh vanilla bean and the scent when you let all of this simmer together in your new oven is perfection — and was the most delicious way to break in our new oven.
It’s a funny thing about rhubarb, by the way. I’d never even tried it before two years ago but now everywhere I turn, it’s rhubarb this and that. But I fell for it quickly. First of all, it’s one of the few seasonal fruits around right now, so it’s great to know a few good ways to use it. Second of all, it’s pink. Okay, fine maybe you don’t buy fruit just because it’s a pretty, pearly color but if you were going to make an exception, rhubarb is a great place to start. Finally, it’s tart but it bakes down into something soft and mellow pretty quickly, and you control how sweet it gets. Once I realized that, it became my favorite fruit to bake.
Mother’s Day Brunch? This is the first mother’s day in eons we’re not having a brunch at our place, namely because we’re (still) not fully unpacked and a certain table (yes, a table! like, just to eat on!) we ordered in April doesn’t get here for another month. But there are still many, many recipes in the archives to hopefully inspire you if you’re hosting or cooking for one of your own. This page rounds them all up. Enjoy!
Adapted from Claudia Fleming via New York Magazine
The biscuit topping includes the curious ingredient of hard-boiled egg yolks. I’ve been trying for days to find the reason behind it’s inclusion (as I am sure someone will ask) but without my cookbooks still boxed up, my access to technique information is limited. I know that some people grind up a hard boiled yolk in their sables, to make them sandier and would argue that this makes the biscuits a little richer and cakier. Whether that’s the official rationale behind it or not, however, I don’t care — this will be the only biscuit topping I use for now on. It is perfect. I never should have doubted it.
As for the dish together, the one note I’d add is that the proportion of biscuit to fruit is actually quite high. Now I know this sounds like a dream come true for a lot of people, but should you like a little more fruit with your cake, simply double the fruit quantity below, or halve the topping.
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 hard-boiled egg yolks
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
2 pounds rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 6 cups)
1/2 cup sugar
1-inch piece of vanilla bean, split lengthwise, pulp scraped
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, egg yolks, and salt. Pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the flour resembles coarse meal. Add 2/3 cup of cream and pulse until the dough comes together. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently pat it together, incorporating any stray crumbs.
Using a small ice cream scoop or a large spoon*, form the dough into 2-inch balls, then flatten them slightly into thick rounds. Chill for 20 minutes (and up to 2 hours). Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put the rhubarb in a shallow 21/2- quart casserole dish and toss with sugar, vanilla, and cornstarch. Allow to macerate 15 minutes.
Arrange the biscuit rounds on top, leaving about an inch between them. Brush the biscuits with cream and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake the cobbler until the rhubarb is bubbling and the biscuits are golden brown, about 40 to 45 minutes. Serve with ice cream or crème fraîche.
* I haven’t unearthed my scoops yet, but I did find some cookie cutters, so I simply patted my dough out on a floured surface and cut them instead. Besides, who doesn’t like flower-shaped biscuits?