By MaryAnn Miano
Some of us like to bake more for the taste than for the looks of the baked item. If you don’t care much for the effort and the craftiness of making your baked dessert look beautiful, then slapping together a cobbler is for you! Here’s a way to bring the tastes and aromas of end-of-summer fruits and upcoming fall baking into your home without all the fuss of presentation.
What exactly is a cobbler? A cobbler is rich biscuit dough covered with fruit in the bottom of the pan with placement of a rich cake-like dough on top. It can be served with a sauce such as a butter sauce or thickened fruit sauce, or oftentimes is topped with vanilla ice cream. A cobbler gets to look messy and “cobbled” together, but the taste is out of this world! It is a more humble, no-fuss dessert and a variation to the pie.
While meat cobblers probably originated in Europe, fruit cobblers are an original creation of Americans. The first British colonists lacked ingredients and the correct baking utensils to make their savory English steamed puddings, so they devised a method of covering stewing fruits with unbaked dumplings that they fit evenly together on top of the pan. The result was an amazing, fruity dessert. Colonists typically served these juicy dishes as a main course or as breakfast meals. Cobblers changed over to be primarily desserts in the late 19th century. The American South takes the “cobbler” on ownership of some of the best cobbler recipes.
Fruits typically used in a cobbler are apples, blueberries, peaches, pears, plums, apricots, or any combination of berries. Cobblers have close relatives by other names. Depending on the region, you may enjoy a crisp (or crumble, the British name). Crisps are just like a cobbler, except that the topping is a crumb made with flour, nuts, bread crumbs, cookie or graham cracker crumbs, or breakfast cereal.
There is the Brown Betty, usually made with apples, baked between layers of buttered crumbs. This was also a popular colonial dessert. The grunt or slump were the names for the early attempts of New England settlers to make their beloved English steamed pudding using under-par cooking equipment available to them at that time. These types of cobblers were made using local fruit and dumpling-like pudding and cooked on a stovetop, as opposed to baking. In Massachusetts, they were called a grunt and in Vermont, Maine, and Rhode Island, the dessert was called a slump.
A buckle or crumble is a cake made in a single layer using blueberries added to the batter. The topping is crumbled, like a streusel. A pandowdy is a deep-dish dessert most commonly made with apples that have been sweetened with molasses or brown sugar. The crust topping is made with biscuit dough, but is broken up during baking and pushed down into the fruit to allow the juices to come through the topping. The dessert is “plain” or dowdy looking – hence, its name suits it. Sometimes the crust is made on the bottom with the fruit added on top, and then the pan is flipped before serving.
One thing is for certain, though. No matter what you call it, a cobbler is mmm, mmm delicious and oh-so-easy to prepare!
RECIPE OF THE MONTH: PEACH COBBLER
¼ cup unsalted butter ( ½ stick)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar, divided
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cornstarch
Pinch of salt
1 cup milk
5 ½ cups fresh peaches, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp vanilla
1. Melt butter in a 13×9 inch baking dish
2. Combine flour, ½ cup sugar, baking powder, and salt; add milk and vanilla, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Pour over butter (do not stir).
3. Bring remaining ½ cup sugar, peach slices, corn starch, and lemon juice to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly; pour over batter (do not stir). Sprinkle with cinnamon.
4. Bake at 375 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown. Serve cobbler warm or cool. Top with vanilla ice cream.