If any of you are food blog whores to the extent that I am, you are probably aware of the spike in fruit cobbler posts over the past week. A certain blogging group was assigned to make a berry cobbler, and thus all manner of cobbler-like creations have proliferated on the culino-blogo-sphere.
This post, though it deals with said dessert, is decidedly more interesting than any of the others I have read on the subject (not that I'm biased or anything...). This isn't because my cobbler is necessarily better than any of the others, but rather because my cobbler is the bearer of three important cooking revelations.
The first has to do with frozen produce, and in particular, frozen fruit. The argument I'm about to make is a contentious one, what with the popularity of locavorism, farmers' market-ism, and general food snob-ism. My claim is that for a fruit dessert like this one, it just makes sense to use frozen produce. Yep, like the kind that comes in a bag and that you find in the freezer section of the grocery store.
Gastronomical blasphemy, I know. Alice Waters, if you're reading this post, I'm sorry, but it's true. I used frozen fruit to make this cobbler, and nobody's going to make me feel guilty about it. It might be a different story if I lived in California or southern France, but here in Massachusetts, fresh summer fruit ain't cheap, and if I happen to get my grubby little hands on some, I'm probably going to eat it unadorned, straight from my eco-trendy canvas shopping bag, and with juice dribbling every which way.
When you live in the city, it isn't like you ever have an extra bushel of peaches on your hands that needs getting rid of, so why squander the opportunity to enjoy fresh fruit in its most natural form? Frozen fruit, while certainly not as delicious as fresh, is significantly cheaper, and, when mixed with all sorts of sugar-y, biscuit-y goodness (like in a cobbler, for example), makes a pretty good substitute for the real thing. Plus, the frozen stuff is pre-peeled and pre-chopped! In general, I enjoy doing the peeling and chopping myself, but sometimes a quick and easy dessert - one that can be whipped up in 10 minutes or so - is definitely in order. In this particular cobbler, I used frozen peaches, mangoes, and blueberries, and trust me, it was good. Really good.
Have I made my case? Have you had your frozen fruit revelation yet? Ok, here's number two: almond butter is my new secret baking ingredient. As Jonathan can attest, I'm an almond butter junkie. I scour the cabinets for stray cracker shards so that I can use them to scoop up the stuff straight from the jar. I spread it on anything non-liquid. I go through $7 jar after $7 jar. I especially like the "fresh-squeezed" variety, which my Whole Foods carries in the bulk bins section. They have a slightly scary-looking machine that grinds the almonds and poops out (I know it's gross, but really, that's what it looks like) the butter right into your eager plastic container.
This is the stuff that I wanted to bake with, because it is much chunkier and more solid than the jarred variety. In fact, when making the biscuits for my cobbler, I stuck it in the freezer beforehand and crumbled it into my dry ingredients just like you would butter. Almond butter, like any nut butter, is primarily fat, but the fats are healthier than those in butter, and it also packs in some protein and fiber, too. Also, it lends a lovely, fragrant flavor that I adore. I used almond butter in this recipe as the only fat - no butter at all - and I'm very pleased with how it came out. I can't wait to try some cookies (oatmeal chocolate-chip, perhaps?) with it.
Ok, third and final revelation: fruit cobblers are, like, the best summer dessert. Ever. Here are my top five reasons why:
1. It's ridiculously easy to make
2. It's ridiculously quick to make
3. It's ridiculously yummy to eat
4. It proves my claim about frozen fruit being a suitable substitute for fresh in certain fruity desserts
5. It's pretty
Convinced? In addition to the top five listed above, this dessert is also great because it is so flexible. You can use any fruit that is in season (or in stock in your freezer section), and you can jazz it up with a fancy biscuit topping, or jazz it down with some easy and relatively healthy, like the topping listed here. You can make it family style, in a big iron skillet:
Or you can make it cute and mini, in a ramekin:
However you choose to make it, it's sure to be delicious, light, and the perfect ending to any meal. A few notes on how I made this revelatory cobbler: My new apartment doesn't exactly have a microwave, so I defrosted my fruit in the skillet, keeping it covered and stirring every few minutes to ensure even heating. This kept the fruit really liquidy and juicy, which is perfect for the cobbler. After defrosting, I dumped everything into a mixing bowl to add the remaining ingredients. I do a pretty rustic cobbler, dropping the biscuit topping by the spoonful on top of the fruit before baking. This makes the undersides of the biscuits nice and gooey, but if you prefer, you can bake your biscuits separately and simply serve them with the cooked fruit. When it comes to choosing fruit for the cobbler, I like to have mostly fleshy fruits (not berries), and add a few berries, for color and texture. Berries generally need lots of sugar in baked desserts, but naturally creamy and sweet fruits like peach and mango don't.
This recipe can be used as a guideline; there are many substitutions that can be made. Also, any biscuit recipe will work here; the one I used is plain, healthy, and light. Really, there is no excuse not to try this out - you can't go wrong!
As-You-Please, Revelatory Fruit Cobbler
4-5 c. frozen (chopped, peeled) fruit (I like a mix of peaches, mangoes, and blueberries)
2 tbs. turbinado sugar (more if your fruit mix is berry-heavy)
1 tbs. flour
sprinkle each cinnamon, cardamom, and ground ginger
1 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 c. chunky, fresh almond butter, chilled
1 tbs. turbinado sugar
1/2 c. buttermilk
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Defrost fruit, keeping it in its juices. Pour into a mixing bowl and add remaining ingredients. Mix until well combined. Spray an iron skillet (mine is about 6 inches), or 5 or 6 ramekins with cooking spray, and portion fruit into its vessel. Prepare biscuit topping: Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, mix buttermilk and extracts. Add cold almond butter to flour mixture, and use your hands to incorporate it until you have something resembling a coarse meal. Add buttermilk to flour mixture, and stir until just combined. Drop biscuit batter by the spoonful all over the top of your fruit mixture, spreading it slightly so that it isn't too thick. Bake the cobbler at 350 F until the fruit is bubbly and thickened, and the biscuits are cooked through and golden-brown, about 20-25 minutes.