I thought I’d jump back into my blog by baking that sublimest of summer desserts, the peach cobbler. Peaches have been extraordinarily good this year, all juicy, tangy and with very few those disgusting cottony ones in the bunch. Also, if I don’t make it, Carina, our beloved au pair who is abandoning us to go back to Austria, will cry and we can’t have that.
Peach cobbler is a decidedly southern dish, with butter and sugar used in the kind of quantities that made Paula Deen (in)famous. I have lightened the recipe somewhat, and added vanilla and orange zest to the batter. “Typical northerner,” I can hear my friend Susanne say. She’s from Georgia, the Peach State, so I can understand her wariness. I promise I just put it in there to boost the flavor of the fruit, and cut down on what can be cloying sweetness. Also I added raspberries because peaches and raspberries make such a happy pairing–especially when surrounded by warm orange-scented, brown-sugar crusted cake.
I love cobblers for so many reasons. Along with being toe-curlingly delicious, they are ready in minutes and use a bit of kitchen magic, which is why I make them with help of my kids. The cobbler is made in layers: first, browned butter is poured into the baking pan, the batter is poured on top of that, then the fruit slices are laid onto the batter. A final sprinkling of brown sugar on top and into the oven it goes, looking rather blobby and strange, with butter pooling in an unattractive way. Forty or so minutes later, however, BEHOLD! our dessert has transformed from gloop into a golden cake with a hint of raspberry poking out.
Feel free to use any fruits you wish, bearing in mind that the tangier the better to act as a foil to the sweet batter. I have also been known to substitute whole-wheat flour for white, which is not only healthier (get it where you can), but helps control the sweetness–and your absorption of the sugars.
It may not photograph up as the world’s most beautiful dessert. Never you mind, just lie back, close your eyes and think of Georgia.
What You’ll Need
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp real vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp (or so) orange zest
- 3/4 cup milk
- 3 cups sliced fresh peaches
- 1/2 pint fresh raspberries
- 1/3 cup light brown sugar
What You’ll Do:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat until it turns a honey-brown color. Don’t worry about the foam that appears on the top. Occasionally brush it aside with a spoon to get a look at the color of the butter. This isn’t a process you want to rush, as it can burn easily.The browner you can get it, the better, but don’t drive yourself crazy looking for the perfect color. It’s going to be delicious regardless. Pour the butter into an 8-inch baking dish.
3. In a bowl, mix together the sugar, flour, baking powder, milk, salt, vanilla and zest to form a smooth batter. Pour this into the dish on top of the melted butter, as evenly as possible.
4. Place the peaches on top of the batter, along with the raspberries.
5. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the top of all of this. Marvel at it and wonder how this odd-looking thing could actually turn into cake.
6. Bake for about 40 minutes until golden brown. The center of the cake should pop back when touched with a finger.
7. Serve warm or at room temperature. Ice cream is a nice accompaniment, but the fancy girl in me prefers a dollop of creme fraiche or sour cream.
Check out the magic layering process: