The Great Cobbler Debate

Earlier this summer, The Boy and I found a huge blackberry thicket in our neighborhood. I told The Boy about how I used to go out in the woods when I was his age and pick blackberries for my Granny to bake in a cobbler. The Boy never met my Granny, who was an amazing cook. She always made perfect cobblers that I adored every summer. And, for me, it was all about the crust (“Granny, I want LOTS of peach cobbler, but no peaches, please.”). It was a perfect mix of fluffy and flaky – not quite a biscuit, not quite a pie crust, not quite a cake. A buttery, sweet, salty, chewy, fruit soaked wonder. My mom told me that when they were kids, Granny would make a peach cobbler at lunch and Mom and her siblings would eat the entire crust, leaving all the peaches in the pan. Granny would take that filling, slap another crust on it, and lo and behold! Peach cobbler again at dinner! My Granny, the original recycler.

Combine fruit, spices, sugars, cornstarch and lemon juice. Pour into prepared baking dish.
Combine fruit, spices, sugars, cornstarch, lemon zest and lemon juice. Pour into prepared baking dish.

But I had no recipe so I was flying blind. As you may remember from my earlier post (Perfect Buttermilk Biscuits), I figured out how to make great biscuits. But I had helped Granny make those so I had some sort of concept of the ingredients and the method. I had no clue about the cobbler. And I am NOT a baker. Baking is science. I am not a scientist. Baking involves precise measurements using chemicals (baking soda, baking powder, eggs, sugar, etc.) which all have a specific role to play in the chemical reactions that make yummy things. I don’t know what those roles are. I’m trying to learn but this is NOT something that comes naturally to me. So I winged it.

make crust

For my first try, I attempted to just make a sweet biscuit crust. It was absolutely delicious. But it was a biscuit crust. Not right. Really thick and fluffy and sweet. The chewiness was missing.

Take two, my sister found a recipe online and the photo looked EXACTLY like Granny’s cobbler. Still very similar ingredients but with lots more milk so more of a batter than a dough. Again, delicious, but not quite right. Still too fluffy and kind of cakelike.

Chef J argued that making a streusel topping was the same as a cobbler. Bite your tongue and bless your heart but streusel is streusel. It is NOT cobbler.

One of my many pages of notes during this struggle.
One of my many pages of notes during this struggle.

Everyone had an opinion. I got lots of feedback from friends and neighbors, all of whom were happy to eat sweet fruit covered in a pastry crust. They all loved it. Frankly, I could have shared any of the half dozen recipes I toyed with and just about everyone would be happy. But it wouldn’t be like Granny’s. And that is the gold standard by which all cobblers are measured in my world. Just when I thought I couldn’t try one more cobbler, I came up with the right ratio of ingredients. I don’t know if it’s exactly the same, as Granny has been gone a long time. But I think it’s pretty darn close. I think Granny would be tickled that I tried to figure it out. If she were around, I’m sure she’d tell me I hit the mark. Or she’d lie to make me feel good.

Pour batter over filling. Dot with butter.
Pour batter over filling. Dot with butter.

Oh, and the blackberry thicket? Gone. Just gone. Nothing left. I don’t know if they got fried in the full sun and 115 heat index or if the birds got them. So I bought some peaches and blueberries for this one and gave it a shot. My family and my neighbors forgave me.

Out of the oven! Let it rest for a cool for a few minutes unless you make a habit of eating molten lava.
Out of the oven! Let it rest for a cool for a few minutes unless you make it a habit of eating molten lava. But those crusty bits around the edges are REALLY good. I have the burns on my mouth to prove it.
Peach-Berry Cobbler 
  • Butter, softened
  • 3-4 C peaches, cut into chunks
  • 2 C blueberries
  • scant 1/4 t cardamom (if you can get it, if not, not a huge deal)
  • 1/2 t ground ginger
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 T cornstarch
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 1/4 C brown sugar
  • 1/2 t vanilla
  • zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1 C self rising flour
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 t salt
  • 6 T unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2/3 C whole milk
  • 1 T butter cut into little pieces
Preheat oven to 400.
Grease 2 quart baking dish generously with butter.
Combine all filling ingredients in large bowl and mix well. Pour into prepared baking dish.
Mix flour, sugar and salt together in large bowl. Add in butter and blend with dry ingredients using your fingers until the mixture resembles wet sand. Add milk and mix together with a fork until well combined. Pour over filling. It may not cover the whole thing but it will expand as it cooks so don’t worry. Dot top with butter and bake for about an hour or until top is golden brown and dough is fully cooked. If it starts to get too brown before the dough is cooked, cover with foil and continue to bake. 
Serve warm with vanilla ice cream if desired.
Seriously, wait until it's cool. Even though it's tempting. Trust me.
Seriously, wait until it’s cool. Even though it’s tempting. Trust me.

2 thoughts on “The Great Cobbler Debate

  1. Wish I could come next door for a spoonful! Yum – and love that you tried to recreate your granny’s – I am forever trying to figure out how all of my grandmother’s food tasted better than mine!!


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