Thursday, June 24, 2010

summer cobblers

As I've mentioned before, my mother's side of the family is from Roanoke, Virginia. My mother grew up on a farm and understood the difference between fresh fruits and vegetables and those found in the supermarket. She always complained about "cold storage" produce. As a child, what she was talking about didn't totally register -- at least intellectually. But I could taste the difference between tomatoes picked from the garden near my grandparents' house, and the not-really-red, scentless tomatoes from Kroger.

My mother was not the only amazing cook in the family. Her sister-- and my favorite aunt-- could cook like nobody's business. Aunt Avis loved to talk about how her "house has been a stop for weary, hungry travelers for years." She took pride in her culinary skills -- with reason.

We often visited Aunt Avis (along with relatives living on The Hill, the family homestead) during the summer months. That meant looking forward to a table laden with Southern delights. Aunt Avis made a dessert that always stopped the show: deep dish peach cobbler.

Aunt Avis used farm-fresh peaches. You know-- the sweet, juicy, brightly colored peaches that almost taste like honey. You bite into one and the juice from the peach starts to drip down your fingers and arm. But you don't care! I remember Aunt Avis peeling the peaches (or having her nieces, nephews or whomever was nearby, help peel them). And I remember the long rectangular pan that she used to bake the cobbler in. But more than anything, I remember the taste of that cobbler, with the lattice crust on top. Aunt Avis' cobbler, along with vanilla ice cream, was always the best ending to the many meals my family ate at her house on Pittsfield Avenue.

Now, all that taste came at a price. The recipe obviously called for lots of sugar and butter. Back then, Aunt Avis didn't care; and neither did we! Those days are kinda behind me. I'm trying my best to get a grip on the calories that I consume. But it's still summer, and I still like cobblers. Must I be denied and deprived? Not according to Cooking Light, one of my favorite cooking magazines.

I made the berry-peach cobbler (below) a few days ago. I admit that it did not have the richness of Aunt Avis's peach cobbler, but it was quite tasty! The only thing I would do differently next time is use more lemon juice. As you may recall from an earlier post, I love lemon. And 3 tablespoons just didn't seem to be enough. Otherwise, I was very pleased with how it turned out.


Berry-Peach Cobbler
Yield: 12 servings (serving size: 1 cup cobbler and 1/3 cup ice cream)

3 (6-ounce) packages fresh blueberries
3 (5.6-ounce) packages fresh blackberries
3 medium peaches, peeled and sliced
Cooking spray
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt

4.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/3 cup sliced almonds
3 tablespoons turbinado sugar (marketed as Sugar in the Raw)
1 tablespoon egg white

Remaining ingredient:
4 cups vanilla fat-free ice cream


1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. To prepare filling, combine blueberries, blackberries, and peaches in a 13 x 9–inch baking dish lightly coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle 2/3 cup granulated sugar, 2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch, juice, and 1/8 teaspoon salt over fruit; toss gently to combine.

3. To prepare topping, weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, baking powder, and 1/8 teaspoon salt, stirring well. Cut butter into flour mixture with a pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add half-and-half; gently knead dough just until moistened. Drop dough by spoonfuls evenly over top of filling. Combine almonds, turbinado sugar, and egg white; sprinkle over top. Bake at 350° for 50 minutes or until topping is browned. Let stand 10 minutes. Serve with ice cream.

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