Is there any scent more heavenly than that of a bag of fresh peaches? Well, I suppose that depends what you’re in the mood for, but wow…the peaches I bought for this cobbler barely made it into the cobbler – they smelled so amazing that I nearly gobbled all of them up by themselves!
This cobbler was a bit of an experiment. You’ll notice from the pictures that there were two separate cobblers (check the linens to differentiate) – both were blackberry peach (although I used two different varieties of peach according to what the store had on sale each week), but the baking methods varied slightly.
Warning: this is about to get a bit nerdy, so feel free to skip to the bottom for my concluding notes (or directly to the recipe).
Thanks to America’s Test Kitchen, I learned a year or two ago that in order for the biscuits to cook equally on top and bottom, you need to bake the fruit by itself before adding the biscuit dough; otherwise, you’ll end up with biscuits that are underbaked and goopy on the underside – not the end of the world, but not ideal either.
With this knowledge under my belt, I next wanted to figure out how to reduce the soupiness of the fruit mixture. Now I know that a good scientific comparison experiment should only have one variable from one rendition to the next, but I didn’t have the time, money, or calorie budget to make a dozen different cobblers. So here’s what I tried:
Version A (white and navy linens)
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- yellow peaches of unspecified geographic origin
- 2.5 quart glass casserole dish
- drained the fruit mixture, discarding the juices
Version B (aqua linens)
- 1.5 tablespoons cornstarch
- Georgia peaches
- 12-inch cast iron
- cooked fruit (with juices)
The results? It’s like Goldilocks (Peachilocks?): version A had a fair amount of soupiness, while version B had virtually no liquid, just a fruit mixture with a thick jam-like consistency. I personally would have preferred somewhere in between. The other differences:
- The fruit in version B had a slightly metallic taste from the cast-iron pan, which was not the most pleasant thing ever.
- In version A, since the exposed surface area of the glass casserole dish was smaller than that of the cast iron, the biscuits ran together into one big mass – this doesn’t make a difference taste-wise, but it’s not as pretty (see the pictures below for comparison). The difference in surface area surely also contributed to the soupiness or jam-iness: the shallowness of the cast iron allows for more of the liquid to evaporate in the baking process.
I’ve concluded that cooking the fruit (along with its juices) for a few minutes before baking really does make a difference – I’ve read that the cornstarch needs to boil to be fully activated, and while I previously thought that this would happen in the oven anyway, it certainly appears more effective to cook the fruit briefly first. I don’t think that the additional half tablespoon of cornstarch did much (in comparison to what cooking the fruit did), so I’ve omitted it from the recipe. This experiment also made me realize that while the fruit juices that pool at the bottom of the cobbler don’t make for the most attractive presentation, I much prefer the taste of a slightly messier-looking cobbler with some residual liquid to a prettier but stickier cobbler.
SO, in summary: it all comes down to what you prefer, both taste-wise and visually. As for me? My next cobbler will be baked in a casserole dish, with the fruit (juice included) cooked a bit before going into the oven.
If you have any cobbler wisdom you’d like to share, I’m eager to hear it!
- 6 medium-sized peaches (or 5 large), peeled and sliced (I cut each peach into 8 slices)
- 9 ounces (1 1/2 cartons) blackberries
- 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup butter or margarine, chilled
- 3/4 cup heavy cream (plus 1-2 tablespoons for brushing)
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- In a large bowl, combine the peach slices, blackberries, 1/2 cup sugar, and cornstarch. Let the fruit mixture sit while you prepare the biscuit topping, at least 10 minutes.
- For the biscuit topping: in a food processor, combine flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, and salt. Pulse to combine. Cut the butter into pieces and add to the bowl of the food processor. Pulse until the mixture looks crumbly and only small pieces (like the size of a pea) of butter remain intact. Add 3/4 cup heavy cream and pulse 2-3 times, until the dough comes together.
- Place the fruit mixture in a skillet or cast-iron pan, and heat over medium until the juices bubble. Cook for 1-2 minutes. If you are using a casserole dish to bake the cobbler, transfer the fruit to it now. Bake the fruit for 20 minutes.
- Divide the biscuit dough into 8 portions, flattening each one slightly. Place on top of the fruit and brush with remaining 1-2 tablespoons heavy cream. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the biscuits are golden brown. If you are using a shallow skillet or casserole dish, you may wish to place a rimmed baking sheet below the cobbler as it bakes, to catch any fruit juice that may bubble over the top of the baking dish.