Here on the brink of summer, when the South’s farmers’ markets and roadside stands will soon offer the finest peaches and blackberries in the world, it’s time to brush up on making a cobbler, in my less-than-humble opinion the best way to bring these fruits to the table.
No doubt most of you line a deep dish with a crust, fill it with stewed fruit, top it with another crust—likely one of those cute but fussy lattice types—and call it a cobbler. You can do that, and you would find yourself in agreement with most professional cooks, people who write cookbooks and other types of riff-raff who claim to know their way around a kitchen, but if you ask me—go ahead—this constitutes nothing more than a deep-dish pie.
The dish I know of as a cobbler is made with stewed fruit, yes, but does not have a crust as such, meaning one that is made of cut rolled-out dough. My cobbler, instead, is made of stewed fruit and sweet dough made into dumplings, and those that rise to the top of the fruit during cooking brown, giving the dessert a wonderful pied (sorry, I couldn’t help myself) topping, but the most wonderful part is the mixture of fruit and sweet, spongy dumplings below the surface. In the Midwest, where dowdy is not only endemic but pervasive, this is called a pan dowdy, and New Englanders (with a characteristic lack of lyricism and overemphasis on assonance, refer to inelegantly as a “slump” or a “grunt”.
This recipe is simple, and like most simple recipes, more procedure than ingredients. Larger fruit should be peeled and sliced or diced. Stone fruit and berries make the best cobblers, though I’ve had a pineapple and fig cobblers that were wonderful, and I knew a lady who made an awesome cobbler like this out of canned fruit cocktail that was absolutely psychedelic.
For four cups of fresh fruit make six cups of simple syrup and flavor with a teaspoon vanilla; nutmeg is also a nice touch. Stew the fruit in the syrup just enough to infuse the syrup with its flavor, and while hot transfer to a deep baking dish. Make biscuit dough using sweet milk and sugar, knead lightly and roll out to about half an inch, cut into strips, drop by pieces into the hot fruit/syrup mixture and bake in hot (400) oven. Spoon syrup over the dough as it cools. If you don’t serve this with anything other than vanilla ice cream the devil will drag you to hell by your short hairs.