Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Great Cobbler Caper

In a previous post, I mentioned that I love peach cobbler. You wouldn't know it from the number of times I've had peach cobbler. When I was a kid, it was offered every so often at family gatherings, and if you bought your lunch at school, they served it as dessert sometimes.

I decided I didn't have enough cobbler in my life, so I set out to make some of my own. Early in the summer, though, the peaches just weren't very good so I started with apples. I love apple pie and figured apple cobbler wouldn't be a bad thing. I sort of used some of this recipe as my starting point.

Cobbled apples.

I love that cracked crust.
I pretty much used my apple pie filling recipe but didn't make my standard pie crust. The taste was good on both filling and crust but this particular crust was a bit thick for cobbler. I love the way it cracked in baking, though.

Then there was the cherry and blueberry combination with a take on my standard pie crust to top them off.

Cherries and blueberries, anyone?

"And I even like the color."
(Kudos if you get the reference.)

Thing is, I'm just not sold on the combination. I'm not the greatest fan of blueberries and this past season I found it difficult to get really good ones; they were mostly too tart. It also wasn't my best season for finding good cherries, either. The crust was tasty but still not up to snuff for a cobbler. So, although this was a good effort, I'm going to put it in the "To Revisit" file. I'd like to put together an exceptional filling in which the cherries and the blueberries compliment each other instead of fighting.

Eventually, I began to luck into some good peaches. This was towards the end of the season, so I knew I wouldn't have a lot of time to work with them. By the way, what was up with the stone fruit this year, anyway? Hit or miss, but mostly miss, from my usual sources. Still, I was able to get some decent peaches in August to make a couple of attempts at peach cobbler. The first was okay.

My first peach cobbler. Served with
some of my golden vanilla ice cream.

I added ginger to the filling because I always think ginger and peaches go well together. It had a good taste and the crust (the one I used with the apples) was taste but still a bit thick. Not a bad effort but I was still missing something. I needed some good advice so I called my little sister, MonY, who's made her share of good peach cobbler. 

A Brief Note About My Process:

I probably should have called Miss MonY when I first started down this path but I really wanted to work though my ideas first. I wanted to see where I'd succeed and fail before I got her advice. 

A Brief Note About My Process Ends.

We had a very good conversation during which she helped me better understand some of the elements of the dessert. And her suggestion about how to work in the crust was inspirational. She also pointed out that the crust should be truly cobbled, as in cobblestones (duh!). I had to laugh at myself because it's been so long since I'd actually had a true peach cobbler that I'd actually forgotten that simple fact. It definitely make a difference in how I approached things. I bought another batch of half-way decent peaches and dove in.

Slightly different crust recipe. A little more crumbly.

Ramekins at the ready!
The thing that probably hindered my attempts the most, though, is the one thing I couldn't compromise on: the need to make these as individual servings. Traditionally, cobbler is made in a pan and then scooped out for each serving. Sometimes the bottom of the pan has a layer of crust as well, so that when you scoop out a portion, there's crust mixed all the way through it. This is very difficult to achieve in single-serve dishes because then you end up with more crust than filling, and cobbler is all about filling, in my estimation. 

But why the need for single-serve dishes in the first place? Logistics. We don't have enough room in the refrigerator for a big pan, and since we don't have kids and our gatherings with friends didn't coincide with my obsession with this dish, I didn't have a large group to serve a big pan of cobbler to. I really needed to make things modular so that I could fit them all in the fridge with out taking up prime storage space.

Cold storage problems aside, I was very happy with the last batch. It had a good taste and the crust was pretty much where it needed to be; it could have had a better bake, though. I think I know the reason for that problem but that's the subject of my next blog entry.

Cobbler, coffee, and cold stuff on the side.
My biggest, most important takeaway from this project, though, is the reinforcement of the idea that what I'm trying to do with my baking is to better understand the nature of the dishes I prepare, of my culinary and emotional connection to them, and my connection to those with whom I share knowledge. If I succeed in this, in even the most limited way, then I succeed as a baker.  

Currently listening to: Tony Rice Unit - Mar West



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