(Practically No Sugar) Peach and Blueberry Cobbler
What It Is
Cobbler is a juicy, deep dish dessert of cooked fruit with a biscuit type topping. It is thought of as the quintessential dessert of the American Deep South, and many Southerners will lay claim to its origins. You can’t blame them, really—who wouldn’t want to claim such a luscious dish? Turns out, a lot of people can take credit.
I sleuthed around and learned that this dish probably originated with the early British settlers in America. According to some cobbler historians, the early Brits couldn’t find the suet they needed to make their favorite familiar foods, such as steamed puddings. I didn’t know what suet was, nor was I aware that there was a glaring lack of it in this country, so I looked into that, as well. Suet, I found out, is the fat of raw beef or mutton, and I can only tell you that I am grateful I do not need that ingredient to make my dessert. So, the industrious housewives of the day (and I think that we can safely assume that it was the women folk who were mothering this invention) “cobbled together” recipes using butter, sugar, flour, cream, or whatever else they could round up. Other food historians believe that cobblers were invented by the Westward bound settlers–the chuck-wagon cooks and pioneering women, as it were–who adapted their European culinary traditions to Dutch ovens and open flames. It is likely that the first cobblers used savory, meat fillings. I imagine that eventually some settler with an abundance of fruit on her hands dumped that into the Dutch oven instead of meat, and the result was an instant sensation. The dish was called “cobbler,” possibly because the topping resembled cobblestone streets, or small, round English “cob” bread, or because of the way the ingredients were put together.
Once the settlers figured out that they could feed their families without suet, they went crazy–creating grunts, slumps, crisps, buckles, and even Brown Betties. These dishes are all variations on the cobbler theme and are distinguished by the particular nature of their crusts, how they are mixed, and how they are cooked. I won’t go into the nuances of all of these fruity wonders, but if you visit this site again, you might find a gluten-free peach crisp or a peach/berry “magic cobbler” (almost a “buckle”) in a later post.
So y’all come back now, ya hear?
Bring It Home
When I bring cobbler to my home, I need to bring something large and low sugar to the table. I developed this recipe to feed my own family of six, plus whoever else might be joining us, with enough left over for breakfast (and why not?). Personally, I would rather cut down on sugar than use a sugar substitute, and this entire dish, which serves 15- 20 depending upon the portion, uses only five tablespoons of sugar. No one has ever complained that it is not sweet enough—in fact, I think that the natural sweetness of the fruit comes through more clearly when not much granulated sugar is used. I am actually posting this in response to a special request from sweet Becky, over at Clover and Thyme (hope you enjoy it, Becky!).
So pull out your peaches, people, crank up the oven, and have a go at this European/Western American Dessert from the Deep South:
Peach Berry Cobbler
Preheat oven to 375
Use a large, deep baking dish: 13x9x3
- 4 lbs. firm, ripe peaches (10-12)
- 3 cups blueberries*
- 1 ½ TBSP sugar
- 1/3 cup flour
- 1 tsp. lemon zest*
- 2 TBSP lemon juice*
*When our wild blackberries are in season, I use 2 cups blueberries and 1 cup freshly picked blackberries
**This is about the amount of zest and juice of one small lemon
- 3 cups flour
- 2 TBSP baking powder
- ¾ tsp. salt
- 2 TBSP sugar
- 6 TBSP unsalted butter
- 1 ¾ cup heavy cream
- 1 ½ TBSP raw sugar to sprinkle over the top
Put the peaches in a large pot of boiling water and let them boil for about a minute. Remove them and place them immediately into a large bowl of ice water. Let them bathe until cool enough to handle, then pull off the skins and cut the fruit into thick slices. Put the sliced peaches into a large bowl. Rinse the berries, pat them dry, and add them to the peaches. Add the flour, sugar, and lemon zest and juice, and stir gently.
In another bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Cut the butter into pieces and drop the pieces into the flour mixture. “Cut” the butter into the flour mixture using two knives, a pastry cutter, or your fingertips, until it looks like coarse meal. Stir in the cream, (I use a wooden spoon). The batter will be very stiff.
Transfer the fruit into your large baking dish.
Drop the batter over the fruit, using a tablespoon, until covers the entire surface. Sprinkle the raw sugar over the top. Bake for about 50 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and cooked through, and the fruit filling is bubbly.
Have you ever walked on a street that looked like this?
A final word: According to Wikipedia, “Deep South tradition gives the option of topping the fruit cobbler with a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream.” This is where Wikipedia is wrong….
…vanilla ice cream is not optional.