I think we should all agree to stop this “as American as apple pie” nonsense. It’s inaccurate. I propose “as American as cobbler” for a replacement. When our forefathers settled here Whole Foods hadn’t opened yet, so their access to ingredients & tools was limited, to put it mildly, and they had to establish themselves to begin producing and processing ingredients & gadgets to make the food they were used to eating at home. This takes time. Well folks gotta eat, so they adapt, and so the style of cobbler was born.
Back then they weren’t associated as much with dessert and, generally speaking, were a filling baked with no bottom crust and topped with a biscuit-streusel-batter topping of some sort – think steak & kidney or shepherds pie – but were also made with sweet fillings and toppings, too. Over the centuries the term cobbler has steered away from savory fillings and has become synonymous with fruit desserts. Some versions are done on the stove top in cast iron skillets, others have the topping baked and the smooshed back in to the filling for service, some topped with custard or ice cream ~ every region seems to have their own way and special name for it, but when stripped down they are, at the core, the same.
Cobblers are one of my very favorite warm month desserts. All sorts of fruits come & go throughout the seasons and just about any of them can be baked into a cobbler. No pie crust means less nonsense and I personally think streusel toppings are one of the greatest things ever created by a human that I get to put in my face. You really can’t beat the Cobbler. What other dessert is so damn flexible? You can mix & match fruit and spices all day long, they love fruit that is a little over-ripe which happens to the bestest of us and they can be put together oh-so-quickly, though it’ll look and taste like you slaved. AND YOU CAN COVER IT IN ICE CREAM. See? Rock star dessert.
This one combines ripe pears, blueberries and blackberries snuggled under an oatmeal walnut streusel. I baked it off in a deep dish oval casserole, but it would also work perfectly fine in a 9×13 pan. (I do it in the deep dish for the aforementioned streusel problem – I can make the crust much thicker in that pan than I can the 9×13.) The berries in this can make it soupy, and no one like a soupy cobbler, so I use cornstarch to thicken the sauce while it bakes. I dont always add a thickener, when I do it isn’t always cornstarch, but for berries that is what I like the best, it makes the sauce gorgeously thick and shiny. Also totally loved the textural contrast of the firm pears to juicy berries, it gave the crisp some structure.
Taste your fruit before you start adding sugar. As the summer wears on the berries will get sweeter – if they don’t need much sugar, don’t add it. In early/mid June, when berries are in their prime, I may add a couple tablespoons of sugar and thats about it. I also tend to drop some sugar if a lot of blueberries are involved, they are already sweet and don’t need a whole lot, more often than not, and I usually add some lemon to amplify their flavor.
I served this at a dinner party and kind of forgot to get a picture of it plated. Ok, no kinda, I straight up forgot. I do apologize :) You’ll just have to trust me that it was as gorgeous as it was delicious after it was baked.
Mixed Berry & Pear Cobbler makes enough for 6-8 generous servings
- 3 cups Fresh Blueberries (those 1/2 pint containers)
- 3 cups Fresh Blackberries (also 1/2 pint containers)
- 2 each Red Pears, medium dice
- zest & juice of a lemon
- 3/4 cup Sugar
- 4 Tbsp Cornstarch
- 2 tsp Ground Ginger
- 2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
- 1 recipe Oatmeal Walnut Streusel (recipe to follow)
KITCHEN TIP: Easiest way to core & dice a pear or apple – cut into quarters, lay on a flat side. Hold a paring knife at a 45 degree angle and straight cut out the core area from each quarter. Flip onto the flat part you just made, cut into 4 slices length-wise then 3 or 4 the other way to dice. Those silly apple corer things? Yeah. Silly. This way is much faster with peeled or unpeeled fruit and does a much better job of totally removing the core without taking too much of the good stuff.
Preheat your oven to 350, line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment – if you don’t it will over flow and you will hate yourself while trying to scrub off baked on fuit stickies.
Mix together the berries, diced pear, lemon zest and juice in a large bowl. In a separate bowl mix the sugar, cornstarch & spices until combined. Pour over the fruit and toss to evenly coat. Let it set & start to leach out some juice while you make the topping.
When the topping is made pour the fruit into your baking vessel and spread out evenly. Don’t forget to scrape all the good stuff out of the bowl and drizzle over the fruit – you want all that delicious on there. Evenly distribute the streusel over the top. Don’t pack it down firmly, you dont want an brick of streusel on top of the baked crisp, but get a nice, thick even, layer over the top – see pic above for how it looks before it goes into the oven. Place the dish on the parchment lined baking sheet, get it in the oven.
Bake at 350 for an hour to an hour & fifteen minutes. Its done when the crust is golden brown & crisp and the fruit is hot and bubbly. You have to let this sit! Seriously. You cannot serve this straight from the oven. The juices need time to thicken, the fruit needs time to not be molten lava. Let it sit for at least 2 hours, preferably 3 or 4, at room temperature for it to be at its very best. I top mine with ice cream or a custard sauce, whipped cream. Store any leftovers in the fridge, but be warned that will soften the crisp streusel crust. It’s still delicious, though.
Oatmeal Walnut Streusel makes about 3-4 cups-ish
- 6oz COLD Butter, small dice
- 1/2 cup Flour
- 1/2 cup Dark Brown Sugar
- 1/2 cup Light Brown Sugar
- 1 cup Oatmeal (not quick cooking preferably)
- 1 cup Chopped Walnuts
- 2 tsp Cinnamon
- 1 Tbsp Vanilla
For some reason this is the recipe that I have seen more cooks, trained cooks, completely ball up, making what appears to be some sort of brown sugar paste mess that is impossible to crumble over anything. The most frequent missteps – 1) The butter has to be COLD for this recipe. Not sorta cold, not room temp, COLD. 2) “Pulse” is not defined by turning the machine on and maybe walking away; PULSE the mixture in the food processor in short bursts. Follow the very simple instructions and you will be a streusel master in no time. I make this in the food processor, but it can also be done by hand, it just takes much longer and you need to be more aware of the temperature of your butter – your hands transfer heat right to it as you work.
Put everything in the food processor and pulse until it is all combined but still loose and crumbly. You do NOT want to let this run, you pulse it in bursts so the butter doesn’t get warm and gets cut into the other ingredients to make a crumbly streusel topping. As long as you start with cold butter and pulse the mix together you will make awesome topping. This is also good anywhere you want to use a crumbly topping. If you don’t use it all don’t fret – put it in the fridge and the next time you want to fancy up a muffin toss some on top.
Strawberry rhubarb, blueberry, apple, peach w ginger, cherry berry…Im Cobbler Curious – what do you call them & whats your favorite things to put in them and/or on top of them? Educate & Inspire me!!