I should know better than to drive to the farmer’s market.
When I walk, I’m limited by the amount that I can carry. It turns out that I can carry about as much fruit and fresh produce as two people and our visitors can eat before the next farmer’s market, so it works out.
But this week I took the car, and somehow I came home with a 12-pound box of peaches and one of heirloom tomatoes and a half-flat of strawberries, and also some melons and eggplant and peppers and arugula and, well, you get the idea.
A few hours later my dad, having driven past orchards and farms and farm stands on his way through California’s central valley, arrived at our house with many more pounds of ripe strawberries and peaches, plus nectarines and and plums.
So Fischer and I made a cobbler.
Cobbler is a fantastic way to use extra fruit, especially the pieces that are overripe, underripe, bruised, or otherwise sub-par. Peaches, plums, strawberries — pretty much any stone-fruit or berry will work, in combination or alone. The discount bin at the farmer’s market, with the bruised and pockmarked fruit? Perfect for cobbler. That big clamshell of strawberries that started going soft the day after you bought it? Awesome. Bring it all home, cut out the icky parts, and you’re ready to go.
Best of all, cobbler’s so quick and easy that you actually will make it right away, before the fruit crosses the line from bruised to moldy.
To make a cobbler, you just chop up a bunch of fruit, top it with gobs of biscuit dough, and bake it for about 45 minutes at 375° or so. The tops of the biscuits get all golden and crisp, and the undersides of the biscuits steam and simmer in the fruit juices and turn into dumplings, and it’s really just the best thing ever.
Not convinced? Fischer did most of the work on this cobbler, and he’s only 4. If he can make a cobbler, you can make a cobbler.
Making biscuit dough only takes about 10 minutes by hand, and even less if you use the food processor. If you’ve never made biscuits before, just remember not to over-work the dough when you’re cutting in the butter. It’s supposed to be lumpy, with pieces ranging from large crumbs to small peas.
Fischer overdid the mixing a little, shouting “Fe! Fi! Fo! Fum!” every time he thrust the pastry blender into the flour-butter mixture. (If you don’t have a pastry blender, you can use a food processor — just pulse it a few times — or cut the butter in with a pair of knives, or just use your fingers. Fe Fi Fo Fumming is optional.)
You can use any biscuit dough (or shortcake recipe, if you like it sweeter) that you like. I tend to use the Joy of Cooking’s recipe for basic drop biscuits, which have a little more liquid than usual — instead of rolling them out, you just scoop out little handfuls of the dough and plop them on top of the fruit.
Some recipes suggest tossing the fruit with sugar, which is completely unnecessary — even if the fruit doesn’t taste that sweet when you start, baking will concentrate the fruit’s natural sugars. You may also see recommendations to add cornstarch, tapioca, or flour, to thicken the fruit juices that release as the cobbler bakes. Personally, I don’t like that texture; I just leave the fruit alone, then serve it in bowls and spoon some of the warm juice over each serving.
One last thing. You know what makes a great breakfast? That’s right: peach cobbler.
Sure, the rest of your family probably insists that it’s only for dessert, but it’s just fruit — delicious, natural, healthy fruit — topped with biscuit dough. Granted, biscuits are not exactly “healthy,” but many recipes don’t have that much butter, and anyway people eat biscuits with breakfast all the time and no one judges them.
So go ahead and have cobbler for breakfast. Tell them Auntie Claire said it was okay.