Of all the delicious seasonal foods available in early summer, blueberries, blackberries and peaches
are high on my list of favorites. They are wonderful eaten out of hand; embellished with cream, Creole cream cheese or ice cream; and incorporated in a variety of baked goods. Of the many dessert possibilities, cobblers are among the simplest and quickest to make. And they are big in flavor and satisfaction.
Everyone knows what a cobbler is. After all, you couldn’t live long in the South without encountering a peach
or blackberry cobbler, either in life or in literature, though one person’s description will likely differ markedly from another’s. They will all have in common a sweetened fruit or berry filling, often slightly thickened with flour or cornstarch, perhaps with the addition of a spice or two and some butter. But there the agreement will end.
Although many cobblers are made with a sweetened biscuit dough, others feature a pie crust. The one you prefer probably depends upon how your mother or grandmother made hers. Most commonly, cobblers have only a top crust –– but not always. Occasionally a cobbler recipe will call for a bottom crust that is sometimes baked before the fruit and top crust are added and then baked again. A variant on that approach involves baking pieces of pie dough before adding them to the fruit mixture and then topping it off with a crust. In either case, the idea is to add some textural variety.
Some cobblers are covered entirely with either a pastry crust or biscuit dough. Other recipes call for a lattice crust or individual biscuits atop the fruit. The biscuits are sometimes formed with a cutter; other times the dough is dropped by spoonfuls on the fruit.
If a biscuit dough is used, it is made with a variety of fats and liquids — butter, lard or shortening and milk, buttermilk, half-and-half, light cream, heavy cream or a mixture of yogurt and milk, for example. Sometimes the dough will contain an egg, vanilla, a spice or even cornmeal.
Usually a cobbler is a deep-dish pie but not always; some versions are quite thin. Another variation on cobbler-making involves briefly cooking the fruit mixture before assembling and baking.
Occasionally you’ll come across a cobbler recipe that, instead of using a pie crust or biscuit dough, calls for making a thick batter that is poured over the fruit before baking. But now we are moving into the realm of clafoutis.
If cobblers are one of the simplest baked desserts, clafoutis must be, hands down, the easiest of all. The dish originated in the Limousin region of Central France as a homespun creation made with local cherries. The dessert consists of a thin batter (that can be prepared in a blender, no less) that is combined with fruit or berries and baked. Before serving, it is dusted with powdered sugar. What could be easier? And it is delicious, particularly if you love baked custards.
While clafoutis are served with a topping of powdered sugar, cobblers are frequently eaten with ice cream, heavy cream or whipped cream. Old cookbooks often call for serving cobblers with various sauces, such as a crème anglaise. Although you don’t often encounter that combination these days, it is definitely worth trying.