Luscious flavorful fruits are now plentiful! Mother Nature in her abundance is providing our markets with bushels of beautiful peaches, plums, apricots and cherries. What a joy it is to spend time perusing the aisles of the local markets if for no other reason than to take in the visual array of colors and hues ranging from the brilliant reds and purples of the firm-fleshed plums to the fuzzy, soft and delicate golden yellow skin of blemish free peaches. And how about the fragrance… is there anything more wonderful that holding a perfectly ripe peach to your nose and allowing your olfactory nerves the experience of nirvana?
When I was a child growing up on the farm in southern Minnesota I always enjoyed the ritual that came with the peach season. Mom would put in an advance order for so many lugs of free-stone peaches with one of the local grocers, Sauer’s Store, and then we’d wait for the phone call weeks later informing us that the crates of peaches had arrived. Opening each crate was akin to unwrapping a Christmas gift. Each peach had been lovingly wrapped in tissue, a sure sign that each piece of fragile fruit had been handled with love and care. Sometimes the crates needed to sit out for a day or two for the peaches to ripen to perfection before being put up. They were always placed on top of the chest freezer in the enclosed front porch where the fruit would be kissed by the sun that streamed through the east and south windows. Then the work began! Mom would start washing the dozens of Mason jars that would be home to peach sauce… or gather together the freezer containers that would be filled with unprocessed peaches for use in pies, cobblers and other desserts during the winter months. And, of course, there would always be a fresh peach pie or two during the course of the days of canning… it was simply the best of treats!
Celebrating the glories of fruit takes us to the delicious simplicity of cobblers. A cobbler is nothin’ fancy… and it certainly is homey. Its history is one of immigrant innovative spirit. “Without the resources of brick ovens… colonial cooks often made cobblers — also called slumps or grunts — and their cousins, pandowdies, in pots over an open fire,” according to “The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, Volume 2.” A cobbler is resourceful and ingenious, made with a fraction of the flour required for a load of bread and with fruits and berries so bountiful during the height of the summer produce season.
By definition a cobbler is an American deep-dish fruit dessert or pie with a thick crust, usually biscuit, and a fruit filling. Some versions are enclosed in the crust while others have a drop-biscuit or crumb topping. This Peach and Ginger Cobbler with Marzipan-Biscuit Topping is a current seasonal favorite of ours and we suspect it will become a favorite of yours as well!
Peach and Ginger Cobbler with Marzipan-Biscuit Topping
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine in a large bowl:
6 C peeled and sliced free-stone peaches, approximately 2 1/2 lb
2 inches peeled ginger, microplaned
Chef’s Note: Place peeled ginger in a freezer bag and keep in the freezer between uses. It will not spoil or dry out… and the frozen ginger can be easily microplaned or grated when needed.
1 C bakers sugar
3 T quick-cooking tapioca, pulverized to a powder in a spice mill
3/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp mace
Mix well to combine and allow to sit 15 – 20 minutes for the juices to be released from the fruit. Pour into a well buttered 8 x 8 x 2-inch baking pan or one that is volume equivalent. Dot the fruit with:
2 – 3 T unsalted sweet butter
Baker’s Note: We filled an 8 x 8 x 2-inch pan with water then poured the water into an oval dish we hoped to use for equivalency… perfect!
Bake the fruit until it begins to bubble in the center, approximately 1 hour. While the fruit is baking, prepare the topping. Place into the bowl of a food processor:
1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
4 1/2 T bakers sugar
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
Pulse several times to combine. Add:
1 7-oz roll almond paste (we suggest Odense Pure Almond Paste), broken into small pieces
Pulse until smooth:
1/2 C unsalted cold butter, cut into pieces
Process until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add:
1/2 C heavy cream
Pulse until dough is just combined:
Refrigerate until fruit is cooked. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Drop cobbler dough with a spoon over the surface of the fruit:
Bake until topping is golden brown, approximately 40 minutes. We suggest placing the dish on a baking sheet to catch any unwanted spills during the final baking!
Serve warm or at room temperature with velvety smooth vanilla ice cream or a cloud of fluffy whipped cream!
Another great cobbler combines the flavors of fresh bing cherries and ripe apricots. For this fruit combination use 1 1/2 lb of cherries and 1 1/2 lb of apricots. Omit the mace and use 1/4 tsp cinnamon and 1/8 tsp ground allspice for the fruit filling in combination with the sugar and the tapioca. Should plums look particularly inviting we suggest using the same spice combination as that used for the cherries and apricots. The same marzipan biscuit topping is glorious for each! Select your fruit of the day… and enjoy serving this easy crowd-pleaser time and time again in its many incarnations… Bon Appetit!
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