Thursday, June 19, 2008

Elusive: Cherry Cobbler

A few facts:

1. Last week I had quite a lot of cherries from various sources.

2. I decided that a cherry cobbler was just the thing to make with my cherries.

3. I have over 300 cookbooks; I have more than 100 back issues of cooking magazines from two continents; I have thirteen 1 ½” binders with recipes torn from magazines.

4. I looked through perhaps a dozen of those cookbooks and a dozen more other sources for a cherry cobbler recipe

5. There was not a single recipe to be found for cherry cobbler.

Can you believe this? There I stood, bowl of cherries on the counter crying to be made into cobbler, and nowhere could I find a recipe. I kept waiting for someone to jump out and show me where the camera was hidden. It was madness.

I was finally forced to adapt a recipe. I pulled out the ever-faithful Fannie Farmer and looked at the recipe for apple cobbler. Pretty basic: butter, flour, egg, milk, sugar. I decided to add some oats to the mix, for interest and whole-grain-ness, and a little cinnamon for zip.

I would like to say that Fannie Farmer has an interesting shortcoming that I didn’t notice until I adapted this recipe. When they give amounts of ingredients, they don’t indicate if they’re to be in any way divided in the ingredient list; that information is in the body of the recipe. So if you’re kind of a sloppy cook, as I was when I made this cobbler, you’ll do something like dump ¾ of a cup of sugar on the fruit, when really ¼ cup of it was intended for the fruit, and the rest was intended for the topping. Way to go, me.

As it turned out, the fruit mixture was not so sweet that it made your teeth ache. They throbbed for perhaps a second, but in the end they were fine and there was a nice lot of syrup with the fruit. I think you could fiddle with the amount of sugar until you got it down to a reasonable level of sweetness, say between ¼ and ½ cup. You might not get quite as much syrupy goodness, but you’re not flirting quite as blatantly with diabetes, either.

The topping this makes is much more cakey than crumbly. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s not crumbly at all, because it’s made with melted butter instead of cold. If you’re a crumbly-topping-on-cobbler purist, you’re going to be let down. However, it does have a nice upside-down cake quality about it that’s endearing if you’re open to a variation on a theme.

I used a large round ceramic casserole I have that holds about 3 quarts in which to cook this. Really any baking pan will do, so long as it holds the fruit and isn’t too spread out. I tried using a couple of rectangular ones, and quickly realized that the fruit was practically in a single layer, and that the topping wasn’t going to stretch out quite that far.

So here’s my recipe for Cherry Cobbler, because apparently they’re scarce. When you check Martha, Alice, Shelia and Julee, Sara Foster, Mark Bittman (Mark Bittman!), Fannie, and a whole bunch of magazines, and no one has a recipe for Cherry Cobbler, you know there’s a gap, and you need to fill it. Serve this warm with vanilla ice cream.

Cherry Cobbler
adapted from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook
makes 6-8 servings, depending on how much ice cream you serve along with it

4-5 cups cherries, pitted
1 ½ cups sugar, divided
8 ounce (1 stick) butter, melted
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup milk
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ cups flour
1 ½ cups old fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large casserole, place cherries so they’re about 3-4 cherries deep (you don’t want them so spread out that they’re in a single layer). Sprinkle with ¾ cup of sugar.

Combine melted butter, milk, vanilla, and egg. Stir in ¾ cup of sugar. Add salt, flour, oats, baking powder, and cinnamon and stir to combine.

Drop topping over cherries in large spoonfuls. The topping should cover the cherries comfortably, but don’t worry if a cherry peeps through here and there.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until cherry filling is bubbling around the edges of the topping. Remove from oven and allow to cool 10 to 15 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

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