Peach & Blackberry Cobbler (Taste of Summer Menu: Part III)

IMG_1147Back in 2008, on our first peach picking experience in Coloma, MI, we were meandering our way back to the highway to head homeward with our peach booty when we came upon a sign saying, “U-Pick Blackberries — 2mi”. James’ and Nicole’s interest was immediately piqued. They both had visions of marrying our peaches with the blackberries. For myself — someone who’s not crazy about picking blackberry seeds from betwixt every single tooth in my mouth — I was only mildly amused. And yet — since I was not the one driving — we found ourselves at the farmstead of The Extraordinary Berry in Riverside, MI.

The Extraordinary Berry is very aptly named — the particular variety of blackberry they grow produces berries of tremendous size and with such a complex, floral taste even I (a blackberry skeptic) can at least appreciate. IMG_1134We picked to our heart’s content, that day, and we’ve been back every summer since then, to pick a few pints.

Through trial and error, we’ve discovered the various ways of preserving blackberries. They freeze easily, but the taste does take a hit, unfortunately. The jam is pretty tasty, but there are those danged seeds to deal with, and — again — the taste is definitely different than the fresh berries, even with minimal processing time. So, this year, we decided we would pick only as many berries as we could eat and enjoy fresh.

You can imagine my nervousness, then, when confronted with the task of coming up with a recipe which would not only fit with our Taste of Summer Menu, but would also be the apex of James’ blackberry enjoyment until NEXT YEAR. Gosh!

He definitely wanted a cobbler out of this deal, so we started combing through the cookbook library and looking online. Knowing we had only about 5 pints of blackberries, we also knew we had to pick the right recipe — a recipe that would not let us down. I guess it’s only natural that we came up with one of our own — borrowing from the concepts and methods of a few different sources.

IMG_1146There are many schools of thought on what defines a cobbler (probably as many different ideas as there are about the differences between Strawberry Cake and Strawberry Shortcake). I’m one who definitely enjoys any kind I’ve ever tried — what’s not to like? Most cookbook authorities (they carry badges, you know) agree that an authentic cobbler is a thickened, cooked fruit mixture with cut or dropped biscuits baked on top — they’re called “cobbler” because the biscuits hopefully resemble cobblestones on a walkway.

Given the nutrition facts accompanying some cobbler recipes, you’d probably do just as well to eat yourself a real cobblestone! Whew! Biscuits don’t come easy, folks. A lot of fat goes into each flaky, buttery bite and that means lots of fat and calories. But, thanks to a biscuit recipe I found earlier this year in Cook’s Country, I discovered flaky biscuits don’t have to be a guilty pleasure (at least not all the time).

That’s the pleasant surprise in today’s recipe — it’s NOT a naughty dessert! Instead of using two sticks of butter, the recipe uses only a modest amount and the rest of the fatty goodness is replaced with low-fat cream cheese. I can hear the gasps of distrust and disdain, already. “I don’t like cream cheese! Why can’t you just leave biscuits alone, already?!” Trust me. You can’t taste cream cheese in these biscuits and you’d never guess in a million years that they were “lite”.

IMG_1140Having found a recipe I could tweak for my cobblestones, I was interested in finding some guidance for the blackberry and peach part of the dessert. Most recipes we came across had us add at least 1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar — some even more than that. When you’ve spent your time picking peaches and relishing their fresh taste, and when you’ve picked — literally — extraordinary berries, the last thing you want to do is cover them with a thick, sugary mess! For our purposes, the sugar was only needed to lightly tame the tartness of the blackberries and maybe marry them to the peaches just a tad. We like tart fruit, around here, so — if you are worried your cobbler will taste too tart with reduced sugar, you should add just a little more. But go easy on the sugar, please — fruit is made of sugar, after all.

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In my opinion, the worst part about this recipe is having turn your oven on in spite of it being ninety-something degrees outside. It felt almost as though we were taunting the sun, “Ha! You think it’s hot out there? Wait’ll you see how hot we can get it right in here! You’re several million times the size of our planet? That’s nothing! Our tiny kitchen is so hot, people are talking about vacationing here in the winter!”

Peach & Blackberry Cobbler
Serves 12

    Fruit Filling:
    2 tablespoons corn starch
    1/2 cup granulated sugar
    1 1/4 pounds fresh blackberries – (about 5 cups)
    2 pounds fresh peaches – peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1/8 teaspoon ground cloves – (optional)

    Biscuit Topping:
    3 cups all-purpose flour
    1 tablespoon granulated sugar
    1 tablespoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    3/4 teaspoon salt
    4 tablespoons unsalted butter – cut into 1/2-inch cubes, frozen 1hr
    3 tablespoons neufchatel cheese – cut into 1/2-inch cubes, frozen 1hr
    1 1/4 cups buttermilk

    Preheat oven to 425-degrees. Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

    In a large mixing bowl, combine cornstarch and the sugar. Add blackberries and peaches and toss to combine well. Transfer to baking dish and bake until just bubbling, 10 to 15 minutes.

    Meanwhile, prepare the biscuit topping. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, frozen butter and cream cheese in a food processor. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal; transfer to a large bowl. Stir in buttermilk until combined.

    On a lightly floured work surface, pat dough into a square about 3/4-inch thick. Cut into 12 square biscuits. Add the cut biscuits to the top of the bubbling fruit filling. Bake cobbler at 425-degrees until top is golden, 15-25 minutes.

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The end result marries the seductive, passionate flavor of peaches with the youthful, amorous flavor of blackberries. All that naughty blending and mixing and yet it’s a light dessert! In case you were interested, according to my cookbook software, the nutrition facts for this dessert are a little impressive: 260 calories, 6g Total Fat (3g Saturated Fat), 14mg Cholesterol, 365mg Sodium, 48g Total Carbohydrates, 4g Fiber, 19g Sugars, and 6g Protein. Okay, so, maybe it isn’t HEALTH food, per se, but it’s a far cry from the other recipes out there for cobblers. Most of them — due to high sugar and fat content — weighed in at over 500 calories per serving! We won’t even discuss the fat grams! And, then, other supposedly “lite” cobbler recipes cheat you by giving you laughably smaller portions. Here, you can get a modest bowl of fruity cobbler that’s so saintly you don’t have to feel guilty about putting a wee scoop of vanilla bean ice cream alongside it.

And that was our Taste of Summer Menu! Oodles of tomatoes fresh from the garden, peaches and blackberries harvested at the peak of their summery goodness, and all those heady herbs and spices thrown in for good measure.

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~ by Jason on August 19, 2010.

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