July 5, 2012

Blueberry-Peach Cobbler with Gingered Biscuits

I sneaky love high summer. I love the heat, the pool, the summer schedules, the baseball park (even when the Bulls are losing). I love it that everything is fresh and big and green, that tomatoes and peaches are in season, and that a good night out involves patio drinks and live music. Being from the South, I have never experienced a summer that wasn't sweltering, aside from the few weeks I happened to spend in Europe surrounding study abroad and occasional research trips. But even my first summer in Freiburg, Germany was the hottest on record for that usually mild climate. Triple-digit heat didn't elude me then and it doesn't elude me now. At least now I have air conditioning.

I don't do a lot of baking in the summer, but when I do, I want my baking to be colorful and intensely fresh - something that reflects the high summer aesthetic, something with fruit and spices and minimal cream. This blueberry-peach cobbler with gingered biscuits fits my summer baking bill perfectly. If I'm not having banana pudding in the summer (one of God's most gracious gifts to Southern desserts), I better be having cobbler or dump cake, or at least vanilla ice cream. Cobbler and vanilla ice cream? Now I think that's something that is celebration-worthy. 

Our Fourth of July was spent with some of our most beloved friends and their equally beloved children. A few cherry margaritas, grilled corn and bratwurst, and a blueberry-peach cobbler later, we sat in the seats of Kenan Stadium watching fireworks with at least 20,000 other spectators. If that day didn't smack of America, I don't know what does.
I love the colors of this cobbler. I love the texture, the flavor, the lightness of fruit and the spiciness of biscuits. I love that you can eat this cobbler still slightly warm and if you put a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top the cream melts into the peaches and blueberries. This is the way to celebrate summer! 

Blueberry-Peach Cobbler with Gingered Biscuits
Adapted slightly from Cook's Illustrated

20 ounces fresh blueberries*
10 ounces fresh, in-season peaches
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 lemon (zest and juice)

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons stone-ground cornmeal (make sure it is a rough grind)
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder 
1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup buttermilk**
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup finely chopped candied ginger

*You can use varying amounts of peaches or blueberries (even blackberries or raspberries) but I found that 30 ounces was perfect for my cast-iron skillet or a 9-inch round dish. Cook's Illustrated also recommends 30 ounces.

**I did not have buttermilk. I didn't even have milk. I should really check my refrigerator before I bake. What I did have, inexplicably, was fat-free half & half. I measured out 1/3 cup into a bowl and added about 1/2 tablespoon of vinegar. 10 minutes later the mixture had reacted nicely into a good buttermilk substitute. 

Preheat oven to 375. Mix together sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and salt. Add fruit and zest and juice of 1/2 lemon. Pour into 9-inch round baking dish or cast-iron skillet and bake for 25 minutes, until the fruit mixture starts to bubble on the sides. 

Meanwhile, mix dry ingredients. Combine buttermilk (or buttermilk substitute concoction of choice) and melted butter and stir well. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add buttermilk, butter, and vanilla. Fold mixture very gently with a rubber spatula. This only took me 8 or 9 turns before the flour bits were almost gone. Add candied ginger and give the biscuits another stir or two. 

When fruit is done, pinch off portions of the gingered biscuits and arrange on top of the cobbler. I like having 7 or 8 biscuits so that you don't have too much fruit space or too much biscuit space. If you like, sprinkle the biscuit tops with cinnamon, sugar, and a little ground ginger.

Bake cobbler at 425 for about 15 minutes, until tops are brown and sugar is sparkling. Let cool about half an hour then serve with ice cream. 

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