The American Series, Pt. VII — Cherry Cobbler

With summer comes all things American — baseball, barbecues, fireworks, hot dogs and burgers, corn on the cob, the beach. It seems as if summer is the quintessential American season — a time of sunny optimism, that most American trait.

Willa picking cherries

Willa picking cherries

Each region of the country celebrates the season a little differently. We have our own unique summer traditions in Southern California — margaritas and mariachi, carne asada, Spanish rosé, tri tip on the grill, Dodger dogs and Hollywood Bowl picnics. One summer favorite I’ve always eyed with suspicion was cherry cobbler. Until recently, that is…

Cobbler originated in the British colonies, and has long been associated with the east coast. Perhaps that goes a long way toward explaining my reticence toward the dish — a proud California native raised to hate the Yankees and scoff at the east’s superior complex. More likely, it was the incongruous mounding of starchy bread dough on top of perfectly delightful fruit that threw me — why not just make a pie or a crumble instead? But the enduring popularity of the dish led me to another question: might I just have never had a good cobbler?

One Saturday while my son and I went to a previously blogged-about tae kwon do ceremony in Glendale, my wife and daughters went cherry picking in the high desert. They came home with what on the east coast is probably referred to as “bushels” (i.e. a whole bunch), and I decided to delve into the world of cobblers for myself.

IMG_3609

Exploring recipes on the internet, I could almost immediately detect the problem with many cobblers — too much bread on top, made with too much egg, not enough fat, stirred too much. In other words, the usual overly doughy bread/pasty problems. Digging a little deeper, I began to find versions that sounded promising — topping fruit with stuff that sounded less like dumplings and more like flaky, floury clouds.

I finally arrived at a vision of cobbler I felt comfortable, and got to work. As those of you who may have read any of my “Good Gadget, Bad Gadget” posts in the past will know, I am not a fan of bulky one-use gadgets such as the strawberry de-stemmer, the chili-pepper corer, the English muffin splitter or the avocado slicer. However, whilst at the cherry orchard, my wife did pick up a cherry pitter. And I must say, it made the task of one aspiring cobbler much simpler. So a short time later, bowl of pitted cherries in front of me and inspired by the divergent likes of Betty Crocker, Alice Waters, Emeril Lagasse and Saveur magazine, I composed what would be my first cobbler.

Paired with the exquisite sweet cream ice cream from Santa Barbara’s McConnell’s, it was much more than I dreamed the dish could be. And I began wondering what other regional American favorites might be worth a revisit… Shoofly pie? Hoppin’ John? Turducken!?? Hmmmm…

*    *    *

Cherry cobbler
serves 4-8

filling:

3 cups pitted cherries
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp. water
2 tsp. corn starch

topping:

3/4 cup flour
1 tbsp. white sugar
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 tbsp. lard (or 1 tbsp. lard, 1 tbsp. butter, or 2 tbsp. butter)
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp. buttermilk (or milk)
1/2 tsp. flaky sea salt

sweet cream ice cream

Preheat oven to 400. Mix together your filling ingredients in a medium bowl. Spread across the bottom of a small baking dish.

Mix together flour, sugars, baking powder and cinnamon. Using two knives, cut in the lard and/or butter until mixture is crumbly. Make a well in the center, mix together egg yolk and buttermilk and stir into flour mixture. Do not overmix, leave lumpy with dry spots.

Spoon topping over cherries and place in oven. Bake 20 – 25 minutes, until golden brown on top. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 – 10 minutes. Serve with sweet cream ice cream.

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Michelle
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 04:19:05

    Oooh, local Rainier cherries? You are a lucky man.

    Reply

  2. glennis
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 05:00:57

    Ooh, cherries. Love them! So was my invitation to pick our abundance of plums overkill, perhaps? I might be making some jam this coming weekend – if you guys have some spare cherries, let me know!

    Reply

    • scolgin
      Jun 25, 2013 @ 13:19:06

      No!! We had eaten the last cherries a few days ago. So we were ready for our next summer fruit! We picked a nice bowlful yesterday, and Willa eats them like potato chips. So we’ll probably be back for more in the next day or two. Thanks — SO GOOD!!!!

      Reply

  3. rachelocal
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 14:28:12

    I’m going cherry picking this week! Your cobbler looks good – I make something similar with summer berries – but I add almond extract to the dough and cinnamon to the filling. I’ll have to give your recipe a try.

    Reply

  4. Jessamine in PDX
    Jun 27, 2013 @ 05:27:15

    So jealous of all those Rainier cherries!! They are my absolute favorite summer fruit. That cobbler also looks delicious. If I can resist eating all my cherries raw, I’ll give it a try!

    Reply

  5. Deborah
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 01:32:58

    The third variety was Utah Giants.

    Reply

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