Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

Carolina peaches, mm mm good. I still have memories of a peach shake I had years ago, maybe decades ago, during a beach stay in the Outer Banks. Every summer we stay a week at Ocean Isle Beach in the southern part of North Carolina. I like to bake when I’m at the beach. Maybe it’s because there are no obligations there, except the standing 6:00pm volleyball game, but even that can be skipped if you’re willing to take the jeers. Maybe it’s the captive audience, many of whom don’t bake so they’re appreciative too. My domestic goddess side emerges, channeling Nigella.

I brought a faithful longtime companion with me to the beach, Fannie Farmer. Well actually I brought Marion Cunningham’s The Fannie Farmer Baking Book. My edition, still with its torn and ragged original dust jacket, was published in 1984. I’m pretty sure it was the first cookbook I really put to work, and it’s one I return to again and again.

Here is Fannie’s, or Marion’s, recipe for Peach Cobbler. Instead of the traditional dropped biscuit pastry, at least I think that’s the traditional method, it calls for a rolled out pastry. I used a pan slightly larger than the 8″ square pan and kept an eye on it while baking. Don’t forget to buy vanilla ice cream!

not my peach cobbler

Peach Cobbler

Peach filling:

  • 7 cups pitted peaches, peeled and cut into sixths, or something close – I used about 5-6 peaches
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter – I used a bit less

Biscuit topping:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 tablespoons butter, chilled
  • 6 tablespoons milk

Glaze (optional):

  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, melted
  • 1-2 tablespoons sugar

Preheat oven to 425. Place peaches in an 8″ square baking pan and sprinkle evenly with sugar. Drizzle on lemon juice and dot the peaches with butter. Set aside.

Combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a large bowl (or food processor), and stir or whisk together. Cut the chilled butter into bits and drop it into the bowl. Using either a pastry blender or your fingertips, work the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles fine, tiny and sometimes irregular crumbs. Or, do as I do, and use the food processor to pulse and mix the flour/butter mixture until it crumbs up. It’s much faster.

Slowly add the milk, stirring or pulsing. Gather the dough together and place it on a lightly floured surface. Knead several times, until the dough is fairly smooth. Don’t over-knead; you want the pastry to remain tender. Roll or pat the dough into a shape that will fit the baking pan.

Place the biscuit dough over the peaches in the pan, pressing it down into the fruit around the edges, and trimming where necessary. If you want a glazed crust, drizzle or brush the melted butter over the top and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the juices are bubbling, the crust is golden brown and the peaches are tender when pierced. Watch it toward the end; you may need to cover it with foil to prevent it from browning too much. Place on a rack when done. Serve warm or at room temp with vanilla ice cream.

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