Have you been watching A Chef’s Life on PBS? You should. It follows Chef Vivian Howard who after hobnobbing in NYC for a couple of years moved back home to North Carolina and opened a farm to table restaurant. We are not talking Asheville or Charlotte, urban areas where the culinary scenes are blossoming but in her hometown of Kinston (where? get out your AAA map). From Kinston she is creating beautiful down home southern food using local ingredients.
I may never find myself in Kinston but fortunately she has written a cookbook, Deep Run Roots, that is filled with tantalizing recipes, gorgeous photos and wonderful stories about her hometown, family and friends. It’s a hefty book organized by ingredients and as I flipped through it I found myself marking quite a few of the recipes.
One of the many recipes I bookmarked with a post-it note was the Blueberry Cobbler with Cornmeal Sugar Cookie Crust. Actually I might have put 2 sticky notes on it as I am a sucker for homey desserts like cobblers. Start early if you want to make this as both the crust and the blueberries need “sitting” time. While the dough for the topping chills, the blueberries macerate in sugar and lemon juice. Let me just tell y’all now, this cobbler is AMAZING. The crust is tender and buttery with an ever so slight crunch from the cornmeal, it literally melts in your mouth. Bubbling underneath is a sweet blueberry compote brightened by lemon zest and juice. Of course I took it up another notch by adding a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Sometimes you just gotta go for it.
The nitty gritty. I haven’t quite figured out the different types of cornmeal, stone ground vs. regular milled I am definitely open to advice or info on the different kinds. I used Bob’s Red Mill Stone Ground Corn Flour which is pretty fine with just a slight crunch. I tried fine stone ground cornmeal in scones before and was not crazy about the grittiness. I guess I would choose whichever cornmeal you use and like for cornbread for this cobbler.
The crust is not a dough you would roll. It is similar to a drop cookie dough. I scooped out 1/3-1/2 cup portions and used saran wrap (it’s sticky) to shape the dough into 1/2 inch thick discs for my ramekins. You could do the same for a 9×12 pan or any comparable sized baking dish and lay the discs side by side covering as much fruit as possible.
If using ramekins reduce the baking time to about 30 minutes. Make sure to use a tray or sheet as they will bubble over (a picture is worth a thousand words). I made half the recipe filling which filled four one cup ramekins. I stashed the extra dough in the fridge for another day.
I plan on trying different berries and seasonal fruits with this recipe. I’m already dreaming about mixed berries (strawberries, blackberries and blueberries) and summer stone fruit (peaches, nectarines, plums) versions.
- 2 pound fresh blueberries or fruit of choice (berries, stone fruit)
- 3/4 to 1 cup sugar
- 4 tablespoons lemon juice
- Zest of 2 lemons, removed with microplane
- 1teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups or 3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup A.P. flour
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Put all the ingredients in a bowl and press down with the back of a spoon to burst some of the berries. Stir it all together and cover.
- Let the berries and sugar hang out for about two hours or overnight, stirring when it’s convenient.
- After about two hours, lots of juice would have leeched out of your fruit. Strain the juice and and add it to a small saucepan. Reduce the juice by half, or until it’s nice and syrupy. Add the syrupy stuff back to your fruit and stir to combine. It should coat and cling to the fruit like that scary cherry pie filling from the can.
- Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Cream together the butter and sugars in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and paddle to incorporate. Slowly add the flour until just combined.
- Remove the dough from the bowl, cover it well with plastic wrap, and let it rest. The cookie dough can be made several days in advance. You could even make a larger batch, freeze it.
- Butter your 9x12 oven-safe dish and spoon the fruit into it. Or if you have ramekins/souffle dishes you can make individual servings.
- What’s important is the filling to topping ratio. For every 1 1/2 inch of filling, you want 1/2 inch cookie crust. If your dishes go deeper, just increase both by the ratio.
- If your topping is chilled, allow it to come to room temperature. Generally for something like this, you would be instructed to flour your work surface and roll out the dough, but for this recipe, that doesn’t really work. So just take your hands, grab a nice ball of the soft, kind of sticky dough and flatten it out between your palms until it’s approximately 1/2 inch thick. Lay that flattened, irregular disk on top of the fruit and move on to your next handful. The goal is to pretty much cover the fruit filling, without overlap but with very little exposed fruit in between. (I used plastic wrap to shape the dough)
- Ideally you want to place the baking dish on top of a larger cookie sheet because, chances are, it’s going to bubble over, and I think that’s a good thing (unless I’m washing the dishes).
- Bake it at 350 for about an hour. The top should be really nice and brown, not pale, but dark golden and slightly crispy looking.
- Individual dishes will bake in less time, approximately 30 minutes.
- We’ve used the obvious like blueberries, blackberries, cherries, strawberries, plums, apricots and peaches for sure. But we’ve also used figs, apples, oranges, and a combination of tangerines and cranberries for a festive looking holiday cobbler. Feel free to combine fruits and add spices to suit the occasion. Clove, allspice and cinnamon work well with fruits like fig and apple.