The other day, someone from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture knocked on my door and said, "You have to learn to make a peach cobbler or get out. It's a requirement for residency." So I did and I gave him a bowlful. He's letting me stay.
Okay, that's not really what happened. But, as a relative newcomer, I am learning that North Carolinians take their cobblers pretty seriously. Especially peach. Especially when served with barbecue.
Here's the real story about my cobbler. Last weekend, I went to the farmer's market for corn. That was it. But then, once I got there, I got all farmer's markety. Ooh, peppers! Yes, please! And peaches! (Here's a secret -- don't tell that guy from the Department of Agriculture. I don't even like peaches! They're furry! Fruit has no right being furry.) The lady selling them was so wholesome looking, and the little girl on her hip was calling me ma'am and the balsa wood baskets the peaches sat in were so square. So I bought a few, fur and all. Unfortunately, I did not get to take the basket home with me. I just put my purchases in my Liberty Graphics canvas market tote bag (made with organic cotton -- a farmer's market must).
When I returned home and fell out of my farmer's market fog, I was left with a question: what am I going to do with these peaches.
As it often does, Cook's Illustrated provided the answer, this time in the form of a recipe for peach cobbler.
The thing I like best about Cook's Illustrated is that it gives the backstory to recipe creation, so you know what works and what doesn't. For instance, a cookie-like crust for this cobbler was found too sweet, so the author opted for a nice biscuit topping. Heavily sweetened peaches tasted like they came from a can, so the recipe calls for just a quarter-cup of sugar.
In the end, I think my only problem was that the peaches weren't quite ripe. The sweet biscuit topping was tender and just sweet enough, and the peaches cooked without becoming mushy. I'd recommend you give this one a try. With fresh peaches. Farmer's market and organic cotton tote bag are optional.
Peach Cobbler (from Cook's Illustrated)
For the filling:
- 2 1/2 c. ripe, firm peaches, peeled
- 1/4 c. sugar
- 1 t. cornstarch
- 1 T. fresh lemon juice
- Pinch of salt
- 1 c. all-purpose flour
- 3 T. plus 1 t. sugar
- 3/4 t. baking powder
- 1/4 t. baking soda
- 1/4 t. salt
- 5 T. cold butter, cut into small cubes
- 1/3 c. plain yogurt (I used sour cream instead)
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Half the peeled peaches, scoop the pits and red flesh from the centers and cut each half into four slices. Toss the peaches and 1/4 c. sugar in a large bowl and allow to sit for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
After 30 minutes, drain the peaches in a colander set over a bowl. Reserve 1/4 c. of the juice, whisking it with the cornstarch, lemon juice and salt. Toss mixture with peach slices, then pour into an 8x8 baking dish. Bake for about 10 minutes.
While the peaches are baking, whisk together the flour, 3 T. sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using a pastry blender, blend in the butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add yogurt (or sour cream) and mix until just combined. (Overmixing will lead to tough biscuits.)
Remove peaches from oven. Roughly shape six biscuits and place them over the peaches, leaving at least a half-inch between biscuits (to keep the biscuits from being gluey). Sprinkle biscuits with the remaining sugar. Bake until biscuits are golden brown, about 16 to 18 minutes. Cool slightly; serve warm.
The food: Peach cobbler
The verdict: The N.C. Department of Agriculture says you must make it