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The sheaf of recipes had one entitled “Connecticut Peach Cobbler.” This is not that recipe. That recipe was just too fussy. There was sifting, and too many ingredients, and adding a sugary glaze halfway through cooking. And — like this one before I futzed — that peach dessert was tooth-curling sweet. (Is it that peaches used to be less sweet, or was a heavy hand with sugar just the norm fifty years ago?)
Cobblers and crisps should be simple. They are, after all, competing with the alternative of just plain fresh fruit. If you have a perfectly ripe peach, do you want to slice it and serve it . . . or do you want to wrap those slices in crust or sprinkle them with crunchy topping? I’m of two minds, which is why both approaches should be pretty darn easy. Level playing field, you know.
So the fussy cobbler was out, but I had to keep the “Connecticut” name. Grammy spent most of her summers in Connecticut’s northwest corner. That’s where she would have made her cobblers and pies. The peaches would have been local, and dead ripe when she used them. Fried chicken might have been the heart of the meal, counterbalanced with sliced tomatoes sprinkled with salt and sugar.
There’s a New England usefulness to this dish, too: You can use the cobbler topping on four cups of any fruit. I’ve made this with two-thirds peaches, one-third blackberries — very striking. You could try nectarines, which are perfect at the farmers’ market right now, or a plum/nectarine/pear combo, to inch from summer into fall.
For me, a fruit pie or cake means a fruit breakfast the next day. Bear in mind that that’s about as far as you can reach with this: The topping gets pretty soggy. This morning I eked out my last serving of this batch of cobbler by adding a dollop of yogurt, a sprinkling of toasted flax seeds and a big mug of coffee. Divine.
Connecticut Peach Cobbler
- Butter for dish
- 2 pounds (about 4 large) peaches (about 4 cups when peeled and sliced)
- 1/2 cup sugar, plus 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup flour
- 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup buttermilk or yogurt
Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly butter a 2- or 2-1/2-quart baking dish.
Peel peaches and slice into the baking dish. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of sugar over the peaches.
Cream butter and 1/2 cup sugar in a medium bowl. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and buttermilk, and mix well.
Dollop mixture over peaches. Don’t worry about smoothing the topping or getting it to the edges: It will do all that itself in the oven. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until top is lightly browned and fruit is bubbling around the edges. Serve warm.
Photographs and recipe copyright 2010 Garside Group LLC
When I first read this — in Grammy’s scrawl in her “Guests and Menus” book — I thought I was looking at a bad spelling of “creme brulee,” the creamy custard with a crunchy browned-sugar crust. I was not. The French verb “brouiller,” to mix up or to scramble, has nothing to do with blowtorches and caramelizing sugar. It has everything to do with creating a mind-blowingly rich pudding of mixed-up cream and eggs.
Grammy got her “Guests and Menus” book in 1974; my parents brought the red, pebbled-leather volume back from London. By then, Grammy was 74 and had been widowed for a decade. Did that cramp her entertaining style? Not at all. The table-layouts in the book show dinners for 14 or 16, luncheons for 10, cocktail parties for dozens.
This dessert was listed several times on the “menus” side of the page. After making it, I can see why: It is dead easy, yet tastes complicated, rich and fancy.
Think ice cream — but not cold. Or vanilla pudding — but no actual vanilla in there. You end up with a pudding topped with sliced or mashed fruit. As you serve the pudding — particularly if you’re using a big bowl rather than individual ramekins — everything shifts around into a creamy-fruity smoosh.
After serving this dish in winter with frozen fruit, I could see a parade of creme brouilles to celebrate the fruits of summer as they come into high season. Start with strawberries, move to raspberries, blackberries, marionberries if you live out west. Sliced peaches, with a bit of lemon juice. Blueberries probably do not have the oomph for this — not enough acid to stand up to the cream.
And if we could get passionfruit to look less weird, wow, that would be a perfect partner. Someone fix that, would you?
Strawberry Creme Brouille
You can use frozen strawberries or other frozen fruit; just thaw, then crush or slice as needed. If your frozen fruit is already sweetened, don’t add more sugar.
Serves 6 to 8
- 2 cups cream (I used heavy cream)
- 4 eggs
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- Pinch salt
- 1 quart ripe strawberries, washed
- 2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
Begin to heat cream over medium heat in a double boiler. In a large measuring cup or bowl with spout, thoroughly beat together eggs, sugar and salt. Whisking constantly, pour egg mixture into warming cream. Continue whisking or beating mixture with an egg beater for 5 minutes over heat. Remove pan from heat and let mixture cool slightly. When not hot, pour into individual ramekins or a large glass bowl. Put into refrigerator for at least one hour.
Hull and slice or crush strawberries into a medium bowl; mix in sugar. When cream has chilled, remove from fridge and cover top of cream with the crushed strawberries.
Recipe and photograph copyright 2010 Garside Group LLC. All rights reserved.
I spent Sunday morning out at Butler’s Orchard, a great pick-your-own farm about 45 minutes from my house. My pal Lynn and I have gone there for the past few summers to pick blueberries. We’ll go for a few hours, returning home hot and laden with silvery-blue berries, most of which go in the freezer to brighten February oatmeal.
The trick is to get there early; that way, you beat both crowds and heat. This year, we arrived at 8:20 for the 8:30 opening. We were third in a line of cars waiting to drive to the parking field. The parking field, riding the wagon behind the tractor, and finally the rows of bushes. We stayed where the flag-girl first put us, letting the chatty crowd flow around and past to supposedly bigger and better bushes. After half an hour, we were on our own, picking and chatting in that way that works so well around a blueberry bush — the topic of the moment, sometimes deep and often not.
I came home with ten pounds of blueberries and began the freezing: Two cups, washed and picked over well, shaken dry and laid out on a pan in the freezer. Wait a few hours — you’ll have a panful of little blue marbles — then dump the batch into a labeled quart zipper bag, suck the air out and plop said bag in the freezer.
Some berries did not get frozen. Those privileged few — five cups-worth to be exact — became our dessert: Blueberry crisp. Just enough topping to accent the berries and bring out their best, not too much fuss for the summer kitchen. I like a crispy topping, so it’s nuts for me. I’ve tried almonds, but pecans have a kinder nature. They marry well with the sugar and butter, drifting gently into the background while still providing crackle.
This topping can be used to make a peach crisp, or a blueberry-peach crisp, or a peach-plum crisp (use a little tapioca or cornstarch in the filling if you use plums — juicy!). Just grab some of all that freshness around you and make a dessert.
Makes one 9-inch deep-dish crisp
- 5 cups fresh blueberries, washed and drained
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1-1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 7 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup pecans
- 5 tablespoons butter, cut into half-inch pieces and re-chilled
Preheat oven to 375°F.
In a large bowl, mix blueberries, granulated sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice. Pour into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate.
In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, put flour, light brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pecans. Pulse four or five times, until everything is mixed and the nuts are finely chopped (but not pulverized). Take butter out of refrigerator and add to topping; pulse two or three times, just until the butter is chopped. If you start to see clumps, stop: You are headed for cookie dough.
Spread topping evenly over fruit. Put pan on a cookie sheets or another pan larger enough to catch drips, and put into preheated oven. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until topping is browned and the fruit is bubbly.
Serve warm or at room temperature. Or for breakfast (right, Charlie?).
Recipe and photos copyright 2010 Garside Group LLC