Okay, I’m starting this post with another photo disclaimer: It’s awful. It’s an awful photo. I’m sorry. But it was after dark, in a crowded kitchen, and I could only manage one photo before the whole thing was devoured by a dozen hungry friends.
I said devoured. This was peach cobbler, and it was profoundly delicious. It started with the best possible fruit–we were at my friend Sarah’s house, and she has a peach tree, and we found a few furry globes hiding under the leaves, just waiting to be picked and devoured. Sarah has a basil plant too, so I decided to pinch a few leaves and add them to the filling. It’s a lovely combination, peaches and basil: the basil is sweet, in its own way, and sharply grassy against the yielding sugary tartness of the peaches. Cover the whole thing with crumbles of biscuit dough, and you’ve got a sophisticated twist on a homey classic.
There’s one optional step here: it’s up to you whether or not to peel the peaches. It’s not totally onerous, but it does require a little extra maneuvering. The peaches get X-slashed at the bottom, then blanched in boiling water and shocked in an ice bath. After their trip from hot to cold, the peach skins slip off effortlessly, like a satin robe. I don’t mind the extra work, personally, since it feels more like performing a magic trick than cooking. But the whole process is totally optional, if you don’t mind bits of skin in your filling. And, of course, if you wanted to skip the bother and make this any time of year, you could easily use frozen thawed peaches instead.
Please. Ignore the photo. Instead, imagine a heap of peach basil cobbler on a plate, still warm from the oven, with a scoop of slowly-melting vanilla ice cream on top. Not much that’s better than that.
Peach Basil Cobbler (serves 6)
Adapted from Gourmet
8 medium ripe peaches (about 2 lb)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
5-6 medium basil leaves, chopped or chiffonade
Juice of half a lemon (about 1 tbsp)
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup all-purpose flour (may replace up to 1/2 cup with whole wheat flour)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cubed
1/4 cup boiling water, or as needed
Preheat oven to 425º F, and place an oven rack in the middle. Lightly grease a 2-quart baking dish.
Optional step: Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil, and prepare a large bowl of ice water. Use a paring knife to cut a shallow X in the bottom of each peach. Blanch the peaches in the boiling water for 40 seconds to a minute (the riper the peaches, the less time they’ll take). Use a slotted spoon or skimmer to transfer the peaches to the bowl of ice water. When they’re cool enough to handle, peel off the skins.
Pit the peaches and cut into wedges or chunks. Transfer to the baking dish, along with sugar, basil, lemon juice, and flour. Toss to combine. Bake for 10 minutes.
While the filling bakes, combine all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Add butter and use a pastry cutter, two forks, or your fingertips to mix the butter into the flour until it’s completely incorporated and crumbly (some lima bean-sized chunks, some pea-sized chunks). Sprinkle over the boiling water, 1 tbsp at a time, and mix just until the dough comes together.
Remove the peaches from the oven. Pinch off large pieces of dough and scatter them over the top of the peaches. Return to the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the topping is golden and the juices are bubbling. Remove from the oven and let sit for at least 20 minutes before serving.