Tag Archives: Cobbler

Peach basil cobbler

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

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Apple pandowdy

Shoo-fly pie and apple pan dowdy

Makes your eyes light up and your tummy say howdy.

Shoo-fly pie and apple pan dowdy,

I can’t get enough of that wonderful stuff.

Of all the songs I learned in high school choir, “Shoo-Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy” was one of my favorites. It was upbeat, jazzy, a little silly, and mercifully easy to sing. I had never heard it outside the rehearsal room, and it wasn’t until years later that I learned it was a beloved old standard, recorded by the likes of Dinah Shore and Ella Fitzgerald. Years later, in moments of mind-wandering, I still catch myself singing it.

For a long time I assumed the words themselves were nonsense–made up to suit the bouncy rhythm of a song. But, as it happens, shoofly pie and apple pandowdy are both very real, and totally all-American. Oddly enough, they hail from a community not much known for its contributions to popular music: the Pennsylvania Dutch.

Of the two, shoofly pie seems to get more attention. It’s a rich molasses-based custard pie, said to be so sweet that it attracts flies that must be shooed away. I’ve never found it particularly compelling. Apple pandowdy, on the other hand, intrigued me quite a bit. What is a pandowdy, I wondered, and how does it differ from its other evocatively-named cousins–crisps, crumbles, cobblers, grunts, slumps, buckles, brown betties?

The answer, at least according to an hour or so of Internet research: apple pandowdy is reminiscent of cobbler, with a fluffy biscuit topping laid over a pan of sweetened, spiced fruit. But unlike cobbler, which has its topping laid down in “cobblestone” pieces, apple pandowdy gets a single rolled layer of dough laid on top. Then, partway through the baking process, the cook takes a wooden spoon and pushes bits of topping down into the fruit below. The result is a rough, “dowdy” surface, with a mix of textures and flavors underneath: some of the biscuit stays pillowy on top, while some gets gooey and soaked with juices. It’s quite lovely.

This version, which I found through good old-fashioned Google timewasting, has a dark, spicy apple filling, sweetened with molasses and candied ginger instead of sugar. It’s a gutsy, down-to-earth variation on the familiar chord of apple-cinnamon-butter-sugar. And it still passes the true test of any good American apple dessert: it pairs effortlessly with whipped cream and vanilla ice cream. Clearly this California girl should look to Pennsylvania Dutch country more often.

apple pandowdy

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