We are smack-dab in the middle of a pie renaissance.
Everyone seems to be playing with pie crust, making mini-pies, pies in jars, pies on sticks, handheld pies, pie milkshakes.
But amid all this pie craziness, I can’t stop thinking about cobblers, pie’s country cousin. Everybody loves cobbler, sometimes even more than the labor-intensive pie.
That’s the beauty of a cobbler. You don’t have to roll out the dough. You don’t have to have special lard or even a pie plate. When measuring ingredients, if you’re off by a tablespoon of water, butter or flour or if you have a less-than-perfect technique, the dish will still come together just fine.
What you do need is plenty of beautifully ripe fruit. You can use late-summer fruit or autumn options such as apples, figs and pears.
The second component of a cobbler is the topping, which can vary widely. In some families, a cobbler is more like a spoon bread, made by pouring a batter in a baking dish and then adding fruit. Others prefer cobblers with biscuit-like dumplings. When baked, they look like a cobbled street.
For the most part, cobblers are good, basic desserts that new cooks should try before moving on to harder-to-make sweets. But things start to get complicated when you consider all the variations, such as buckles, grunts, crisps and bettys.
Here are a few tips to improve your own cobblers:
• Don’t fear the cornstarch. Fruit has a high water content, especially berries. It doesn’t hurt to make a slurry with a tablespoon or so of cornstarch and a little of that fruit juice (or water) to help thicken up your cobbler.
• Go gluten-free. Most cobbler toppings call for flour, but you can make them wheat-free by using one of the many gluten-free flour mixes available these days instead of traditional flour. (It’s usually a one-for-one swap, but double-check the instructions on the packaging.)
• You can also substitute whole wheat flour for white for up to half of the total amount of flour. A little cornmeal goes a long way to add just the right texture change to keep things interesting.
• A little crisp goes a long way. I can’t get enough oats, so I’ve been known to add a little crisp mixture on top of cobblers, even if they already have another dough on top of the fruit. The brown sugar, oats, flour and butter mixture adds another layer of texture.
• You can make cobbler for one. Sometimes a whole cobbler is just too much. It’s easy to make a cobbler for one if you have a single-serve ramekin on hand. Use a cup of fruit and cut your favorite cobbler dough or topping recipe in half. You might have a little extra dough, but it’s a small loss compared with having to throw out half a pan of uneaten fruit.
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Addie Broyles writes for the Austin American-Statesman. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.