Sigh. Pie. I love to make it, eat it, talk (write) about it. But making pie is laborious, especially since there’s the task of having to mix the dough together, roll it out, and then letting it “rest” in the fridge so that it achieves its flakiest, most tender potential.
Sometimes when I’m most craving for pie, I’m just too darn lazy to make a crust, and no way am I going to make pie without a crust, for then it couldn’t be called “pie,” now could it? So I make a cobbler.
Cobblers are a part of the family of homey desserts served in deep casseroles with dough atop and bubbling fruit underneath. Other family members include crisps (American) and crumbles (British) ”“ deep-dish pies with a crumb or streusel topping; cobblers, which are topped with a biscuit or rich butter dough; and shortcakes, open-faced biscuits slathered with fruit and cream (hello, strawberry shortcake!).
nectarines and plums
In the supermarket, stone fruits such as green, red, or purple plums as well as nectarines have been making an appearance, so I buy enough (about a kilo’s worth) to make a cobbler. “Eye-squirtingly” juicy, these fruits are great for cobblers, which is what I feel like having for breakfast today.
I slice the fruits and spray them with the juice of two calamansi (native lemons) and leave them to sit in a bowl. This resting time will allow the fruit juices to exude. Then, since I’ve had a surfeit of scones in my life lately, I take a break from them and make some hazelnut biscuits instead for the topping.
The biscuits are made with cake flour and cream as well as just a smidgen of sugar. Biscuits are not as sweet as scones, one of their major differences. The roasted and coarsely chopped hazelnuts contribute a slightly sandy, crumbly texture to the biscuits, great for sopping up the juices that the fruits now soak in.
To the fruit I add a slurry of white grape juice; vanilla extract; cornstarch, which will help to thicken the juices; and brown sugar for sweetness. Into a 2-quart bowl go the fruits, which I bake for 20 minutes while I busy myself with rolling out the biscuit dough and cutting them into circles. The formed (raw) biscuits are then added to the now-bubbling fruit and are then baked until the biscuits themselves are tanned and firm.
Ta-dah, instant pie! While the cobbler bakes, my kitchen is perfumed with the seductive fragrance of vanilla and nectarines. Cobblers ”“ aka, lazy pies such as this one ”“ must be eaten warm or at the very most, at room temperature. Eating them cold or worse, a day later, is depriving oneself of something utterly satisfying. Of course as with all pies, this cobbler is best eaten with a dollop of softly-whipped cream on the side or a smack of vanilla ice cream.
Nectarine-Plum Cobbler with Hazelnut Biscuits
Loosely adapted from American Desserts by Wayne Harley Brachman
2 cups cake flour
3 T white sugar
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ cup roasted, coarsely chopped hazelnuts
½ cup cold butter, cubed
1 cup heavy cream
Juice of 2 calamansi
½ cup white grape juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 T cornstarch
¼ cup brown sugar
1 kilo nectarines and/or plums, sliced
Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a 2-quart ovenproof bowl with cooking spray. Drizzle the calamansi juice over the fruit and mix. Set aside.
Make the hazelnut biscuits: In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and nuts. Using your hands, work the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Mix in the cream just until the dough is moistened and begins to hold together. Pat into a circle and transfer to a sheet of parchment paper. Set aside.
In a 2-cup glass measuring cup, whisk the grape juice, vanilla extract, cornstarch, and sugar. Pour slurry into the fruit and mix well, being careful not to bruise or mash the fruit. Transfer filling to prepared bowl, cover loosely with foil, and bake for 20 minutes or until fruit is very soft when pierced with a fork.
Meanwhile, flatten the biscuit dough to ¾-inch thick (no thinner or they will not rise properly). Using a round cookie cutter measuring 2½-inches in diameter, cut out about 6 biscuits. Do not re-cut the scraps (or they will be tough), just form the leftovers into one large biscuit.
Remove the baking dish from the oven and remove the foil. Place the biscuits on top of the filling, making sure not to crowd them. Return to the oven and bake for 20 more minutes, or until biscuits are firm and the filling is bubbly.