There were some lovely, lovely plums at the store on Sunday, perfectly ripe and fragrant. While some might choose to use the plums in a salad, not a bad idea, I always lean towards dessert. So, I bought ten of them and prepared to make Cobbler Happen. Again. In my book, you just can't have too much cobbler. And, in honor of The Biscuit Method, about which I Went On at Great Length a couple of days ago, I decided to do a drop biscuit topped cobbler as opposed to the batter-based cobbler I made here. Also because my mom makes a Very Nice biscuit-topped plum cobbler.
Before I begin, may I just state for the record that this was Damn Fine Cobbler. I didn't use a recipe for the fruit part, but I looked up a basic sweet biscuit cobbler topping, just to look at proportions. The original recipe is here. I tweaked it a bit, because I wanted to use my Atkinson's Mill Cornmeal again, and because I am not very good at leaving Well Enough alone.
What follows is a "recipe," as near as I can guesstimate amounts.
Biscuit Topped Plum Cobbler
For the fruit portion of the activity:
- 10 lovely ripe plums, each about the size of a racket ball (ish)
- healthy pinch of salt
- several serious squeezes of honey, maybe 3 tablespoons. Do this more or less to taste depending on your sweet tooth and the sweetness of the fruit.
- about 3 tablespoons fruit juice--I used cranberry-pomegranate because that's what I had.
- maybe 2 tablespoons corn starch
For the biscuit portion of the activity:
- 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup corn meal
- some brown sugar--the original recipe called for 6 TBSP white sugar; I just dumped in a little--prolly about 1/4 cup (not packed) or a bit more
- heavy pinch of salt
- 1 1/4 tsp baking powder--the original called for 1 1/2, but I didn't want my guys to be really light and fluffy. I was going for more of a scone-type deal.
- 3 oz cold butter, cut in pieces
- a heavy pinch of cinnamon--maybe about 1/4-1/2 tsp
- 2/3-ish cup milk
The Gilding of the Lily
- demerara sugar, for sprinkling on the top of the cobbler, because I never met a lily that didn't need some gilding
So this is how this works.
First, I cut up my plums and threw them in a pot with the rest of the fruity ingredients.
Then, I brought the whole deal to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
Then, I threw all the dry biscuit ingredients together in a bowl. Before adding the fat, I was very careful to crush all the lumps of brown sugar so that my dry mix was nice and homogeneous.
I tossed in the butter and proceeded to rub it in by hand. Now, remember I said that often you want to leave little pieces of cold butter whole so you have some delightful buttery pockets? Well, this time, I really wanted a pretty short (not a lot of gluten) biscuit. I wasn't worried too much about structural integrity. It wasn't like I was going to pick them up, split them and spread some butter on them or anything. So, I kept rubbing until everything was pretty mealy.
Notice that the mix is still somewhat floury--not all sticky like a cookie dough. This means that I was able to get some gluten formation.
Once my dry ingredients were mealy and very little fat was visible, I stirred in the milk. This actually makes a fairly wet dough--it's decidedly sticky, but not so much that you need to keep wiping your hands.
I sort of tossed the milk about with a fork as I poured it in, and I chose not to do any kneading, again because I didn't want to get too much gluten forming.
Once the fruit was nice and soft and the juices were thickened and clear, I poured it into my trusty 9" cast iron skillet. I let the skillet heat up in the 350F oven while I was doing all my prep, so when the fruit hit the pan, it made a satisfying sizzle and began to boil a bit around the edges. This meant some yummy caramelization, so I was pleased with that. Hooray.
Then, just drop little blobs of the biscuit topping all over the surface of the fruit. Sprinkle liberally with demerara sugar, and bake at 350 until the biscuit is nice and golden. Comme ça:
I guess the baking part took about 30 minutes or so.
I served this with vanilla ice cream, but you could certainly use whatever type of topping you'd like. For bonus points and a shout-out, answer this question in the comments section: What is the only dessert-type topping that Miss Jenni does not want you to use?
Other Stuff I Want To Say About This Dessert
- These biscuits were seriously good. I'm not sure if there is such a thing as a "drop scone" in the UK, but there are certainly drop biscuits on my side of the Atlantic. Regardless, I would surely make these little guys again and just bake them on their own, maybe giving them a wee knead (but maybe not). They were Wonderful.
- Store this guy at room temperature for up to 3 days so your topping doesn't get soggy and sad.
- You could easily turn this biscuit into a pastry/pie-type crust by cutting way back on the milk, letting the dough hydrate for a half hour or so in the fridge, then rolling. In that case, leave some pieces of fat a bit larger, for flaky goodness.
- Use whatever fruit and whatever spices you like in either the fruit part, the biscuit part, or both.
- Oh, the other method I mentioned up in the title? Stewing fruit. If you don't want the juices to be thick, leave out the cornstarch. Otherwise, there you have it: stewed fruit. Add some vinegar and some onion to the mix and make a chutney, but that's another story.
- Oh, did I also mention "a few techniques?" Okay: some sort of fruit with some sort of dough=cobbler. There's one. Here's another: using starch to thicken liquid. Usually your liquid needs to come to a full boil to completely gelatinize the starch and cook out that raw starch taste. You want to stew fruit, this is how you do it. And a third: sweetening Especially with the fruit, you just want it sweet enough, and nobody can tell you what that means. You have to add sweetener (or not) until it's sweet enough for your taste. I used honey, because I thought that it would go well with the plums. Of course, there are tons of other choices, too: sugar, brown sugar, agave nectar, maple syrup, stevia, etc. Then, there's baking itself. If I had clamped a lid on top of the skillet and simmered it over low heat on the stove top, my biscuits would've steamed (moist method) instead of baked (dry method). Then, I wouldn't really have a cobbler; I'd have a grunt. Don't get caught up in all the fruit dessert lingo, though: cobbler, betty, crisp, crumble, grunt, slump, etc--they're all very similar.
- If you don't have a cast iron skillet, don't worry about it. Any heavy Baking Vessel will do.
And that pretty much takes care of things, I think.