Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Blackberry-Peach Slump

I believe that anyone who’s ever baked has some negative history with one particular baked good. I don’t mean one cookie that turned out lousy in a batch of 5 dozen – I mean one category of product that has consistently turned out disappointing. Or rather, I should be more frank: a product that always seems to end up a failure of epic proportions. Several years ago, my sister and aunt had just such a tempestuous relationship with Tarte Tatin. I’m not exactly sure what sparked the obsession, nor do I remember how many attempts they made. Just know that I have numerous memories of the two of them baking the tarts and no memories of eating the tarts. And when I’m not eating, you know it’s a bad sign.

I myself have had a similar relationship with cobbler. Although I’ve tried my hand at what feels like several versions, I have yet to have one come out right. Part of it has to do with the size of the pan I use, part of it has to do with my incompetence – but I like to think a great deal of it comes from my lack of an old passed-down-for-generations family recipe imbued with secrets that impart deliciousness upon a rather humble dessert.

Whatever the reason, my repeated failures caused me to create what I call the Cobbler Mystique: “I can do cookies, no problem! Cakes, okay! Cobbler – get someone else to do it!” The ultimate shame of course, is that I love eating cobbler. Wonderful use of fruit, a biscuity layer to contrast the sweetness and add a little texture, and it’s the perfect baked expression of summer.

So when a friend came over and we were thinking of trying something that involved fresh summer fruits, cobbler was the first thing that came to mind. I tried to suppress it, the thought of my past humiliations seeping over my brain like The Blob at that oddly crowded movie theater, but to no avail. It was the clear choice. Until he (my baking partner, not The Blob) showed me a recipe he’d found for “Blackberry-Peach Slump.” I read through the recipe a few times. It was all there: the use of fresh fruit, summery ingredients, a biscuity top. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it must be a cobbler, right? But no! It was a Slump! Whatever that is!

Suddenly, my fears dissipated, and those countless cobblers that were almost burned at the edges and raw in the middle faded as if from a long, drawn-out nightmare. We tried the recipe and it came together easily and enjoyably. With minimal modifications, we produced what I feel to be one of the greatest Slumps the world has ever seen. (Insert pun about a Slump coming from my cobbler slump here.) So if you’ve been having similar doubts, doubt no more. I may not be able to make a cobbler to save my life, but I guarantee this Slump recipe will make you feel pret-ty good about yourself – whether or not you deserve it.

- I didn’t know what size pan to use, so I chose a standard rectangular cake pan and just added more fruit. My embarrassing admission is that I have no idea how much fruit I added, but I believe it was at least half a cup. When you mix the filling together, you’ll have quite a bit of juices, so it won’t hurt to add more fruit without adding more of anything else. Eyeball it.
- Vanilla beans are insanely expensive. I lacked them at the time, so I just added a teaspoon of vanilla extract instead when mixing the filling. If you’re determined to use vanilla beans though, buy them at Costco if possible – they’re much cheaper there than at specialty stores like Sur La Table.
- Make sure to keep the thickness of the biscuit discs uniform to ensure even baking. If your oven is notoriously inconsistent, I might remove and turn the tray around in the middle of baking.
- We used a combination of blackberries and raspberries to use with the stone fruit.
- The photos include both "before" and "after" baking pictures. I'm sorry they're bad -- the lighting in my kitchen is less than optimal. As are my photography skills.


Chi Chen said...

hey, so timely! mj just had a major cobbler experience here in the south (ca) that involved her usual frankenstein approach to cooking - the combination of various parts of recipes into one!
eit (experiment in terror) no. 1 was very good with a nice oatmeal-ly biscuit over the peach/raspberry filling, but of course she will soon be knocking out (stitching together?) eit no. 2 (adding pecans!) and if we are lucky eit no. 3! bwa ha ha ha! more details to follow!

Chi Chen said...

by the way it's better when the peaches are peeled. a pain, but worth it... oh yeah mj made eit no 2 when emma came back and it had the pecans in it - a really good addition!