Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been
the two most beautiful words in the English language.
- Henry James
Not much to do these steamy Florida afternoons. Locked in the house but to dash from inside to out to car to shops. Even inside with the sometime chill of the air conditioning when it is working one feels a summer sloth, hot and tired, too lazy to cook or bake. Infused with summer vacation. I keep mom entertained, drive her from errand to errand, and every afternoon we head to brother and sister's-in-law for a meal, talk and movie night.
Tonight is a barbecue on the back patio: thick steaks, buttery herbed grilled corn on the cob, vegetables and a fresh loaf of bread and I am bringing dessert. Berries – blueberries that are so abundant in Florida and so difficult to find, so expensive to purchase in Nantes - just needed to be paired with sweet cherries and simmered with a bit of sugar, orange juice (a balance of acidic and sweet) and cornstarch to add just a bit of body to the juices that bubble out of the fruit to create a sauce. Then the all topped with slightly sweetened biscuit dough that bakes up light, moist and fluffy adding that vein of comfort food not quite found in a pie.
If it could only be like this always – always summer, always alone, the fruit always ripe…
- Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited
Yes, I rarely, if ever, bake at mom's house but since we unloaded the stash of cookies from her oven and since seeing the beautiful berries at the market I just had to try it out. I knew that I wanted to bake with blueberries and then I saw Jenni's Mixed Cherry-Berry Grunt on Pastry Chef Online but being without a skillet I flipped it around and turned it into a Cobbler. I crossed two favorite recipes from my kitchen: my Mixed Berry Pie and my Old Fashioned Peach Cobbler and came up with this. Delicious, flavorful… the bright, sweet fruit balanced with the cakey, barely sweetened biscuits and nothing is better. And so, so easy to make.
All you need to serve is whipped cream or vanilla ice cream and we all forget our worries for the time of dessert.
Serves about 9
6 cups of fruit – 4 cups pitted, halved cherries + 2 cups blueberries
1/3 cup sugar
½ cup orange juice
1 ½ Tbs cornstarch
Pinch salt (scant 1/8 tsp)
¼ tsp vanilla
1 Tbs apple cider or Balsamic vinegar, optional (this is Jenni's add)
1 ½ cups flour
1 Tbs baking powder
¼ tsp salt
3 Tbs sugar
5 Tbs butter
¼ cup milk
About 2 Tbs sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Have a glass or Pyrex 9 x 9-inch baking dish ready.
Prepare the fruit filling:
Place the prepared cherries and blueberries in a pot or saucepan. Toss in the sugar to coat the berries evenly. Whisk the cornstarch into the orange juice until smooth and the cornstarch is dissolved, and add to the fruit with the pinch of salt and the vinegar (if using), and vanilla. Stir well. Bring up to the boil and allow to cook just at a simmer for 3 minutes, stirring to keep from burning on the bottom of the pan. Remove from the heat and pour into the baking dish.
Prepare the Cobbler topping:
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together into a large mixing bowl and then toss in the sugar. Feel free to stir in a dash of ground cinnamon if you like. Cube the butter and toss in the flour then rub the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles cornmeal or damp sand and all of the butter is completely incorporated. Whisk the egg into the milk then pour onto the flour mixture. Stir with a fork until well combined and becomes a thick batter.
Lightly drop (you don't want to pack the dough) the dough by very large even spoonfuls onto the fruit in the baking dish in 9 dough clusters. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of the sugar evenly over the dough and slide the dish into the preheated oven to bake for 15 – 20 minutes until the dough is puffed up, firm and the tops are golden brown.
Serve warm – not hot hot as fresh-from-the-oven fruit juices may burn! – or room temperature with freshly whipped, slightly sweetened cream or a scoop of your favorite ice cream.