Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Making Happiness with Berry Cobbler

I've been thinking about cobbler for a very long time. Mixed berry cobbler, to be exact. This, like my delight with oysters, can be blamed on Seattle. Something about all those fresh, raw ingredients, so many flavors just waiting to be savored. Wild berries of all shapes, sizes and colors grow abundantly in the Pacific Northwest, which is why I grew fond of berry cobbler living there.

My friend Katy wisely said, "You have to make your own happiness," and so I did. I just couldn't resist, after finding jewel-like raspberries, blackberries and blueberries at the Long Beach farmers market. I took them right home, washed them and then sampled a few. Oh, they were good, as good as late-summer berries come--big, juicy and perfectly-shaped. Yes, they would do.

I mixed them with sugar, cornstarch and almond extract and their deep colors ran together, creating a rich mélange in a bold purple hue. They got a head-start in the oven as I mixed the doughy crust. A few minutes later had me dropping spoonfuls of the dough evenly across the top of the hot berries and, before I knew it, I was taking the golden-topped dish out of the oven. The whole process took about 45 minutes, 40 of which was baking time, making this probably the easiest dessert I've ever made.

It was good, if you don't mind my saying so. Really good. The crust was more biscuit-like than flaky, glittering with sugar. The berries really shined, though. The simplicity of the recipe allowed their natural tartness to come through with bold flavor.

So, in the spirit of my very favorite blog and at Linda's request, here is the recipe to my berry cobbler. I adapted it from a recipe for nectarine and berry cobbler in Celebrate the Rain, a cookbook by non-other than the Junior League of Seattle.

Mixed Berry Cobbler

1 1/2 cups, or more fresh blueberries
1 1/2 cups, or more fresh blackberries
1 1/2 cups, or more fresh raspberries
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter refrigerated and cut into small pieces
3/4 cup buttermilk

Serve with freshly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream

Preheat oven to 400 F and lightly butter a 2-quart baking dish.

Gently mix blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, sugar, cornstarch and almond extract in a large bowl. Pour berry mixture into the baking dish and bake until it begins to bubble, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, stir together flour, 1/4 cup of sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt until it is evenly mixed. Add butter and knead with your hands until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Slowly add buttermilk and mix just until dough comes together.

When it is ready, remove the hot, bubbly berry mixture from the oven and reduce oven temperature to 375 F. Drop the topping by spoonfuls onto the baked fruit so that the dough covers the filling evenly. Sprinkle the remaining one tablespoon of sugar over the dough.

Bake cobbler for about 20 minutes or until the topping is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes and serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream, or both!

Serves 6