Tuesday, September 30, 2008

More Crisps and Cobblers

It's almost October! Which is awesome and sad. Halloween and tiny children in costumes and candy = super fun. Cooler weather = pretty nice change, if/when it happens. No more summer fruit = very, very sad.

And so I'm trying to make the best of it by whipping up some desserts that taste like rays of summer sunshine. A week ago I found a bunch of just-on-the-edge-of-overripe plums lingering in the kitchen and decided to turn them into a plum crisp. I got the recipe (to follow) out of one of my go to cookbooks - The Santa Monica Farmers' Market Cookbook. It was incredibly easy to assemble, required minimal ingredients and tasted delish. The leftovers were even better when I had them for breakfast the next day.

The crisp topping incorporated some candied ginger, an ingredient I've often turned to when using stone fruit in desserts this summer. It was good, although I think I should've gone with my initial instinct and used some of the almond paste I have in my cupboard instead. I am a slut for anything almond paste/marzipan related.

Check out the finished product:

And then this weekend it was Abby's birthday and I wanted to make her something yummy. She's not a fan of cake-centric desserts so I decided to go with another summer sunshine fruit treat. But I was a little crisp/crumbled out.

Which left cobbler or shortcake as my main options. I didn't have any cream on hand and cream is what makes a good shortcake, IMHO. Hello, cobbler!

For the recipe, I turned to yet another trusty cookbook companion, Alice Waters' "The Art of Simple Food". I got this one a few months back from KCRW's Cookbook Club. I LOVE IT. LOVE LOVE LOVE IT.

The recipes are so easy and taste soooooo good. I find her Chez Panisse and even the Chez Panisse Cafe cookbook recipes a little too time consuming, but this book has brilliantly done away with all that fuss (don't get me wrong, fuss is damn tasty, just something I don't have time for most days).

The cobbler ended up being a melange of peaches and nectarines, since I didn't have enough of either alone. I don't think you could really tell, in baked form they taste pretty similar.

The cobbler was consumed during the viewing of an OU football game (don't ask me how we managed to befriend so many Okies, I have no clue). I think the birthday girl (not an OU fan) was pleased. If she wasn't she did a fine job of faking it.

Plum Crisp with Cornmeal Topping
adapted from "The Santa Monica Farmers' Market Cookbook" by Amelia Saltsman

3 1/2 pounds plums, one kind or a mixture, halved, pitted and large plums quartered (I sliced them into eighths)
1 to 2 tablespoons honey, warmed
2 tablespoons dessert wine, such as muscat

1 c. flour
2/3 c. cornmeal
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. packed light brown sugar
2 tbsp. chopped, crystallized ginger
grated zest of 1 lemon (I was out of lemons and substituted some dense lemon marmalade that I had)
3/4 c. (12 tbsp.) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (I only used 6 tbsp. and thought it was gobs)
Heavy cream, creme fraiche or vanilla ice cream for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange the plum pieces, cut side up, in a shallow 3 qt. baking dish. They should be somewhat vertical and overlapping slightly. (I had smaller pieces and just kinda jumbled it all together). Drizzle honey over the fruit, sprinkle with wine. Bake the fruit for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the topping. In a bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal, salt, granulated and brown sugars, ginger, and lemon zest. Add the butter and work it in with your fingertips, a pastry blender or a fork, until the mixture resembles coarse sand with some larger lumps and bumps. Remove the plums from the oven and sprinkle the topping evenly over the fruit. Continue to bake until the fruit is syrupy and the topping and the edges of the fruit are browned, about 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, accompanied with cream.

My note: I think you could substitute the granulated sugar and some of the butter with 3-4 tbsp. almond paste and make a killer alt. crisp topping.

Peach Cobbler
adapted from "The Art of Simple Food" by Alice Waters

4 lbs. ripe peaches

Dip the peaches in boiling water for 10 to 15 seconds, then slip off the skins. Cut the peaches in half, remove the pits and cut into 1/3 inch thick slices. There should be about 7 cups of fruit.

Taste and toss with:
1 tbsp. sugar (if needed)
1 1/2 tbsp. flour

I added:
2 tbsp. good balsamic vinegar

Pile the fruit into a 2-qt. baking dish and top with 8 unbaked Cream Biscuits (recipe follows). Bake in a 375 degree oven for 40 to 55 minutes (rotate once or twice while cooking for even browning) or until the cream biscuits are a golden brown and the fruit is bubbling in the dish.

Variations (per Alice):

Use three pounds peaches and toss the slices with 1 or 2 cups raspberries, blackberries or blueberries.
Use white peaches and yellow peaches mixed together, or nectarines.
Serve with whipped cream, a pitcher of cold cream, or with ice cream.

Cream Biscuits
from "The Art of Simple Food" by Alice Waters

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
Stir together in a large bowl:
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
4 tsp. sugar (optional)
2 tsp. baking powder

6 tbsp. (3/4 stick) cold butter, cut into small pieces

Cut the butter into the flour with your fingers or a pastry blender until they are the size of small peas. Measure:
3/4 c. heavy cream (I used non-fat milk and it was just fine)

Remove 1 tbsp. and set aside. Lightly stir in the remainder of the cream with a fork until the mixture just comes together (you may need to add more flour, I did). Without overworking it, lightly knead the dough a couple of times in the bowl, turn it out onto a lightly floured board and roll out about 3/4 inch thick. Cut into eight 1 1/2 inch circles or squares. Reroll the scraps if necessary. Place the circles or squares on top of the peaches and bake following the above instructions. (Note: Once the mixture was formed, I just spooned out nine individual dollops onto the top of the peaches, rather than rolling and cutting it.)

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