A SOULFUL SWEET TREAT
My good friend, a new mom, texted me with an out of the blue question. In my opinion, why in the age of excellent and prevalent take-out options does a home cooked meal almost always taste better? She was wondering this quite seriously. No matter how many healthy or inexpensive options exist, they are never as satisfying as a home cooked meal - how is that? The best response I could think of was that a home cooked meal is an act of love. It's full of intention. Cooking is deeply soulful and as heady as it may sound, maybe you really can taste the love.
Cooking is a big part of my nightly routine, and at least once a week my partner and I try and cook for others - a meal imbued with soul. Sometimes it's really simple and some Sundays we spend the whole day cooking. Last week with friends there was a huge simmering pot of bolognese served with fettuccine, reminding me of the large Italian dinners of my childhood. And I made a dessert.
I'm not gonna beat around the bush. This is a dessert - as in there is a hefty amount of good ol' white sugar and I'm gonna recommend you top this off with some softly whipped cream. While a piece of simple fruit or a wedge of dark chocolate at the end of a meal is great, I also feel strongly that a baked sweet dessert is an act of love.
I tend to stand firmly on the side of crisps within the 'great' crisp vs. cobbler debate. Buttery, crunchy oat topping is salty and deeply satisfying, while I find cobbler biscuits often mess up the fruit-to-topping ratio. A fat biscuit can feel like a paper weight. But this cobbler, well, it was just right. The thin biscuits puffed slightly but stayed small and incredibly tender, perfectly complimenting the sweet and syrupy fruit below.
The authors of this recipe recommend keeping the berries free of thickener, embracing the juicy fruit. Cream biscuits are my new favorite kind - made with heavy cream rather than butter they come together so quickly. As with all pastry, resist the urge to mess with it too much. When I pressed out the dough my biscuits looked, well, ugly, a fact quickly forgotten when the house was filled with scents of baking fruit and puffed cream. But perhaps these homemade qualities, the split edges and unequal sizes, are what make it so good for the soul.
Mixed Berry Cobbler
From Canal House Cooks Everyday by Christopher Hirsheimer & Melissa Hamilton
For the biscuits
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup cake/pastry flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. sugar, plus more for top
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup cold heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp. melted butter
For the berries
6 cups of berries (I did blueberries, raspberries and a few blackberries)
3/4 cups sugar (adjust depending on sweetness of berries)
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Optional: lightly whipped cream with a hint of brown sugar and vanilla (not too sweet!)
Preheat oven to 375°.
In a large bowl, start your biscuits. Whisk flours, baking powder, sugar and salt together until well mixed. Add the cream and gently mix with your hands, just until it comes together. Scoop dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead 2 or 3 times. Err on the side of under-kneading. Gently flatten dough into a rectangle a little smaller than your baking dish. My dough was decidedly misshapen - it's doesn't matter! Cut the dough into 9 equal pieces and brush the tops and sides with butter.
In another bowl, combine your berries. sugar and vanilla, gently stirring them together. Pour berries into a 8.5 x 11 inch baking dish.
Place the biscuits on top of the berries and sprinkle each one with a little sugar. Bake 40-45 minutes until the biscuits are golden brown and the berries are bubbling and juicy. Serve as-is or with some lightly whipped cream.