August 31, 2016

Peach Cobbler

Heads up: I'm writing this from the airport as I wait for my flight back to college. This week has been full of packing, petsitting, and cooking squeezed in between. I have concluded that the most timely recipe to publish right now is for peach cobbler since I get to use the freshest in-season Georgia peaches and smother them in a buttermilk crumble and bake it all in my favorite new mini cast-iron skillet. What makes this dish so good (beyond the best peaches of the year) is that the topping is good for everyone. I know there's a few different camps for cobblers: there's the streusel-y crumble-y people, the biscuit people, and the cake-y people. This topping somehow manages to pull elements from all of them, so you should be pretty excited by now.

To some, the peaches are the most important part. I get it; it's peach cobbler. I toss them in a mixture of sugar, cornstarch, and spices to make a perfectly sweet filling with just a hint of cinnamon and vanilla. It ends up being a bit syrupy but not runny, which is exactly how my family likes it. If you don't add cornstarch, you end up with a peach soup with some carbs on top. To make it a bit fancier, you can add some vanilla bean, but I find that sometimes, especially when it's the height of peach season, it's best to just let the peach flavor shine.

Ok now for the magical topping. My sister prefers a crumble while I love biscuits and cake, though I do like my biscuits as biscuits and not as dessert toppings. To try to satisfy everyone, I started with my basic crumble recipe but added buttermilk to make a sweet biscuit topping. I added just enough buttermilk to make it a bit on the liquid side so I could drop spoonfuls on the peaches. Basically, this dough has the look and flavor of a crumble with the buttermilk tang of a biscuit and the texture of a cake. It really is the best possible combination for all cobbler lovers.

The second part of what makes this cobbler so addictive is the skillet. Like any (kind of) southerner I have a favorite cast-iron skillet. It just so happens that mine is a mini 8" skillet perfect for individual steaks, roasted chicken, and desserts like (surprise!) peach cobbler. It's enough for one very hungry person or 2-3 if you're in the mood for sharing. It's one of those simple desserts that you don't feel too bad about eating since it's mostly fruit, or at least that's what I tell myself.

4 Peaches, Peeled & Sliced
1 T Cornstarch
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
1 tsp Lemon Juice
1/2 tsp Vanilla
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
1/8 tsp Nutmeg
1/8 tsp Salt
1 T Butter, Cubed

1 1/4 Cups Flour
1/4 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
Pinch Salt
4 T Butter, Melted
1/4 Cup Buttermilk

Heat oven to 350F and grease an 8" cast-iron skillet.

For the peaches, whisk the cornstarch, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt together. Toss the peaches with the lemon juice and vanilla, then add the dry mixture.

For the topping, whisk the flour, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt together. Whisk in the butter, then fold in the buttermilk.

Transfer the peaches to the skillet and top with dollops of the batter. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until the peaches are tender; the time varies based on how thick the peaches are sliced and you may need to cover it with foil to prevent the topping from over browning.

August 16, 2016

Blueberry Muffin Bread

I'm pretty sure it's time for most people to go back to school. You know how I know? Hardly any of my friends are available to stuff our faces with Waffle House and there's a noisy school bus that likes to beep its way along my street at 6:45am. Aside from that I have it pretty good; my classes don't start for another three weeks but I still get to make yummy back to school recipes like blueberry muffin bread, which makes a great breakfast or lunchbox treat. I'm all for the convenience of individual blueberry muffins but sometimes I just want to slice of as big of a piece as I want without knowing just how many servings it is. My family also has a tendency to throw extra muffins in the freezer and forget about them, so having a big loaf sitting out on the counter is more incentive to actually eat it, though it tastes so good it won't be sitting out for long.

The main thing I like about this cake is that it's basically an excuse to eat cake for breakfast. Honestly, there's not much in here that makes it breakfast food vs dessert other than the fact that it's packed with berries. There's a stick and a half of butter in this thing, so this may not be the ideal breakfast for those using the start of the school year as a second attempt at New Year's resolutions. However, as I said before, it makes a great lunchbox surprise/after school snack/crying after too much homework pick-me-up.

I always start with the streusel. It's a little different than my basic streusel recipe, which you can find tucked into cinnababka streusel buns or sprinkled on top of peach crumb cake. It's a simple combination of butter, sugar, flour, and a pinch of cinnamon. My ratio results in a perfectly crumbly mixture with both big nuggets and crunchy sandy bits. In other recipes I'd add more cinnamon but I went easy on it here since I wanted the blueberries to be the star. You can always bump it up a bit, but with it being peak blueberry season I figured I'd take it down a notch.

The actual cake is almost as easy as the streusel. I start by beating butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. I then add an egg and a big splash of vanilla. Like any other cake, I alternate the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients. This is far easier than trying to stir buttermilk into an overly stiff batter and avoids the inevitable lumps when mixing dry ingredients into a too-liquidy mixture. The final step is adding the blueberries. Since it's still summer, I like to use fresh berries, but I throw them in the freezer for at least an hour. This reduces the number of burst berries so you get distinct pockets of blueberries instead of a purple batter. Another trick to keeping the blueberries evenly scattered is to toss them in a spoonful of flour first. This keeps them from sinking to the bottom and gives you gorgeous slices all the way through.

When pouring the batter into the pan, you don't necessarily have to pile all the streusel on top. I prefer to do that so it gets nice and crunchy on top. However, you can double it and spread a layer in the middle for a sweet cinnamony surprise. You can also swirl it through the batter for a more interesting visual. All of this is under the assumption you don't eat all the streusel/batter/fresh blueberries before baking since knowing my family that's not entirely out of the question.

1 Stick Butter, Softened
2 T Butter, Melted
3/4 Cup Sugar
1/3 Cup Dark Brown Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla
1 Egg
2 1/3 Cups Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp + Pinch Salt
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 Cup Buttermilk
1/3 Cup Sour Cream
1 1/2 Cups Blueberries

Heat oven to 350F. Line a loaf pan with foil and grease.

Combine 1/3 cup flour, dark brown sugar, a pinch of salt, and 1/4 tsp cinnamon. Add the melted butter and chill.

Beat the softened butter and sugar together. Add the egg and vanilla. Whisk the remaining flour, baking powder, baking soda, and remaining salt together. Whisk the buttermilk and sour cream together. Add the flour mixture to the butter in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk mixture in two additions. Gently fold in the blueberries.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and top with the streusel. Bake for 1 hour or until cooked through.

Makes 1 Loaf
Recipe Adapted from Buns in My Oven