I've never looked a gift horse in the mouth. I'll look wherever I have to, because I usually can't afford to pass up a gift. I just say "Thank you, Mr. Gift Horse," and send him on his way. His mouth is his own business.
This summer, the gift horse has been carrying a big load of fresh produce on his back. In one week, I ended up being gifted several containers of fresh berries from generous friends and family. One was the result of Fourth of July dessert preparation. Another was a result of a mega strawberry deal at the Rogers Market. Some were the profit of a BOGO sale at Giant Eagle. Either way, after the firework smoke cleared, I was left with a bunch of fresh, yummy berries that only had a few days to stay yummy.
I know I could have frozen them, but it seemed like a shame to take perfectly ripe raspberries, strawberries, blackberries and blueberries and send them into the freezer. Instead, despite sweltering temperatures, I decided to bake. Even my cat looked at me like I was crazy.
Berry cobbler is a great way to use up a bounty of fruit.
With all these berries, I would need to find a dish that used several varieties. A pie seemed logical, except for the part where I'm terrible at making pie crust. A cobbler requires less precision. After Googling "berry recipes," the Internet invariably led to Martha Stewart. She had a tasty-sounding raspberry cobbler recipe, which I modified to add in the blackberries and blueberries.
It came out pretty good. While the oven heated up the downstairs a degree or two, I sat on the porch and enjoyed summer sounds, and baking smells from the kitchen. The cobbler topping was sweet and light, and the filling was just the right mix of sweet and tart.
I still had a box of strawberries to contend with. I had eaten a whole Ziploc bag of them that day, to the point where my hands were stained pink. To make use of the remaining box before they began to go bad, I simply prepared a vanilla bean cake mix I had in the pantry, poured the batter into the cake pan, and topped with sliced strawberries. That cake came out sweet and packed with strawberry flavor - no need for icing.
For the filling:
5 cups fresh berries (raspberries, blackberries and blueberries)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
For the biscuit topping:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
3/4 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix berries, granulated sugar, cornstarch and salt. Pour into a 9-inch square baking dish.
For the biscuit topping, whisk together flour, baking powder, granulated sugar and salt. Cut in butter until largest pieces are about the size of small peas.
Add cream, and use a fork to incorporate, stirring just until cream is absorbed (there should be lots of loose pieces). Turn out dough onto a clean surface and knead once or twice, gathering loose bits into ball.
Roll dough to a 1 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into 9 rough squares and place them on top of filling. Brush with cream and sprinkle with sanding sugar.
Bake until bubbling in center and biscuit topping is golden brown and cooked through, about one hour (loosely tent with foil if biscuit topping gets too dark).
Let stand at least 30 minutes before serving. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
With the bounty of berries around our area this summer, hopefully everyone can enjoy a delicious dish - both oven and non-oven related.