Old-Fashioned Peach Cobbler — Down-Home Comfort
I grew up in Macon County, Georgia. Central and South Georgia are well known for their peach crops in the summer. Summer means peach pie, peach jelly, pickled peaches, peach ice cream and peach cobbler. Macon County is adjacent to Peach County, home of "The Big Peach," a 75-foot-tall peach mounted on a 100-foot-tall pole — a gigantic totem that makes it pretty clear that peaches are serious business in Georgia. So is July, as the temperatures often soar into the triple digits with a humidity that makes life a lot more comfortable when experienced at a slower pace.
Where do you think the expression "easy as pie" originated? Many cooks are scared of making pie — they don't think it's easy! Everyone loves pie, but making it can be intimidating. Even perfectly useful kitchen folk are rendered helpless when pie is mentioned. That's where the cobbler saves the day. The really great part about a cobbler is that it can be made ahead and is equally delicious served warm, chilled or at room temperature. (Don't limit yourself to only peaches for this simple and spectacular dessert. Other fruits include blueberry, blackberry, plum, cherry and apricot, depending on what is ripe in your part of the country.)
Cobblers come in a variety of styles and flavors; the word "cobble" means to hastily throw together. There are many opinions over which version is better — batter crust, biscuit, pastry or crumble topping. In this incarnation, the buttery batter is poured into a hot baking dish. This immediately crisps the batter and causes it to swell, much like popovers, Dutch baby pancakes and Yorkshire pudding. The batter bakes into a sweet cake that envelops and surrounds the sweet peaches.
I grew up with this version in my grandmother's country kitchen, so of course I think this one is best. I'm not about to tell you that my grandmother's recipe is better than yours! Taste memories are mighty powerful emotions, especially when it comes to what we consider down-home comfort.
Georgia-born, French-trained Chef Virginia Willis has cooked lapin Normandie with Julia Child in France, prepared lunch for President Clinton and harvested capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, but it all started in her grandmother's country kitchen. A Southern food authority, she is the author of Bon Appétit, Y'all and Basic to Brilliant, Y'all , among others. Follow her continuing exploits at VirginiaWillis.com.