So look, we can all agree: the outside temperature is unacceptable. In my beloved home state of Kentucky, we’re still on a coal-powered grid, so keeping the house in a habitable zone during the season costs about the same as a pre-owned Rolex.*
Aside from any scheduling issues, personal preferences, or the availability of pandemic-era ingredients, my motivation to run for dry goods hovers when someone rings an audible call and demands a same-day potluck dessert somewhere around zero. I also have what we might call a reputation for being quite a lot, so I can’t just roll to the barbecue with a floury half-gallon of Kirkland Signature vanilla ice cream. This, my friends, is when I make Aunt Audrey’s cobbler.
Related: Zhoosh your summer ice cream game as a pastry chef
Aunt Audrey was my mother’s father’s sister, and she was just… sweet, a completely self-sufficient broad, though she probably would have preferred “lady” or maybe even “gentlewoman.” Sometime in her late 90s, she came home from a doctor’s appointment, realized she’d locked herself out, and — instead of calling her neighbor for a spare key — wrapped her elbow in her scarf, broke a basement window, and slipped her unusual body. down. by means of. That, my friends, is moxie.
This can-do attitude extended greatly into her household philosophy and is nowhere better illustrated than in her cobbler recipe. I have the card (yellowed, with juice stains) somewhere, but I also memorized it because it is 1. Malleable and 2. Simple. The great thing about Aunt Audrey’s cobbler is that you almost always have everything at hand. It can be made gluten-free or vegan without a second thought. Seasonal products? Excellent. Do you only have canned peaches on hand? No problem. Trying to use up something before it goes bad? You are in the right place. Trying to show off the spices you brought with you when you studied abroad in Krakow? Throw that in right away. Want to put it on the grill because the idea of turning on the oven makes your head swim? It’s a little more advanced, but yes, totally doable.** It’s nice and warm. It’s nice and cold. Portioning does not require premeditation. It’s great all year round, but it really is the perfect summer dessert.
The proportions are good and really all that matters here. In the recipe below, I’ll walk you through the canonical Audrey version that only has peaches and some very basic pantry staples, but understand this: the only limitations are your imagination and your tolerance for failure, which in this case is just mediocre cobbler is .
The basis of this is a 1:1:1 ratio of ingredients. You can swap the flour for whole-wheat flour or a gluten-free option (brown rice flour makes it crunchier, for example, and if gluten isn’t the issue, it’s cool to mix because of the crunch). Milk is wide open! If you’re using dairy, I always go whole, but again, it’s fine to use soy, 2%, whatever. All sugars are equally valid in Aunt Audrey’s eyes, although I would caution against using brown sugar or a liquid sugar like molasses for anything just because it gets sticky. It’s okay to trade a little, but no question. I’m a stickler for butter, but you can try any vegan option you like, or make a mix if you’re short (I recently put coconut oil and half a stick of butter in a pinch and DAMN).
Flavor and filling is also free. Any fruit will work, and I like to use this as an opportunity to clean the crisper. A mix of stone fruit and berries is delicious, if you need more guidance than ‘just do it’. Swap the vanilla for a splash of rum, rye, or bourbon. Try almond extract instead. Grate over some fresh nutmeg or ginger. Mix a dash of cinnamon with the salt. The sky doesn’t even begin to describe the limit. You really can’t screw this up.
*A broken one, not a pretty one, and from an estate sale where you roll a little dice, not an authorized dealer, but YET it’s just a robbery next to, you know, a climate and public health crisis
** Follow the recipe below, but you have to do it by feel. I know not everyone is comfortable with this, but if you’re good at grilling and want to keep an eye on it, it works great!
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup of milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5-6 ripe peaches, chopped (about three cups of fruit)
- Get out a 10-inch cast iron skillet. Immediately add the butter.
- Preheat the oven to 350. Once you’ve turned the oven on, put the skillet with the butter in it. This will brown the butter, making you look extremely chic.
- In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar and salt until well incorporated. Gradually whisk in the milk and then add the vanilla. You want the mixture to be smooth, but you don’t have to obsess. The oven is probably preheated by now. Pull the skillet out and tilt it so that the now browned butter touches every crevice, then pour in the batter. Use a knife or spatula to even it out somewhat, but don’t feel the need to obsess over a perfectly smooth, perfectly flat surface. The liquid butter will likely push up on the sides; don’t take it. It will take care of itself. This is part of the cobbler’s magic.
- Drop the fruit evenly into it and return it to the oven.
- This bakes for about 30-45 minutes, depending on your oven and the adjustments you’ve made to the recipe. It will be bubbly and golden brown. Let it rest for 15 minutes before serving, but it will be piping hot, at room temperature or fridge cold. Finish with ice cream or whipped cream, if desired.
about summer fruit