I was feeling a bit wistful last week about another summer gone by when my mother-in-law re-gifted me some freshly picked blackberries that she had received from her neighbor and good friend Deb. Though what I actually saw was a large ziploc bag filled with dark liquid. I had to lean in close to discern the berries – smaller than store-bought, in purple shades ranging from reddish to black – like a hidden treasure inside the inky juice. Berries are fragile in the best of circumstances, and I knew that berries in this condition would have to be used immediately. And I was not about to let Deb’s berry picking effort go to waste.
So off I went in search for a good recipe. Berry jam? I didn’t have pectin (the gelatin-like substance that makes jam thicken), and unlike some fruits with natural pectin, such as peaches and apricots, cooked berries would not thicken on their own. Blackberry syrup was a possibility, but I wanted the immediate gratification of enjoying this late-summer gift. No time to make a pie. I love making fruit crisps, but I thought the crumbly butteriness of crisp topping would get lost in the mass of berry juice. I imagined a thicker topping that would stand up to the strong flavor and juiciness of the berries: blackberry cobbler was the answer.
Cobbler topping is very easy. Flour, sugar, baking powder and cold butter:
Cut in butter using pastry cutter or two knives:
Or you can use your fingers to rub the flour mixture into the butter:
Until it looks nice and crumbly like this (very similar to a crisp topping):
Except with cobbler you add a bit of hot water to make it a thick dough. I somehow forgot to take a picture of this, but you’ll see it when we put the topping on the cobbler.
Now to the berries. This recipe is designed to be made in a cast iron skillet, but of course you could always cook the berries on the stove in any old pan and transfer them to a baking dish for the oven. It’s heavy, but I adore cast iron (I cook with cast iron in lieu of going to the gym):
And cornstarch dissoved in water to thicken the berry juice. You have to dissolve the cornstarch in cold water first, as adding cornstarch to hot liquid will just give you lumps. The cornstarch-water will make everything look milky:
Bring berries to a boil. As the cornstarch starts to cook, the milkiness goes away and things start to look syrupy:
Now scoop topping (notice hot water turned crumb topping into a thick dough) in spoonfuls over cooked berries:
Ready for baking:
And out it comes:
Serve hot with ice cream and savor the taste of summer:
In my version of the recipe I’ve also included instructions for using a baking dish instead of cast iron.
The genius of this recipe is putting the cobbler dough on already-hot fruit topping – so the cobbler dough cooks from below as well as above and turns out light and crumbly instead of heavy and doughy.
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt (reduce to a pinch if your butter is salted)
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup boiling water
- 4 cups blackberries
- 3/4 cup sugar (1/2 cup if your berries are sweet)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch dissovled in 1/4 cup cold water
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
- In a large bowl, mix the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt.
- Cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
- Stir in 1/4 cup boiling water just until mixture is evenly moist.
- Dissolve the cornstarch in cold water.
- Put blackberries, 1 cup sugar and lemon juice in a 10-inch cast iron skillet. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently.
- Add cornstarch water and cook briefly until mixture turns from milky to glossy.
- Drop dough into the skillet by spoonfuls. Place skillet on the foil lined baking sheet (this will catch the juice bubbling over during cooking and save you some tough oven cleaning).
- Bake 25 minutes in the preheated oven, until dough is golden brown.
- You can of course make this recipe in a regular baking dish (for example a 2-qt 11″x7″ rectangular Pyrex would fit nicely). Just cook the blackberries in a pan on the stovetop as directed, and transfer the hot blackberries to the baking dish before scooping the topping over. Be sure to place the pan on a foil-lined baking sheet for easy clean up.
Here’s the link to print the recipe: