By Melissa Clark, The New York Times
Some cobblers are like cake: neatly sliceable, with bits of soft fruit strewn in the crumb. Others are more like pie, with a jammy compote sandwiched between two flaky crusts.
But the cobblers I love best are the biscuit-crowned ones, which don’t resemble any other pastries at all. Juicy and soft on the bottom, with golden rounds on top, they are exactly what to make when you have fresh, ripe fruit in need of a home, and when you are craving something cozy and maybe even a little sloppy in the best possible way.
You can use nearly any type of fruit in a cobbler, but tangy rhubarb works particularly well, its vivid acidity contrasting with all the fluffy, buttery biscuits covering it. (And yes, rhubarb is botanically a vegetable, but it’s so often cooked like a fruit.)
Whether made from fruit, or, in this case, a vegetable, most cobblers call for some kind of starch — cornstarch, tapioca or flour — to be mixed into the filling so it thickens as it bubbles and bakes.
This one is different. Instead of using starch to thicken the juices, I roast slices of rhubarb with sugar before the rounds of biscuit dough are added to the pan. This extra step allows the juices to condense into a sweet-tart syrup without any of the stodgy flavors and cloudiness you’d get from a starch.
I also like to add some vanilla bean and orange zest to the filling to help mellow the rhubarb’s strident nature. You can leave these ingredients out or substitute other aromatics. Grated fresh ginger, spices (like a broken-up cinnamon stick or a few cardamom pods) or a dash of orange liqueur are excellent substitutes. Use them in any combination.
For the prettiest, pinkest cobbler, try to find scarlet stalks of rhubarb, although green ones will still work even if they’re not as striking. Or, you can throw a handful of raspberries into the pan to redden things up. Add them after the rhubarb is roasted and before nestling the biscuit dough on top.
All cobblers — biscuit-topped, pastry-crusted or cakelike — are best served on the day they are baked, preferably warm from the oven and smothered in heavy cream or ice cream. And this gorgeous rhubarb version — exceptional is so many other ways — is no exception.
Roasted Rhubarb Cobbler
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Total time: 1 1/2 hours
For the Rhubarb Filling:
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (or use 1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract)
- 2 pounds rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 7 cups)
- 3/4 cup/150 grams sugar
- 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
- Pinch of kosher salt
For the Biscuit Topping:
- 3/4 cups/96 grams all-purpose flour, plus more for shaping
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 3 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1/3 cup/79 milliliters plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream, plus more for serving, if you like
- Demerara sugar, for sprinkling
- Ice cream, for serving (optional)
1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Using the tip of a paring knife, scrape the pulp out of the vanilla bean halves and add the pulp to a 1 1/2 quart gratin or baking dish or 9-by-9-inch pan along with the scraped-out pods. (Alternatively, add the paste or extract to the pan.) Add the rhubarb, sugar, zest and salt, and toss well. Let sit at room temperature to macerate while preparing the biscuit dough.
2. Make the biscuit dough: Put the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add cubed butter, then pulse until the mixture has formed bean-size pieces. Drizzle in 1/3 cup heavy cream and pulse until everything just clumps together, taking care not to overprocess. (To make the dough by hand, put the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Add cubed butter, then mix it in with your hands, pinching and squeezing with your fingers — or use a pastry blender — until the largest pieces are the size of peas. Drizzle in 1/3 cup heavy cream a little at a time, mixing until the dough comes together.)
3. Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and gently pat it together until it’s a cohesive lump. Using a small ice cream scoop or a large spoon, form dough into 6 evenly sized balls. Slightly flatten dough balls into thick rounds. Cover rounds with plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes (and up to 6 hours).
4. Put the rhubarb in the oven and roast, stirring halfway through, until the rhubarb has softened and the liquid has formed a syrup, about 30 minutes.
5. Remove pan from oven and use tongs to remove the vanilla bean pods.
6. Lower oven temperature to 375 degrees. Arrange biscuit rounds on top of the rhubarb, leaving space in between them. Brush biscuits with remaining tablespoon of heavy cream and sprinkle with Demerara sugar.
7. Bake cobbler until biscuits are golden brown, about 25 to 35 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, with cream or ice cream, if you like.
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