Mister MA's Birthday Cherry Cobbler
We celebrated Mister MA's big 4-0 this weekend, a backyard surprise at Casa Appetite with close friends and family. For perhaps the first time in my adult life, I delegated in getting this party off the ground, assigning various tasks to a handful of willing trusted souls whose efforts allowed me to actually enjoy myself the evening of the event. The letting go meant doing only a portion of the cooking as well, a huge step for this kamikaze party planner.
I decided to order all of the salads and meatless items from Lebanese Taverna Market, a consistently reliable catering outfit that has served me well over the years. (No doubt I will miss them when I move to Seattle.) That freed me up to marinate several dozen chicken thigh-leg combos in my fave Vietnamese-style marinade and have fun with the desserts.
Without a doubt, I was baking one of Mister MA's favorites, chocolate Guinness cake, which has attained somewhat of a cult following in this blog space. Homemade ice cream was also on the to-do list, with bourbon-vanilla and coffee fro-yo as top contenders.
For the fourth sweet offering, I decided on cobbler, with in-season local cherries in mind. So far, the cherry pickin's this year have been slammin', offering a wallop of flavor and sweetness in just one bite.
By two o'clock Saturday afternoon, I had a cake in the oven, chicken bathing in a marinade and both frozen treats setting up in the freezer. While pitting cherries, I realized I had no cherry cobbler filling recipe on hand that I knew I could count on. For a second, I panicked, and then I said to myself, "Self, you're not going to let the cobbler brain freeze put a wrench in this very smooth day." So I closed my eyes, my hands stained crimson, and I thought of my father, who loved cherries, who loved a party and who would have loved my husband.
A few minutes later, I opened my eyes, and I knew exactly what I needed to do. The filling fixins (below the jump) are the result of my kitchen meditation, and I topped the whole thing off with my favorite cobbler topping -- cream biscuits from baking marvel Nancy Silverton.
The minute I put desserts on the table, I realized I should have made two cobblers. It was gone in minutes -- and the birthday boy got just a spoonful, I learned much later. I found myself lapping up cherry remnants from the bottom of the baking dish like a junkyard dog, hankering for more.
The morning after, I got up, had my coffee, then walked up to the farm market and bought two more quarts of cherries to give Mister MA a private, limited edition of cherry cobbler. There was nary a complaint from the birthday throne.
Sweet Cherry Cobbler
6 cups (approximately 2 quarts) sweet cherries, stemmed and pitted
½ cup granulated sugar
zest of 1 lemon, minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon almond extract
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
In a large mixing bowl, combine all filling ingredients and gently stir to combine with a rubber spatula, making sure flour coats the fruit.
Allow fruit to sit and macerate in its juices for about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease a nine-inch square or rectangular baking dish and pour filling into prepared dish.
Make cream biscuit topping.
Cream Biscuit Topping
(adapted from Nancy Silverton's "Pastries from the La Brea Bakery")
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour (sifted)
3/4 teaspoons salt
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups heavy cream (KOD note: I have used half-and-half with success)
Grated nutmeg, for garnish (optional)
In a large mixing bowl, combine sifted flour, salt and baking powder, and mix with sugar. Make a well in center of bowl, and pour cream in center. Use hands to combine dough, which comes together very quickly. With your hands, take small pieces of dough and stretch thin and place on top of fruit, covering entire surface.
Place dish on a baking sheet and place in oven. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until dough is golden brown. Cool for at least 30 minutes and serve warm or at room temperature. Makes about eight servings.
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