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.

Cherry cobbler. (Kim O'Donnel)

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
Filling Ingredients
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.

By Kim ODonnel |  June 23, 2008; 7:00 AM ET Desserts , Entertaining , Summer
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Can you freeze the cobbler? I have a friend who has an overabundance of fruits this summer. I am allowed to take what I want. I'd like to be able to make a variety of desserts and put them in my freezer for some of the family events that are planned.

Also, check me out at www.theslackerkitchen.blogspot.com.

Posted by: LisaLuvs2Cook | June 23, 2008 9:05 AM

Oooh, perfect timing. I got my first cherries from the farmer's market yesterday and they are to die for. I can't wait to try this!

Posted by: Kensington | June 23, 2008 9:25 AM

I wouldn't freeze cobbler, but freezing fresh fruit is easy.

Make a simple syrup to taste. 2 parts water to 1 part sugar is light, 1 part water to 1 part sugar is medium, and 1 part water to 2 parts sugar is heavy. Dissolve the sugar in the water and cool it a little.

Boil water until it is rolling. Put your fruit in a colander or steamer basket, and dunk the fruit in the boiling water for 1-2 minutes (depending on the size of the pieces). Remove the fruit from the boiling water, put it immediately into ice water for a couple of seconds until it stops cooking, and then put it into a freezer container. Cover it with the syrup, and you're done.

You will have great, fresh tasting fruit to cook with or just eat, and it's WAY easier than canning.

Posted by: lsgc | June 23, 2008 9:49 AM

Could you use sour cherries for this dish? They're just coming into their very short season now.

Posted by: zlinden | June 23, 2008 10:05 AM

Lisa, I'm with lsgc and say don't freeze the cobber but freeze the cherries instead. I know people make pies and freeze them, but I'm thinking the cobbler won't hold up as nicely. Anyone who's had first-hand experience freezing a cobbler, please chime in!

Zlinden: I think sour cherries would be marvelous here -- you will probably need to adjust the sugar amounts -- You can do this while cherries are macerating.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | June 23, 2008 10:39 AM

Hi Kim,
Can you double this recipe and put it in a larger dish or would it be better to make two?

Posted by: Sportster | June 23, 2008 10:59 AM

A belated very happy birthday to Mr. MA and many happy returns.
In the post from Friday someone asked about vegan black bean burgers. The recipe in Veganomicon is fabulous and uses 1/2cup gluten (buy powdered near flours in supermarket), 1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs and 1/4-1/2 cup H2O mixed into the drained black beans, spices etc. Am not a vegan/vegitarian and love these -terrifc and easy!

Posted by: Newton Mom | June 23, 2008 12:49 PM

We used to have a big sour cherry tree in our yard when I was a kid & I made cherry cobbler all the time (we also had a sweet cherry tree-the birds always beat us to the half-ripe sweet cherries but they left the sour cherries to us!). Here's my easy cobbler recipe:

1 quart pitted sour cherries
dash lemon juice
1 cup sugar (or to taste)
dash cinnamon (or to taste)
Mix above ingredients together--put in greased 9x11 baking pan.

2 cups bisquik or other "quick" biscuit mix-the lower fat version works well.

4 tablespoons sugar

1 egg

1/4 c. cup vegetable oil

1/2 to 3/4 c milk

Combine above ingredients -mix lightly-ok if lumpy. Batter should be thick-if too thin like pancake batter-add a bit more bisquick to make it thick-almost like cookie dough. Or, if too thick & can't be mixed add a spoonful or two of milk to thin it a bit.

Drop batter by tablespoonfuls on cherries-it will spread while baking. Sprinkle sugar & cinnamon on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until knife inserted in top is clean. Best if eaten the same day as made. Enjoy!

Posted by: cem | June 23, 2008 3:19 PM

Great story, and sounds like a lovely party!

Question: last summer I wanted to make peach cobbler, and researched recipes on the web. Most of the sources that seemed authoritative to me called for cooking the fruit ahead of baking, so I did... but it got really gluey by the time it was all baked. Any guidelines? Is there any time you'd really need to do this?

Posted by: Reine de Saba | June 23, 2008 4:47 PM

Reine de Saba: I was just having this very conversation this morning with my pastry/ice cream guru Bill Addison, who writes about restaurants in Dallas. We are of the school that favors NOT cooking the fruit before baking, particularly with those very juicy cherries. For peaches, you may want to quickly blanch to help remove skins, and I'd say the same might hold true for hard to peel apricots, but generally, I think you can do without the pre-cooking step and focus on seasoning your filling. Have fun!

Cem: thanks for your sour cherry tale!

Sportster: Both the filling and the biscuits are very straightforward and could easily be doubled. I will warn you, though, 12 cups of cherries is A LOT of filling and you might like it better if you do two separate cobblers...

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | June 23, 2008 5:10 PM

Love Lebanese Taverna; too bad not one here...happy b-day to Mister MA... what a great weekend...peach cobbler is also so so so good; i should be trying your cherry one. how about nutmeg in the filling?

Posted by: Flanboyant Eats | June 23, 2008 7:53 PM

Kim, I have a bag of whole-wheat pastry flour. Can I substitute this for the all-purpose flour? Thanks!

Posted by: Whole Wheat | June 24, 2008 7:46 AM

Thanks Kim! I kind of thought so. I'm making the cobbler for my daughter's 16th birthday party (instead of cake). I'm in Seattle so I'm thinking local strawberry-rhubarb...

Posted by: Sportster | June 24, 2008 9:55 AM

I've frozen many a cobbler, both baked and not. It works just fine with peaches (Southerner that I am). I tend to bake it about half the time, then when it's almost defrosted, put it in the oven to finish. I've given them as gifts, used them for a winter treat -- all good.

Don't forget that substituting some brandy for the extract adds a slightly bolder taste!

Posted by: Catherine | June 24, 2008 2:54 PM

I love sour cherries and pick them at Larryland (Lisbon, MD) every year. I don't freeze with syrup. I just pit and freeze them on cookie sheets covered with wax paper. When they're hard, move them to a freezer bag. Easy, easy, easy. And I've had them stay fresh over a year. (Ok, I still have some in my freezer from 2006. Still good.) They're great--you can use them anywhere you'd use cranberries, like a sauce with meat or anywhere you'd use other cherries, but add more sugar.

Posted by: Cherries! | July 9, 2008 10:55 AM

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