Cooking to Cook, Vol. 2: Peach Cobbler
This column came about last year, based around the idea of cooking for one’s own pleasure, for the purpose of making mistakes and learning along the way without the question of where one may or may not belong, or what they should eat simply on account of their gender. For more, check out Vol. 1 here.
Food and I have a thorough history together. Growing up with very social parents, childhood memories swarm of large dinner parties and cookouts — dozens of people crowded together in our modestly sized kitchen preparing dishes of all sorts, carrying buffet trays into our dining room and eating the afternoon or night away, moving into the yard and retiring to a hammock for a nap while children run around merrily. Even day to day in my childhood home or in the homes of nearby friends or family, cooking was a group venture, never stereotypically left to the women or wives alone.
Of course, things changed with my parents’ divorce, and as our parents became less available to us, my siblings and I adapted as most freshly independent children do. Attending university, I quickly learned a pseudo-millennial lifestyle of convenience in dining halls and small town takeout, but admit to missing meals with family, and the fun of visits home involved lots of cooking together as siblings. Later on, I very distinctly remember the joy of being introduced to the kitchen in my own first apartment.
I am not a chef, but food is in my blood. I have driven ten hours for a beignet, I have flown, both across the country and across the Atlantic, for a glass of champagne, every travel itinerary in my life has included more restaurants and coffee shops than tourist sites or monuments, and I have recently taken upon the task of learning how to cook for the sake of it.
Being in a kitchen growing up, it was easy enough to follow direction or assist when called upon, but I never really grasped the action of inventing a meal. Following a recipe is one thing, and I have picked up basics throughout my life, but the details elude me, and I guess if I want to learn how to cook instinctually its probably for the very vain reason that I like to always know the how and why of what I’m doing, or rather having the guarantee that what I’m doing is correct, and thus will be successful. But, harking back to a slightly less type-A reason, cooking has always been a form of expression in my surroundings, and as a creative person, if there is the ability to create, I want to do it.
Food evokes memory, and the joy I find in the privilege of creating a meal, whether from scratch or a recipe, is that it is so fortunately attainable. I cannot time travel, but I can (try to) recreate every memorable meal I’ve ever had; I cannot live in every beloved city, but I can find their food; I cannot visit my childhood home, but I can learn how to cook the meals of my upbringing. I also have an ace up my sleeve, in that I happen to live with a professional chef. Nobody in my life has probably championed my independence more than my older brother, and in telling him I wanted to take over more of the household cooking this year, he was more than happy to teach me his magical ways (shoutout to his culinary degree and stunning resume).
Lesson 1: Summer
“The only reason you should ever need to turn your oven on in the summer is to make cobbler. Nothing else is worth it.” My older brother’s name is Gerson (sounds like Croissant with a silent T, as he is affectionately nicknamed by one of my oldest friends), and like me he is full of bon mots and simple, but effective instructions for living your best life. He double majored at culinary school, and thus is wildly skilled at not only culinary arts but also the art of bread and pastry. No, these don’t come hand in hand, as many a pastry-loathing restaurant chef will probably tell you. Let’s circle back.
We are not twins, but our birthdays are days apart and for that coincidence alone we are probably insanely similar, and so I agree with his logic. Nothing elaborate is worth the trouble in summertime, especially not dessert. Like a true locavore, G has every season memorized in produce, determining not only our weekly food shops but also setting anticipatory tones based on our favorite fruits. The wait for cherry season in our household is not unlike that which I see on Twitter for Love Island.
Peach season is the epitome of summer, a glorious six weeks spanning mid June to late July where we live off salads dotted with the stone fruit miracles or insert them sliced into our caprese sandwiches. We snack on them while reading in the sun and drop them by the handful into our wine. We also, as it happens, make a lot of cobbler. A good cobbler, I think, like a good roasted chicken, could quite possibly serve you anywhere. Breakfast, dessert, picnic gatherings... at times I’ve become so engrossed in making one I forget to make dinner and have cobbler instead. It is summer after all, and sometimes the most effortless dinner is the one already in front of you.
Cobbler is a simple enough dish, and while this is a summer one made with fresh peaches, you could technically make it any time of year with what fruit is available to you, or even frozen if it happens to be on sale at your local. The key is in the process — the steps in which you layer the ingredients to your dish, to ensure the correct bubbly texture results in the sweet [American] biscuit-like topping. It can also be time consuming, so I’d suggest starting in the afternoon if you’re hoping to have it for dessert the same day.
You will need:
1/2 cup / 4 ounces unsalted butter
1 cup / 142 g unbleached all purpose flour
1 tbsp / 15 g baking powder (if you are in the UK or somewhere with self-rising flour, you might be able to omit this, as it is here our leavener)
2 cups / 198 g sugar, separated in half
1 c / 8 ounces milk
6 large or 8 medium peaches (approx. 2 lbs of fruit)
1 tsp / 5 ml vanilla
1 tsp / 5 g cinnamon (freshly grated if you have sticks but powdered is fine too)
1/2 tsp / 2.5 g salt
1 lemon, juiced
Preheat your oven to 350F / 180C / 160 Fan.
In a 2 quart dutch oven or sauce pot, heat your butter over medium-low until just melted. Pour into a 9 inch baking dish (square or rectangle will both work, you’ll just have a slightly taller or shorter result) and set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, 1 cup of sugar by whisking lightly. Add milk and stir to mix. Evenly pour the mixture into your baking dish with butter and set aside, do not mix. (The separation of butter is what creates pockets here.)
Peel the peaches and remove from pit, cutting into wedges. Over medium heat in your saucepan, cook the peaches with remaining sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and salt for a few minutes to soften, just until it boils. Once it’s boiling add your lemon juice and bring the heat up to medium-high, simmering until thick, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and pour the peaches into the baking dish, spreading lightly with a spatula but do not press it into the milk mixture.
Let sit until the liquid rises to the surface on its own, 1-2 minutes. Bake on a sheet tray for 35-45 minutes, until golden brown and slightly crispy around the edges. Let cool for at least an hour and serve with powdered sugar, whipped cream, or whatever frozen topping if you desire.
Raquel Reyes is Creative Director at The Attic on Eighth. She enjoys styling photo shoots, dramatic hair accessories, and old fashioned cocktails.