High Country Baking: Everyone can enjoy rhubarb-raspberry cobbler
High Country Baking
Editor’s note: High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.
Here’s a sure bet. I mean, really, have you ever met anyone who doesn’t like fruit cobbler? Fresh fruit, baked until it’s soft and sweet, topped with warm biscuits … wholesome, satisfying comfort food with universal appeal. I make at least one a season; they never get old.
What makes this variation noteworthy? A filling that combines rhubarb with raspberries is a pleasant and visually appealing surprise, but the biscuits that top it get the loudest applause — if made correctly, they’re swoon-worthy tender. Their melt-in-your-mouth softness is due to several things: the use of heavy cream, superfine sugar and bleached flour, as well as handling the dough as little as possible and treating it as gently as you would a newborn baby. It’s also important to use finely ground cornmeal or cornflour; even medium-ground cornmeal could result in biscuits with a slightly gritty texture rather than a tender one.
The amount of sugar you’ll use in the filling depends on the sweetness of your raspberries as well as your personal preference. The quantity given in the recipe below results in a taste that’s balanced between sweet and tart when used with berries that aren’t quite ripe and are barely sweet. So, sample your berries and alter the amount of sugar to your liking.
Make in a 2-quart glass or ceramic baking pan
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoon superfine sugar, preferably Baker’s
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons crème de cassis, optional
3 cups washed, trimmed rhubarb, cut into ¼-inch pieces
3 cups fresh raspberries
½ cup bleached all-purpose flour, spoon and level
1/3 cup finely ground cornmeal or cornflour
2 tablespoons superfine sugar, preferably Baker’s
2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
1/3 cup heavy cream, cold, plus more for brushing
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position. Lightly grease your baking pan, preferably with unsalted butter. Make the filling: Place the sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl and whisk to combine them well. Add the crème de cassis, if you’re using it, and whisk again so the dry ingredients are uniformly moist. Add the rhubarb and raspberries and toss gently until all the fruit is coated and none of the sugar-cornstarch mixture remains at the bottom of the bowl. Set this aside to macerate for up to an hour.
2. Make the biscuit topping: Place the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and pulse to combine well. Cut the cold butter into six pieces, add them and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse meal with some pieces of butter still visible. Add the cold cream and pulse again, only until large, moist curds form and no dry ingredients remain. To do this by hand, whisk the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl until well combined, cut the butter into small pieces, add them and use a pastry blender, your fingers or two forks to blend them until a mixture is formed that looks like coarse meal with some small chunks of butter within it. Lightly stir in the cream only until a dough starts to form.
3. Dump the dough out onto a sheet of waxed paper. Very gently pat it together. Just as gently, form it into biscuits by making seven equally sized balls of dough (if using a round pan) or eight balls of dough (if using a square or rectangular pan). Lightly flatten each of the balls into a thick round. Place them on a plate, cover and refrigerate them for at least 15 minutes and up to a day.
4. Pour the filling and any remaining juices into your prepared pan, smooth and level it. Remove the dough biscuits from the refrigerator and arrange them decoratively on top. (If using a round pan, place six around the perimeter and one in the middle; for a square pan, make two rows of four biscuits.) Brush the biscuits with a little cream and place the pan on a foil-lined baking sheet (to catch any drips). Bake the cobbler until the filling is bubbling and the biscuits are lightly golden, 35-40 minutes. Remove the cobbler from the oven and serve when it’s cooled to warm or cool completely, refrigerate and re-heat before serving. Vanilla ice cream or cold clotted cream are wonderful additions.
This recipe was inspired by one published in the New York Times. Vera Dawson, author of the high-altitude cookbooks Baking Above It All and Cookies in the Clouds, (available at The Bookworm in Edwards and Next Page Bookstore in Frisco), is a high-altitude baking teacher. Her recipes have been tested in her Summit County kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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