My husband went crazy over this strawberry cobbler. After his first serving, with plenty left to eat, he asked me when I would be making more. That made me smile. Truthfully, I would be happy to make more, and may need to if I want another bowl– he pretty much took care of the first cobbler on his own.
During strawberry season, I buy a half flat of berries every Saturday. That pattern caught up to me last week, having come home with 20 lbs. of cherries, a 4-pack of blackberries, figs, peaches and apples, too. I didn’t really feel like making jam, so I sliced up a bunch of my strawberries and made cobbler. I’ve actually been playing with this idea for months; I ran across a recipe for cream cheese biscuits and instantly thought how good they would be in shortcake or another strawberry dessert. I modified the recipe I found to make a drop biscuit topping I think is absolutely perfect in this cobbler. It turns out that the cream cheese flavor is a little more understated than I anticipated, but the biscuits are so tender and good! I’m going to use them in other fruit cobblers and maybe try that shortcake before the strawberry season is done.
My Nana used to make a baked “summer pudding” with mixed fruit– whatever needed to be used up, most often strawberries, peaches and wild blackberries– and drop biscuits. My memories of that saucy, comforting dessert shaped how I put this dish together. In my mind, this is closer to her pudding than the cobblers I make with blackberries or blueberries. I think the difference is best described by the soupiness (a good thing!) and tartness of the fruit, and the ratio of strawberries to biscuit. The strawberries are not as thickened as they might be in a pie, and I love that. It’s a dessert which demands a bowl and spoon. The fruit is very simply flavored with cinnamon, sugar and a touch of black pepper. Black pepper with berries, especially strawberries, does not taste “hot” or savory but lends a touch of interest that accents the natural sweetness and acidity of the fruit. The relative simplicity of this cobbler means that it’s wise to make sure your fruit is ripe and sweet; watery or underripe fruit is not what you want. (However, I remember a summer pudding or two with some slightly “winy”, overripe fruit that worked just fine.) I’ve given a range of sugar because every batch and variety of berries is different. Start with the lesser amount of sugar and add 1/4 c. at a time until the berries suit your taste. As with any good summer pudding, feel free to add some other kinds of berries to the mix.
The local strawberry season is precious and short, so take full advantage and make some cobbler while you can. I hope the strawberries in your area have been as perfect as they are in western Washington this year; if so, this is going to be an unforgettable treat. If my husband gets his way I’ll be making another cobbler soon, while the berries are ripe and plentiful.
Strawberry Cobbler with Cream Cheese Biscuits
- 5-6 c. fresh, ripe strawberries, hulled and sliced (about 3 generous pints)
- juice of half a lemon
- 1 – 1 1/2 c. sugar
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- pinch of freshly ground black pepper (about 6 turns of the grinder)
- 1 c. cold water, divided
- 1 T. cornstarch
For the biscuits:
- 1 1/2 c. flour
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
- 4 oz. cream cheese, cold, cut into small cubes
- 2 T. unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes
- 3/4 c. whole milk
- 1 tsp. white or apple cider vinegar
- 1-2 T. sugar to garnish (raw or demerara sugar if you can)
- whipped cream or ice cream to serve
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. You’ll want to use a large, deep skillet (12″ or larger) or Dutch oven that can go from the stovetop to the oven for this cobbler.
Add the sliced strawberries, lemon juice and 1 c. sugar to the skillet you’ve chosen. Stir to combine, then use a potato masher or fork to crush about half of the fruit. I don’t use an immersion blender because it is too powerful; you want to release juice but not make soup. Leave some of the berries uncrushed for texture. Allow the mixture to sit for about 20-30 mins. to macerate. You can make the biscuit topping while you wait.
To make the biscuits, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt to a large bowl and whisk together. Add the cold cream cheese and cold butter to the bowl and use a pastry cutter (I like this one) or two knives, or two forks, or your hands, to work the cream cheese and butter into the dry ingredients. Stop when you have pea-sized pieces evenly distributed and don’t overwork that dough. Combine the milk and vinegar in a small bowl; mix your soured milk in just until you can no longer see dry flour. The dough will be lumpy, which is just fine.
Now back to the fruit: put the skillet with macerated berries over medium heat. Add the salt, cinnamon and black pepper and taste for sweetness. Add more sugar if you find the berries too tart. In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch with enough of the cold water to make a slurry, about 1/4 c. Add the rest of the water to the berry mixture and stir while the fruit begins to simmer. When you see the first lazy bubbles in the berries, add the cornstarch mixture and continue to stir over medium heat until the mixture thickens slightly and looks glossy.
Remove the skillet from the heat and dollop the biscuit mixture evenly over the top. Each biscuit should be similar in size to ensure even cooking; it’s okay to portion out the dough before putting it into the berries if you want. I get 7-8 biscuits from this amount of dough. Space the biscuits evenly and then sprinkle the extra 1-2 T. sugar over the top. Transfer the skillet carefully to your preheated oven.
Bake for 35 mins. The cobbler is done when the biscuits are cooked through (though they should be quite moist in the center, they should not be doughy) and golden brown. Cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired. Store leftover cobbler in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.