Stressed spelled backwards is desserts. Coincidence? I think not! ~ Author Unknown
It’s summer and our favorite time of the year for enjoying great food. The Farmers’ Markets are filled with beautiful local produce and our evening meals are quick to prepare, consisting of simply grilled meats and plenty of steamed or sautéed fresh vegetables.
While there are multitudes of recipes for preparing this season’s best fruits and vegetables, I tend to leave the veggies shine through on their own: fresh corn on the cob steamed or grilled is perfect as it is; Vidalia onions, when grilled with just a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper bring out their sweetness when caramelized; and steamed squash, cooked perfectly, needs only a pat of butter and a smattering of salt to satisfy. When fresh produce is picked just a short distance away and not transported for days or a week, you taste the dense flavors, minerals, and natural sweetness in the fresh vegetables without much fuss and preparation.
Fruits, on the other hand, beg to be eaten just as they are, such as ripe juicy North Carolina blackberries or sweet South Carolina peaches, but this time of year, they are also ideal for cooked desserts. When baked in a fresh pie, cobbler, or crisp, berries and stone fruits release their natural sugars. Served warm with a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream, these desserts epitomize summer.
Last week I found what I believe may be the last of this year’s rhubarb and decided to make a cobbler with most of it and then prepared and froze the leftovers for later. Rhubarb, once considered a vegetable, is now classified as a fruit because of the way it is used, in desserts like this. While this recipe is called a “cobbler,” the batter creates more of a cake-like texture which envelops and bakes around the fruit. The cake is light and buttery, slightly sweet, and is a perfect pairing with the rhubarb.
Brown sugar macerates the rhubarb if left to sit awhile, it brings out quite a bit of the fruit’s natural juices. When added to the batter and baked, it creates a layer of rich and gooey brown sugar at the bottom of the pan, so be sure to scoop it up when you serve the warm dessert. You don’t want to miss that. It then absorbs into the cake as it cools, keeping it extra moist.
Fresh rhubarb is just one of the many fruits to try in this recipe. The delicate cake consistency will be perfect with blueberries, blackberries, and peaches. Although three cups of fruit are suggested, I would not hesitate to add more. One cup of brown sugar was ideal with this amount of rhubarb (since it can be a bit tart), but I would adjust the amount and type of sugar you add to the fruit, depending on how much fruit you use and the sweetness of the fruit. The cobbler batter has the right amount of lusciousness on its own, so the sugar you macerate the fruit with is primarily to sweeten the fruit and bring out the natural juices and sugars when baking. You will have two distinctive flavors from the cake and the fruit.
Summertime desserts like these are best served fresh from the oven when the fruits are bursting with flavor and the juices are bubbly and still warm. There is nothing better than enjoying the flavor combination of frosty vanilla ice cream melting over juicy, hot fruits and sweet warm cake.
Sit back, relax, and enjoy your dessert on the back deck after a quick and easy summer meal. That is what summer should be all about; enjoying the simple things that life has to offer and the abundance and bounty of fresh and local fruits and vegetables.
Here are some other fruit desserts that you might enjoy this summer:
Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream with a Fresh Blackberry Sauce
Honey Balsamic Strawberries with Whipped Vanilla Crème Fraîche
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While this recipe calls for rhubarb, you could certainly use fresh blueberries, blackberries, or peaches in season. I would also suggest that you add another cup if fruit if you prefer more fruit than cake in your cobbler. The end result is more like a fruit cake than a cobbler, but it is excellent. Depending on the fruit you use and the sweetness of that fruit, you might want to adjust the amount and type of sugar that you use.
3 cups chopped rhubarb (I would suggest adding another cup)
3/4 cup light brown sugar
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (and divided)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup whole milk
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon softened unsalted butter
Vanilla ice cream for serving, preferably homemade
1. Preheat oven to 350°. In a medium bowl, combine the rhubarb and brown sugar, mix well, and set aside. (The longer this mixture sits, the more juices you will produce. Go ahead and add the entire mixture to the batter. It creates a brown sugar layer this is delicious.)
2. In a large bowl, combine 3 Tablespoons of the melted butter, eggs, milk, flour, baking powder, vanilla, and sugar. Beat with a heavy whisk or hand mixer until a smooth batter is formed.
3. Grease a 9" × 11" pan or similar capacity oval dish with the softened butter. Pour in the batter. Spread rhubarb over batter and smooth it down so that the top is even. Be sure to add the juices from the fruit. Drizzle with the remaining Tablespoon of melted butter. Bake for 40 minutes or until lightly brown and the cake is done. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.
Slightly adapted from Saveur