You can’t beat a cobbler for delivering a lot of fruity flavor with minimal effort. It takes less work than pie and less time to bake than a cake – especially because it is best when eaten still warm from the oven. Berries are a great choice for a cobbler base. They release a lot of naturally sweet juice during baking and the biscuit-like topping is able to soak a lot of it up, providing a great balance between the juicy filling and the breadier topping. One other thing about cobblers is that it doesn’t usually matter whether you are dealing with fresh or frozen fruit, and both will give you great results, making cobblers a good choice year-round.
For this cobbler, I used Morello cherries, which have a great cherry flavor and are a beautiful dark red color. My topping was a slightly sweet cornmeal biscuit dough. It almost has a cornbread-like feel to it, with a slightly coarse texture from the inclusion of stone ground cornmeal. The cornmeal adds a lot of flavor to the dough and really works well with the cherries. The biscuit dough doesn’t have much sugar in it, since the cherry base is nice and sweet, but adding a sprinklking of coarse sugar on top of the cobbler before baking will add a bit of extra sweetness and enhance the crispness of the top of the biscuit dough.
You can use frozen cherries, fresh cherries or canned cherries for this recipe, and can use either sour or sweet cherries. I like sweet Morello cherries (I usually find these jarred) the best, but black cherries (usually frozen) come in a close second. The sugar and the cornstarch in the filling really help to thicken up the cherry juices and provide a great consistency, neither too thick nor too thin. It may seem like a fair amount of sugar to use, especially if you are using sweet cherries, but keep in mind that cobbler gets most of its sweetness from the filling. When you take a bite of the soft, cornmeal biscuit with warm, sweet cherries, it’s easy to see how the two components balance each other – and will keep you coming back for more.
Cherry Cornmeal Cobbler
4 cups pitted cherries (frozen, jarred or fresh)
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 375F.
In a medium bowl, combine all filling ingredients and stir well. Transfer to a 9-or 10-inch round pie/baking dish (preferably a deep dish).
In a large mixing bowl, make the topping. Stir together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg and salt. Pour in butter and buttermilk and stir to combine, mixing only until no streaks of dry ingredients remain. Drop dollops of topping onto cherry mixture forming a roughly even layer with a “cobbled-together” look. Sprinkle with coarse sugar for a touch o extra sweetness, if desired.
Bake for 40 minutes, until cherry filling is thick and bubbly and the biscuit topping is golden brown.
Cool for at least 20 minutes before serving, to allow juices to thicken up.