When you name your blog “Wicked Good Kitchen”, you had better be prepared to back it up with truly wicked good fare or risk being branded a complete and utter fool. (Oh, the pressure. Ha!) Seriously. Believe me when I say that I have been chomping at the bit to share my favorite blueberry cobbler recipe with you. It is truly wicked good. Honest and truly, it is.
Per Cook’s Illustrated, Published July 1, 2002.
Best Blueberry Cobbler
“The Problem: Too often, blueberry cobbler means a filling that is sickeningly sweet, overspiced, thick, and gloppy and biscuits are undercooked or overcooked, doughy or dry.”
“The Goal: The biscuit should stand tall with structure, be crisp on the outside and light and buttery on the inside, and complement a lightly thickened, lightly sweetened and spiced filling. Most important, the cobbler has to come together easily.”
Exactly. However, this baker prefers to spice the cobbler topping versus the filling. The purist in me enjoys a nice juicy lemon-blueberry filling with a nutmeg dusted sugar topping or cinnamon-sugar topping. And, my Buttery Biscuit Crumble Topping doesn’t stand tall like a biscuit. But, it does have some fluff to it due to just the right amount of baking powder.
For over 20 years now, I have been making my Best Ever Blueberry Cobbler. (Ack! Has it really been that long?) It is The Big Lug’s favorite berry or stone fruit cobbler I make. Well, it has indeed been that long. And, it has been a family favorite to the point of becoming legendary. It has been a constant in my summer dessert rotation and family and friends always beg me to bring it to barbecues and picnics. The Big Lug and I would even pack up a cooler with plenty of ice and bring our iSi 1-Pint Cream Whipper (nicknamed “Izzy”) prepared and fully charged with sweetened fresh heavy whipping cream so everyone could enjoy the special treat of fresh whipped cream with their cobbler whilst dining in the breezy outdoor summertime air. It is not an understatement to say we were treated like rock stars. Everyone wanted our desserts at these gatherings!
This cobbler is a joy to make. It is so easy, you won’t believe it. Making it is much easier than laboring over homemade berry pies from scratch. No fuss, no muss. You’re in and out of the kitchen in a flash. As you know, this is very important during the summer when we’d rather be at the beach or our favorite park. If you can blend together biscuit dough with a pastry blender, you are “in like Flynn”. Personally, I enjoy using a pastry blender versus a food processor as I enjoy feeling the baking process through my senses.
To keep it real, I must admit there was one time when I under-baked this cobbler (I was in a hurry) and the filling was undercooked and “grainy” due to the sugar not completely dissolving. Of course, this time was the time The Big Lug took it to work to share with his team for a barbecue luncheon. When I asked him if everyone enjoyed it, his reply was, “It was a little ‘gritty kitty’.” (Are there any Ren & Stimpy fans out there? Hubby was referencing “Gritty Kitty Litter” from The Ren & Stimpy Show, a favorite silly cartoon of ours.) My response was, “Are you saying my cobbler tasted like kitty litter?” He answered back, laughing hysterically, “Well, yes!” I about died from laughing so hard! I am serious. Tears were streaming down my cheeks. The Big Lug always makes me laugh and smile. Always.
Since my blueberry cobbler was never “gritty kitty” before, I had concluded that I had under-baked it. This happens to the most seasoned of bakers. Being rushed or getting distracted in the kitchen, in my humble opinion, are the top culprits for recipe failures. Well, those reasons as well as novice bakers not reading the recipe thoroughly or making poor ingredient substitutions. But, I digress. Let’s discuss this “best ever” blueberry cobbler situation.
There are cobblers and then, well, there are cobblers. Folks will get into a complete tizzy over just what constitutes an authentic fruit “cobbler”. Some say a pastry pie crust on top is authentic (like a bottomless pie) while others insist biscuit batter dropped onto the filling is true blue. Then, there is the type of topping that is a very wet batter—like a cake batter. Ew. Not my cup of tea. I like to reserve my cake and berries combo to Strawberry Shortcake.
Finally, there is the “Lazy Day” type of cobbler dating back to the 1920s and 1930s where a custard-like cake batter is created and poured over melted butter in a prepared hot baking dish before the fresh berries are dropped in and sugar is sprinkled on top. The “Lazy Day” cobbler recipes were found in women’s magazines like Modern Priscilla. The recipes were popular because they were economical during hard times to feed large families and called for few ingredients—generally ingredients always kept on hand.
However, there is a growing faction in support of the biscuit crumble topping—a sort of pie pastry crumbled over the top giving way to the characteristic “cobbled” or “cobblestone” crackly appearance on top after baking. One thing is certain, blueberry cobbler resides in our hearts and we remain true blue to our time-tested family favorites. But, wait…not so fast.
Be prepared to have your favorite blueberry cobbler…dare I say it?…dethroned! (Haha!) Yes, I am a huge fan of Game of Thrones. So, “throne” is in the forefront of my mind right now as I write this. (Forgive me?) Any Game of Thrones fans out there? I’m obsessed. Can’t wait for next season!
As I mentioned, I have been baking my Best Ever Blueberry Cobbler for years. The resulting recipe was sort of a happy accident when I decided not to add milk or buttermilk to the biscuit topping I was preparing. (I like to tinker with recipes and feel like a scientist in my “lab”. This trait must be inherent in bakers. This, too, is an obsession…in a good way.) Instead of milk, I decided to add a beaten egg for richness, like sugar cookie richness. However, I decreased the amount of sugar (like, by a lot) and added pure vanilla extract for flavor.
Result? The most sublime blueberry cobbler I had ever made. Like, ever–even better than Best Blueberry Cobbler by Cook’s Illustrated. Seriously. Conclusion? Milk is just wrong. The more pastry-like and cookie-like a cobbler topping is, versus cake-like, the better. Way better. In my humble opinion. The delectable topping is moist and buttery yet delightfully crunchy but neither dry and/or crumbly like so many others.
This especially scrumptious biscuit topping is best described as a delightful combination of pie pastry, a buttery fluffy biscuit and a rich, shortbread sugar cookie with a whisper of vanilla. The scrumptious topping has a pleasant contrasting crunch to the juicy fresh fruit filling. Sometimes I adorn the topping with freshly grated nutmeg. Other times, I prepare a cinnamon-sugar topping. What’s not to love? You need more love in your life, right?
Now, for the “goosebumps” part of my story.
A few years later, in 1996, I happened upon a cookbook at Half Price Books featuring recipes from the finest restaurants in the Midwest. A fabulous find. The cookbook I am referring to is The Best of the Midwest: Recipes from Thirty-Two of America’s Finest Restaurants by Linda and Fred Griffith (1990), now out-of-print. When I came to the chapter on my native Michigan, I was captivated by the entries for Tapawingo. Tapawingo is located in Northern Michigan in the city of Ellsworth and is owned and operated by Chef Pete Peterson—one of our nation’s best chefs having studied in Paris at La Varenne. The name “Tapawingo” comes from the Indian name given to the house when it was first built which Chef Pete kept as the name for his restaurant.
In this magnificent cookbook, on page 77, I found a recipe for Rhubarb Cobbler. As an avid baker, I am always fascinated by different toppings for cobbler. I had never thought of making a cobbler with just rhubarb alone, without strawberries. However, nonetheless, I read on through the recipe and decided to try it. When I made the recipe, I substituted fresh summer peaches.
As I was preparing my fresh peach cobbler, I was astounded (like, goosebumps kind of freakish surprised). The topping recipe was eerily similar to my biscuit crumble topping. I was floored. Seriously floored. Although Tapawingo’s recipe is a bit richer as it calls for an egg yolk, when you pare down the ingredients, it is rather similar. This particular baking experience was comforting–just knowing a talented pastry chef, at Tapawingo, was thinking along the same lines when developing their recipe for Rhubarb Cobbler as I was. Talk about culinary validation.
What makes our Best Ever Blueberry Cobbler wicked good?
A glorious juicy lemon-blueberry filling made with fresh Michigan blueberries and just the right amount of sugar for sweetness and lemon zest for tartness. A unique cobbler topping best described as a delightful combination of pie pastry, a buttery fluffy biscuit and a rich, shortbread sugar cookie with a whisper of vanilla and a light sugar topping providing a pleasant crunch. Yes, our Best Ever Blueberry Cobbler is definitely wicked good. Bake some today. Or, as soon as humanly possible. You won’t regret it! That’s a bona fide promise.
- For the Blueberry Filling
- 6 cups (30 ounces or 850 grams) fresh blueberries, sorted, rinsed and dried
- 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons (4 grams) freshly grated lemon zest
- 3 tablespoons (22.5 grams) all-purpose flour, such as Gold Medal®
- For the Buttery Biscuit Crumble Topping
- 1 cup plus 5 tablespoons (157.5 grams) all-purpose flour, such as Gold Medal®
- 6 tablespoons (75 grams) granulated sugar
- 1½ teaspoons (7.2 grams) baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon (1.5 grams) salt
- 6 tablespoons (¾ stick or 84.75 grams) unsalted butter, chilled & cut into bits
- 1 large egg (mine weighed 52 grams w/o shell), slightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon (5ml) pure vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon (12.5 grams) granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg, optional
TipsFor the Fruit Filling: Make sure the sugar and flour mixture is evenly distributed over the fruit with no mounding in the center or in any one place. This will ensure the sugar will caramelize and the flour will thicken evenly throughout the cobbler with the berry juices. For Gluten Free Option: Substitute Cup4Cup (C4C) Gluten-Free Flour, available at Williams-Sonoma, or your favorite gluten-free flour blend measured cup for cup or by grams in place of the all-purpose wheat flour called for in the recipe. For the Blueberry Filling, use 3 tablespoons (24 grams) Cup4Cup Gluten Free Flour. For the Buttery Biscuit Crumble Topping, use 1 cup plus 5 tablespoons (168 grams) Cup4Cup Gluten Free Flour.