Summer is almost officially here. In fact, it will officially arrive this Friday—in just two days. Yay! Time for summer cookouts, cocktails, desserts and fun! However, in my mind, summer already is here. My only question, how did we get here at such warp speed? Once June is over, half the year will be gone. Can you believe it? Although my favorite season of all is fall, I love summer’s offerings—especially the longer days, warm breezes, walking barefoot, lingering over a late night dinner at home, out on the deck under twinkly-starry white lights listening to music, and enjoying wine or summer sips with The Big Lug. Ah, summer. I do love thee. Here in Central Indiana, we just experienced our first summer thunderstorm a few nights ago. The wind and the rumble…and, all that jazz. I just love it. Living in the Midwest does have its benefits—one obviously being the four seasons. I love experiencing the change in seasons as it keeps monotony at bay. As soon as you swing into one season, the next ushers on in. I always find myself eagerly awaiting the next round of culinary goodness the season ahead has to offer. As soon as the 4th of July passes, I am all about anticipating fall and Halloween! But, I digress. With summer, comes the opportunity to work with fresh, in-season berries—truly, a baker’s reverie. I am a huge fan of all berries with a special fondness for Montmorency Cherries from my native Michigan. Speaking of cherries, check out my Cherry ~ Oh, Baby! board at Pinterest for beautiful images of cherries and cool recipes using them to include cocktails. The board is named after the Rolling Stone’s reggae song, Cherry Oh Baby, from their Black and Blue album from 1976. Nothing beats pretty red fresh tart cherries. They truly are the “bom diggity” of the cherry world. But, cherries aren’t even berries are they? We just like to think they are. Or, at least I do. Of course, cherries are a stone fruit known as a drupe. And, “drupe”? Well. That just doesn’t sound very sexy at all, does it? Early reports coming out of my favorite orchards are that 2013 is shaping up to be a banner year for the tart cherry. This is a blessing because last year the market suffered a severe shortage due to an early and unseasonably hot spring with a subsequent cold snap which destroyed the crops. (The poor farmers!) However, I’m hearing by mid-July there will be an opportunity for U-Pick. (Yay! Three cheers for tart cherries!) Of course, what this means is that I will be able to share some wicked tart cherry recipes with y’all. The very thought of this just makes my heart sing. Tart Cherry Pie, here I come! Until then, let’s talk about favorite berries. You have your favorites, right? Last week, I posted my Best Ever Blueberry Cobbler recipe. (Please don’t view the title as me being arrogant by stating “best ever” by any means. There’s a big difference between confidence and arrogance. Truly, this is confidence speaking. Honest and truly. Read my post to understand just why this version of blueberry cobbler totally rocks and meets all the criteria for an outstanding blueberry cobbler—even per Cook’s Illustrated. They know their stuff. Of course, everyone has their own preferences. Who am I to judge?) But, who doesn’t love blueberries? I don’t know anyone who doesn’t. In fact, I have a board for blueberries, called Blueberry Hill, at Pinterest, too. You might want to check it. As I mentioned in my last post, my blueberry cobbler is The Big Lug’s favorite. I hope you will try it this summer season! Second to cherries (again, although not a berry), I would have to say my favorite berry is the raspberry. I grew up with raspberry bushes in our backyard and enjoyed picking them when I was very little. I was fascinated by them—their vibrant fuchsia-red color (so pretty), their shape and their amazing structure as well as how a warm freshly picked raspberry just bursts into your mouth when you bite into it. The flavor of raspberries is unbeatable, too. Even when I am working with strawberries, I like to mingle some raspberries in to make the strawberries truly shine. The pairing of raspberries with strawberries has been a “thang” with me dating way back. In fact, the first paleo jam featured here on the blog, Raspberry-Strawberry Honey Jam, obviously was a combination of the two. These berries are just plain better together rather than apart. Wouldn’t you agree? They’re like the perfect berry marriage. I’m getting mushy again. Of course, this strawberry blonde simply adores California Strawberries. As soon as they hit our market, I start dreaming up all sorts of ways to incorporate them into our spring and summer breakfasts, desserts and cocktails. And, hey…I have a strawberry board over at Pinterest as well. Check out my Strawberry ~ licious! board for some great recipes using fresh strawberries! We buy only the freshest organic strawberries and raspberries by Driscoll’s® either from The Fresh Market or Whole Foods Market. Did you know that the seeds on strawberries are considered fruits themselves? Who knew? One of our favorite strawberry desserts is Strawberry Shortcake as I mentioned in my post for Strawberry Shortcake with Mixed Berries. When the strawberry season hits, it is the very first strawberry dessert I make. However, it is not our favorite strawberry dessert. No, here at Wicked Good Kitchen, our favorite and rather indulgent strawberry dessert is Very Berry Strawberry Cobbler with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It’s like eating a warmed gooey version of Strawberry Shortcake but served a la mode rather than with whipped cream. Imagine the ripest red summer strawberries in a rich, thickened bright red sauce sweetened just right for the filling, and a buttery biscuit crumble topping, all nice and warm from the oven with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Swoon! I swear there’s nothing better in the realm of summer desserts. It is my very favorite! When I developed my recipe for Very Berry Strawberry Cobbler, I held nothing back. After making several versions over the years, I pressed on to improve Strawberry Cobbler. Why? Because my friends, she deserves better. She really does. Having nailed down the buttery biscuit crumble topping in my Best Ever Blueberry Cobbler recipe years ago, the goal was to create a fresh and colorful homemade strawberry cobbler filling full of berry flavor that is juicy and delightfully thickened with a red glossy sheen. And, guess what The Big Lug said as soon as he arrived home after work when he smelled what I was baking this past week? It totally cracked me up when he exclaimed, “Mmm. It smells like Pop-Tarts in here!” You’ve gotta love men. A Side Note: Reading Christopher Kimball’s first cookbook, The Cook’s Bible, back in 1996 as a new bride, changed my life. Ever have a book or cookbook you’ve read change your life? Fortunately, it has happened to me a few times—that is, a paradigm shift. In fact, I could write a series of posts and share those books with you. However, Kimball’s book did that for me. For the first time, I realized there was this incredibly cool way to approach recipes and write about food—that is, to set out to conquer the definitive champ for each classic recipe. Wicked concept, I tell you! It was an eye opener and I soon got the bug. This realization convinced me that writing a cookbook would be natural for me—especially in this manner. Why? Because I enjoy “concocting” as well as a good challenge—especially with baking. Immediately, I started such a project—a baking cookbook. The recipes from the original manuscript, one by one, will be published right here on this blog to share with you. My first secret to making an exceptional Strawberry Cobbler is macerating the strawberries to allow their own juices to come forth in the filling. (I also use this technique when making my Strawberry Ginger Jam.) I mean, why add all that water (some recipes call for 1 to 1½ cups of water, yikes!) which just makes the strawberries swim in a flavorless, often overly sweet, especially runny and not very bright red syrup? Yuck. Adding all that water is just plain wrong. Remember “Glamour Don’ts” in fashion? Well, this is certainly a major “Culinary Don’t”. My second secret is using tapioca starch to thicken the strawberry filling. Tapioca is superior to cornstarch and flour when thickening delicate berries with plenty of juice but not much naturally occurring pectin. Unlike blueberries, strawberries and their juices need a little extra help. Using flour to thicken the especially light juices of strawberries greatly overpowers the flavor and the result is a “gluey” filling. Not good. However, tapioca creates thickened juices that are clear, bright and glossy in appearance as well as maintains the fresh berry flavor. To read more about thickening agents used in pies and cobblers, visit Cook’s Illustrated for the article, How to Thicken Fruit Pies, from July 1, 1995. My third secret is using fresh raspberry purée to enhance the strawberries and their juices. After sharing my adoration for raspberries, this probably comes as no surprise. But, my final secret might surprise you. It is something I learned from Rose Levy Beranbaum for other baking applications. My fourth and final secret is to add a small amount of all-natural strawberry jam or fruit spread in the filling. Call it a cheat, or call it an enhancer. After learning from Rose, I’m going with enhancer here. Not only does the addition of jam help thicken the filling as it bakes, it provides more punch of fresh strawberry flavor and ruby-red color. My favorite traditional strawberry jam or fruit spread available at grocery stores nationwide using all natural ingredients and sugar (versus high fructose corn syrup) is made by Smucker’s. What makes our Very Berry Strawberry Cobbler wicked good? A juicy strawberry filling made with plenty of fresh strawberries (3 pounds!) as well as just the right amount of sugar for sweetness and lemon zest for tartness. The culinary technique of maceration brings out the natural juices in the strawberries versus watering the juices down with the addition of water. By using tapioca starch as a thickener, versus cornstarch or flour, the fresh berry flavor bursts through versus being overpowered resulting in a clear and bright look and taste versus lackluster. By adding fresh raspberry purée and all-natural strawberry jam, an exceptional berry flavor profile is created enhancing the strawberry filling overall. Finally, we use 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 Very Berry Strawberry Cobbler is without a doubt wicked good. In closing, you need to make this Very Berry Strawberry Cobbler to actually believe it is truly “very berry”. It genuinely is wicked good and the absolute “bom diggity” of summer strawberry desserts. Trust us here at Wicked Good Kitchen. We really do know what we’re talkin’ about!
A juicy strawberry filling made with plenty of fresh strawberries (3 pounds!) as well as just the right amount of sugar for sweetness and lemon zest for tartness makes our Very Berry Strawberry Cobbler stand out. By using tapioca starch as a thickener, versus cornstarch or flour, the fresh berry flavor bursts through the filling versus being overpowered resulting in a clear and bright look and taste versus lackluster. By adding fresh raspberry purée and all-natural strawberry jam, an exceptional berry flavor profile is created enhancing the strawberry filling overall. Finally, we use 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 to make our version of strawberry cobbler wicked good!
- For the Very Berry Strawberry Filling
- 3 pounds (48 ounces or 1362 grams) fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled & sliced in half
- 1 (6-ounce/170 grams) package fresh raspberries, puréed & strained to make 3 ounces
- ½ cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons (4 grams) freshly grated lemon zest (1 medium lemon)
- Pinch of salt
- 4 tablespoons (31 grams) tapioca starch
- 3 tablespoons (45ml) cold water
- 6 tablespoons (114 grams) all-natural strawberry jam or spread, such as Smucker’s® Natural Strawberry Fruit Spread
- For the Buttery Biscuit Crumble Topping
- 1¾ cup (about 218.75 grams) all-purpose flour, such as Gold Medal®
- ½ cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons (9.6 grams) baking powder
- ½ teaspoon (3 grams) salt
- ½ cup (1 stick or 113 grams) unsalted butter, chilled & cut into bits
- 1 large egg + 1 egg yolk (mine weighed 67 grams w/o shells), slightly beaten
- 1½ teaspoons (7.5ml) pure vanilla extract
- 1½ tablespoons (19 grams) granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg, optional
Prepare the Very Berry Strawberry Filling: In a small bowl, combine sugar and lemon zest. (I like to work the zest into the sugar with my fingers to release the essential oils for maximum flavor.) In a large saucepan, combine strawberries, raspberry purée, sugar mixture and salt. Toss to coat strawberries evenly. Let stand and macerate, stirring occasionally, until juices are released, about 30 minutes.
Over medium-high heat cook the strawberries and juices until heated through, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. In a small prep bowl, whisk together tapioca starch and cold water until thoroughly blended. Immediately stir into hot strawberry mixture and cook until mixture comes to a boil and is thickened, about 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in strawberry jam or fruit spread until fully incorporated. Set aside to cool slightly.
Arrange oven rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 375ºF. Lightly butter a 3-quart baking dish. I like to use my 2.9-quart Revol Belle Cuisine Deep Oval Baking Dish. Using rubber spatula, scrape and pour berry mixture into prepared baking dish and set aside.
Prepare the Buttery Biscuit Crumble Topping: In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt until well combined. Using a pastry blender, cut butter into flour mixture until it resembles a coarse meal with small pea-sized pieces of butter. In a small bowl, whisk vanilla into beaten egg and egg yolk using a fork. With a fork, gently toss beaten egg and vanilla mixture into flour mixture until moistened and dough starts to hold together. Continue to toss and blend gently with fingertips until well combined yet taking care not to overwork the dough.
Assemble the Cobbler: Sprinkle biscuit crumble topping evenly over fruit filling. Sprinkle biscuit crumble topping with sugar and, if desired, dust with freshly grated nutmeg. Alternatively, dust with cinnamon-sugar combining sugar and cinnamon before sprinkling over topping. If desired, dust freshly grated nutmeg over cinnamon-sugar.
Bake the Cobbler: Bake in preheated oven until topping is golden brown and filling is cooked through and bubbly, about 45 minutes. To prevent over-browning of topping, cover with sheet of aluminum foil after 25 minutes of baking. Remove foil and carefully transfer to wire rack to cool.
Serve the Cobbler: Serve cobbler warm a la mode or with fresh whipped cream…or both!
Tips:Topping can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and chill until ready to use. Leftovers can be warmed easily in microwave oven. 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 cake recipe. For the Buttery Biscuit Crumble Topping, use 1¾ cups (224 grams) Cup4Cup Gluten Free Flour.