Georgia Peach 'n’ Honey Cobbler
During my hot childhood summers in Alabama, my dad would drive dusty county roads to get freshly picked produce from a farmer living out in the sticks. He sold his veggies straight out of the back of a beat up Chevy pickup, and he even wore dirty overalls and a wide-brimmed hat. His baskets were piled high with summer squash, heirloom tomatoes, okra, watermelons, peaches and plums. We’d ravage a giant bag of salty boiled peanuts on the ride home and then get straight to work on a batch of homemade peach ice cream. Not a bad way to spend those dog days.
But my crazy peach obsession didn’t actually reach its peak until I moved to sunny California. My former boss was the proud mom of an adopted peach tree outside of Fresno, and the last month of August turned into what one might call a peach free-for-all. My work duties for about a week or two entailed peeling, canning, pickling, baking and snacking on all of those delicious Elbertas. (Tough job, right?) During that time I mastered a fiery peach chutney recipe that still makes an annual appearance in my holiday gift baskets.
Now that I’m back in Georgia – a.k.a. the Peach State – I’m taking full advantage of this famous summer bounty. My current favorite way to enjoy peaches is sliced and served with a dollop of tangy goat cheese and salty prosciutto, piled high onto grilled sourdough and sprinkled with a rich, fruity olive oil. Oh my, my. But there’s only so many tasty ways to eat raw peaches before the pile on your counter starts to get a little too ripe. And then it’s time to make peach cobbler.
There are a million different recipes out there for fruit cobbler, but I’m firmly set in the drop biscuit camp. Don’t even try to serve me a "cobbler" with a latticed crust. That, my friend, is a peach pie. And it has a place in Southern dessert history. It’s just not a cobbler in my book.
I’ve topped this version with fluffy barely sweetened whipping-cream biscuits. I’ve also swapped out the sugar in the peach filling for a pure local honey. The peaches flooding the farmers' market right now are sticky and candy-sweet, so why mask that already great natural flavor with too much sugar? And everyone knows a cobbler isn’t a cobbler without creamy vanilla ice cream. Homemade is preferable, but any kind will do.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil on the bottom rack to catch drips.
First you need to peel the peaches. Fill a large stockpot with water and bring to a boil. Cut a small X into the bottom of each peach. Drop the peaches into the boiling water for approximately 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, remove the peaches and immediately submerge into an ice bath to stop the cooking process. Gently peel the peaches using your hands or a paring knife (the riper the peach, the easier this will be). Cut the peaches into slices or chunks, discarding the pit.
For the peach filling, stir together the sliced peaches and honey in a heavy pot or Dutch oven and allow to sit for a few minutes, until a syrup begins to form. (Be sure to adjust the amount of honey according to the sweetness of the peaches. If they aren’t very sweet, add a little more and vice versa.) Add the cornstarch and bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until thickened, about 7 – 10 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in butter and vanilla. Pour into desired baking dish (approximately 2 – 3 quarts) and set aside.
For the biscuit topping, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Using your hands or a pastry blender, cut the shortening into the flour mixture until it is crumbly and well combined (it should resemble small pebbles). Stir in the cream and buttermilk until just blended.
Using your hands or an ice cream scoop, form round dumplings and drop onto the peach filling. Bake the cobbler uncovered for 25 - 30 minutes, until biscuits are light golden brown and the filling is bubbling. Carefully remove from the oven. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.