Who says you need a mix to make an easy homemade peach cobbler? Skip the Bisquick and try this classic southern dessert from scratch using juicy fresh peaches.
I often forget that peaches grow as far north as they do. They're a fruit that belongs more to Georgia than Vermont. But the majority of the country's peaches come from California, not Georgia and definitely not Vermont. Nevertheless, they grow well here and we picked a satisfying half bushel of beautiful sweet yellow peaches at Champlain Orchards in Shoreham over the weekend.
picking the perfect peach
I like to pick peaches that are just a little under-ripe. That means they have only just the slightest give when you squeeze them in your hand. That way, they're not soft enough to easily bruise and it gives you a few days before needing to refrigerate. Peaches ripen at room temperature, though you could put them in a paper bag to speed up the process. Although they continue to ripen, peaches don't continue to sweeten after picking. Instead, a good way to determine the flavor of a peach is by its scent.
Peaches may be associated with the south, but the peach is as much of a United States immigrant as the colonists were. The fruit originated in China thousands of years ago and only made its way here in the 17th century after transport from England. The first peaches grew in Virginia, with commercialization later spreading the trees to other states such as Maryland, Delaware, Georgia, and South Carolina.
When you want to use fresh-picked fruits like peaches to make an easy dessert, you have options. There are crisps, crumbles, Bettys, buckles, and cobblers, among others. All of these are variations of baked fruit dishes that are unfussy and focus on the flavor of the fruit rather than creating a perfect pastry. They’re all excellent options on a day of picking when you want to immediately use the ripest of your fruits.
A homemade peach cobbler sounds fun. But first...
what is a cobbler?
Cobblers originated from early American colonists who were looking to make fresh fruit dishes. They lacked the ingredients and often the means to make the pies and English puddings from home. So they improvised. Cobbler is literally cobbled together by putting fruit in a baking dish with pieces of dough scattered atop. This could then be baked right in the fire. Although they improvised at the time, the dish is now a popular dessert in the American South.
I already had a reliable biscuit recipe, adapted from Alton Brown, and that’s the most important part of a good cobbler. A cobbler is simply biscuit dough that is placed over fruit. It bakes until the biscuits are golden and the fruit is juicy and that doesn’t take long.
I like the idea of a homemade peach cobbler with the complementing flavors of vanilla and honey. I added a fair amount of vanilla extract to the peaches and used a little honey liquor as well. But pure honey is just as good.
why you don't need a mix to make biscuits
I think mixes like Bisquick are never worth your time or money. Why? Because they're made with ingredients most people already have at home. Bisquick is essentially flour, baking powder, salt, and shortening. The only ingredient on that list I don't typically have is shortening. But I always have butter and vegetable oil and those do the job just fine, if not better. If you like the idea of having a mix to rely on when you're busy, you should try making your own mix, like this one from My Baking Addiction.
Cost comparisons also show that mixes don't really save money, either. As far as time, you're probably only saving a couple of minutes. For me, that's not worth sacrificing the quality you get when going the homemade route, whether you're making a cobbler, biscuits, pancakes, or anything else.
tips for a homemade peach cobber
Even if you typically use a mix, you'll find that this cobbler recipe is hard to mess up. Just keep a few things in mind:
- Make sure your butter, sour cream, and milk are as cold as possible, as this will help keep the butter solid and create a better-textured biscuit.
- You don’t need to knead the dough very much at all. Overworking the dough will create a tough biscuit. Just a few quick turns and folds are enough.
- As for the fruit, you can peel the peaches, if you like, but I didn’t feel the need.
- If your fruit is ripe and juicy and you're short on time, you can skip the step of pre-cooking the fruit on the stove. Instead, mix everything together in the baking dish before topping with the biscuit dough.