Thursday, July 30, 2009

Peach-Vanilla Bean Cobbler with Sugar Crunch Lattice

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I always wait until summer to make peach cobbler or peach pie. Frozen and canned peaches can't compare, and they aren't as juicy or fragrant. I love peach pie, but cobbler is infinitely easier. There's no bottom crust to worry about getting soggy, and some recipes allow you to just spoon and smooth a batter on top. This one pretties it up with a lattice, yet still looks rustic and easy.

This is great fresh out of the oven, and a scoop of frozen yogurt melts over the top and gives that refreshing chill you want in the sweltering heat (especially after your oven's heated the kitchen). But it's just as delicious at room temperature and free of any accompaniments.
Peach-Vanilla Bean Cobbler with Sugar Crunch Lattice
From The Art and Soul of Baking by Sur La Table and Cindy Mushet
Serves 6 to 8
1 recipe Cream Scones (page 152), prepared through Step 2
2¼ pounds ripe peaches, peeled
¼ to ½ cup (1 ¾ to 3 ½ oz) sugar, plus 2 tbs for the lattice
1 vanilla bean, or 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp cornstarch or tapioca flour, or 4 tsp unbleached all-purpose flour
Vanilla ice cream or Vanilla Crème Fraiche, for serving
9-inch ceramic pie pan or other wide 6-cup baking dish

1. Make the filling. Use a paring knife to half and pit the peaches, then cut into ½-inch-thick slices. Transfer to a large bowl. Taste a peach slice — if it is sweet and ripe, use only ¼ cup sugar (or even less, if it is very sweet). If it’s tart or slightly under-ripe, use up to an additional ¼ cup. Place the sugar in the small bowl. Use the tip of the paring knife to split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Turn the knife over and use the dull side to scrape out all the seeds into the sugar. Rub the mixture together with your fingers until the seeds are evenly dispersed. Pour over the fruit. Add the lemon juice and cornstarch (and the vanilla extract or paste, if using) and gently toss with the spatula until all the fruit is evenly coated. Press the fruit into the baking dish in an even layer.

Vanilla sugar and vanilla bean-speckled peaches

2. Make the Lattice. Dust your work surface and the top of the dough with flour. Roll the dough into a 16-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Rotate the dough slightly each time you roll—this will help you roll the dough in an even circle and will alert you immediately when the dough is sticking to the surface. If it does stick, gently use a bench scraper to release the dough, lifting it off the surface and adding a bit more flour to the surface to prevent further sticking.
3. Cut the dough into 1½-inch wide strips. The strips toward the center of the circle will be longer than the strips toward the edges and this is fine. You will use the longer strips in the center of your baking dish when weaving the lattice, and the shorter strips near the edges of the dish.
4. Weave the lattice. Brush any excess flour from the surface of the dough. Gently lift the strips and place half of them about ½ inch apart from the top of the fruit, letting any excess dough fall over the edge of the dish for the moment. Fold every other strip back halfway, exposing the fruit underneath. Precisely at that halfway point, place a strip of dough perpendicular, laying it over the unfolded strips. Unfold the folded strips, laying them over the new strip of dough. Fold back the strips that were left flat the first time, and place another new strip of dough over the fruit and flat strips of dough. Straighten and tighten the dough each time you do this so your lattice looks even. Continue in this manner until you reach the edge of the pan, then turn the pan and weave the other half of the lattice, beginning at the center and working outward. Once the lattice is finished, use the paring knife to trim any overhanging dough flush with the pan. Chill for 20 minutes.

5. Bake and serve the cobbler. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and position an oven rack in the center. Sprinkle the lattice evenly with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. You may want to place a baking sheet or a piece of foil under the cobbler to catch any juices that may bubble over. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the topping is nicely browned and the fruit is bubbling and soft (the tip of the paring knife should easily slide in and out of the peach slices). Serve warm or at room temperature, accompanied by ice cream or crème fraiche.

Storing. This cobbler is at its best immediately after baking. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap, for 2 to 3 days. Reheat, covered loosely with foil, in a 350 degree oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until warmed through.

Cream Scones
From The Art and Soul of Baking by Sur La Table and Cindy Mushet
2 cups (10 ounces) all purpose flour
¼ cup (1¾ oz) sugar
2½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 stick (4 oz) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 cup (8 oz) chilled heavy whipping cream
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tbs sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and position an oven rack in the center. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper or a thin silicone mat. Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of the food processor and process for 10 seconds to blend well. Add the cold butter pieces and pulse 5 times at 1-second intervals, or until the butter is cut into medium pieces. Add the cream and pulse another 20 times, or until the dough holds together in small, thick clumps. Use a spatula to scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently squeeze the clumps together until they form a cohesive dough.
2. Pat the dough into a circle 7 inches in diameter and about 1 inch thick. Use a chef’s knife to cut the dough into 8 equal wedges and transfer to the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart.

Cobbler prepared with a crust of flower-shaped dough cutouts