Asking me to pick a favorite dessert is like asking me to pick my favorite child—I just can’t do it. I love all my desserts equally. But if you ask me something a little less general—like what my favorite summer dessert is—now that’s a question I can answer. It’s always a skillet cobbler.
These rustic family-style desserts of cooked fruit and buttery pastry topping can go by a host of colorful names, from cobbler to pandowdy to grunt, depending on what type of topping they have. But if it’s a fresh fruit filling with a top crust of any kind, then it’s all just a cobbler to me.
Slideshow: View the Cobblers, Crisps & Crumbles slideshow to learn precisely what toppings make a cobbler, a crisp, a crumble, a betty, and more.
My skillet cobblers have three essential components: fresh fruit, a topping, and a super-simple cooking technique. Instead of a baking dish, I use a skillet so I can begin cooking the fruit on the stovetop. This way, when I add the topping, the hot filling starts to set the underside of the topping so there’s no unpleasant raw layer just above the filling. Then I finish baking the assembled cobbler in the oven. This approach shortens the baking time a little and guarantees perfectly cooked cobblers every time.
For the filling, I like to pair fresh, ripe, seasonal fruit with flavorings that enhance its natural goodness without overpowering it (think spices, fresh citrus zest, and even spirits, like rum). The topping (be it a dumpling, a biscuit, or even shortbread) adds texture and even more flavor to the finished dessert.
Three steps to a fabulous skillet cobbler
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I love my cast iron skillet, but for these cobblers, it’s not the best option. Cast iron is a reactive, porous cooking surface that can lend a metallic taste to the finished cobbler and can even discolor lighter-colored fruit. You’re better off with a nonreactive skillet, such as a stainless steel or enamellined cast iron.
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