Last weekend I was in Baton Rouge for a swim meet and came upon a charming open-air produce market with neat towers of fresh summer bounty on display. My mom and I couldn’t resist picking up a carton of local Louisiana blueberries, tomatoes for my dad, and these deeply red-blushed Alabama peaches.
I imagine that these peaches forgot to apply sunscreen while they were ripening, unlike their lightly-tinged grocery store counterparts, and in turn got a little burned. They were almost completely red-orange, with streaky accents of yellow and traditional peachy orange. I happily ate one, dripping with sweet juices, over the kitchen sink. As they all began to ripen at once, I somehow managed to exert some self control by not greedily devouring them and decided to bake up peach cobbler.
I’ve made this cobbler a handful of times over the past few years. My first foray was made directly as written in one of my favorite cookbooks. I loved the nutty brown butter paired with peaches; but as peaches are already sweet, a full cup of granulated sugar in the batter and a half cup brown sugar sprinkled atop was overly sweet. And shockingly, the full stick of butter was also unnecessary. Don’t worry, I love butter and sugar, but I didn’t want to mask the fresh flavor of the peaches. On this latest go, with right amounts of butter and sugar, these fresh Alabama peaches could shine.
Brown Butter Peach Cobbler
adapted from Rebecca Rather’s Hill Country Peach Cobbler in The Pastry Queen
For those of you not familiar with cobblers like this, it may seem like an unusual method. It is–it’s as simple as layering–no mixing required. Brown butter on the bottom, then a loose “batter,” a tight layer of peaches, and finally a sprinkle of brown sugar. While the cobbler bakes, the batter will rise with the help of baking powder and encase some of the peaches in a caramelized, crispy-edged topping. Warm out of the oven, it’s almost creamy.
As I said before, I reduced the butter and sugar and added salt and vanilla extract. I was tempted on a whim to also add some almond extract but decided not to. Don’t let that deter you; almond extract would be a fine addition. Some lemon zest (about 1 teaspoon) would add some brightness. Hmmm, looks like another excuse for me to make this!
Makes a 8- or 9-inch baking dish
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons / 3 ounces) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (3 3/8 ounces / 95 grams) granulated sugar
1 cup (4 1/2 ounces / 128 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce / 15 grams) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk (whole or low-fat)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract or 1/2 teaspoon of each
3 cups (1 pound) sliced (about 1/2- to 3/4-inch slices) fresh peaches (about 4 medium peaches), peels on
1/3 cup (2 1/2 ounces / 70 grams) brown sugar
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Brown the butter: Melt the butter in a medium saucepan until it bubbles, foams, and turns a deep brown color. Dark flecks are good, but be careful not to burn the butter. It browns and will burn quickly! Pour the butter into an 8-inch or 9-inch square baking dish. (I like Pyrex for this.)
Make the cobbler: In a medium bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir the extract(s) into the measuring cup with the milk. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the milk. Stir together until just mixed. Small lumps are fine; you just don’t want large lumps of unmixed flour. Using a large spoon or ladle (for even distribution), pour this batter on top of the brown butter. Do not stir! Gently and evenly arrange the peach slices on top of the batter. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the cobbler in an even layer.
Bake: Bake cobbler for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the top is brown, the cobbler is bubbling, and the edges look crispy. Some of the batter should have covered the peach slices partially. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Storing: Store any leftovers in the fridge.
Variations: Swap the peaches for raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, nectarines, cherries, or a combination. Frozen fruit, defrosted and drained, can also be used. Along with the fruit, you can add/switch up citrus zest (orange or lemon), add spices (such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger), play around with vanilla and almond extracts, etc.