Blackberries are in, and so is the season for baking all sorts of fruit desserts, like cobbler, once again. Last week was my dad's birthday, and he requested a blackberry cobbler. However, this is a slightly different cobbler from the week before, because it has a crust topping, rather than a doughy biscuit-like topping. The day before his birthday he came home from work with a bucketful of freshly picked blackberries, so how could I refuse? The only problem with the berries was the mold that grew amongst them overnight, even sitting in the fridge. I had to pick out the moldy ones while measuring enough berries out for the recipe, which was not fun and took too long. There were just enough berries left to make it.
To make the cobbler a little more interesting, I replaced the plain sugar with vanilla sugar, although it seems the vanilla essence may have gotten a little lost amidst all of those blackberries. A vanilla bean would have made the flavor more pronounced, but that wasn't quite what I was going for with this cobbler. The blackberries needed to take center stage. Even if muted, the vanilla sugar was a nice touch. Since I've had a bit of a problem making crusts before, I added an egg yolk to the mix, at the recommendation of my mom, since she always does with her pie crusts. Adding a yolk makes for a tender and flaky crust, which you should always, always want, whether making something savory or sweet. Some recipes suggest using vinegar to keep the dough flaky once baked, but I've had the best success with an egg yolk. Otherwise, my crusts usually turn out rock hard and practically inedible.
The recipe says to bake the cobbler in a two quart baking dish, but a lot of the blackberry syrup bubbled up out of the sides while baking, so I'm thinking a three quart baking dish would work much better. I actually considered using one at first, but the dish looked so deep, I was afraid my cobbler would look puny inside it. And, the two quart dish, a deep cobalt glass dish, looked a lot prettier. Oh well. It still tasted fabulous, especially with a scoop or two of vanilla bean ice cream. My dad seemed to like it quite a bit, especially since he ate some of the leftovers the next morning for breakfast before leaving for a fishing trip. Of course, I did the same, seeing that only a little bit was left, figuring that I'd better get another bite before it disappeared completely.
After making and tasting this, I'm not sure which I like better, a crust topping or a soft biscuit topping. I'm almost sold on the crust version, because it lends a crispy, flaky contrast to the syrupy sweet blackberry mixture, like a pie, but with less crust.
Adapted from foodandwine.com
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup plus ½ tsp vanilla sugar, divided
½ tsp salt
8 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-in. pieces
1 egg yolk
¼ cup ice water
3 pints blackberries
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
⅓ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
In a food processor, pulse the flour with the ½ teaspoon of sugar and the salt until combined. Add half of the butter and pulse 5 or 6 times, until the mixture resembles small peas, then add the remaining butter and pulse 5 or 6 times more. Add the egg yolk and pulse 5 or 6 times, until mostly mixed in. Add the ice water and pulse 5 or 6 times, just until the pastry is evenly moistened.
Transfer the pastry to a lightly floured surface and knead just until it comes together. Flatten the pastry into a 6-inch disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes. Rolling out cold pastry dough helps keep it flaky, along with the addition of an egg yolk.
Preheat the oven to 375° F. Very lightly butter a 2-quart (or 3-quart) glass or ceramic baking dish.
In a large bowl, toss the blackberries with the remaining 1 cup of sugar, the lemon juice, nutmeg and ⅓ cup of flour. Let stand at room temperature, stirring gently once or twice, until slightly juicy, about 15 minutes. Fold in the melted butter. Transfer the fruit to the prepared baking dish.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the pastry out to a ¼-inch thickness that is slightly larger than the baking dish. Drape the pastry over the berries. Trim the overhang to ½-inch and fold it under itself, pressing the pastry onto the rim of the dish. Crimp the edge decoratively and make 3 slashes in the center of the pastry.
Bake the cobbler for 1 hour, or until the filling is bubbling and the pastry is golden. Cover the edges with foil if the crust browns too quickly. Let cool for 20 minutes before serving.