Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pecan cobbler with sorghum syrup

pecan cobbler

If you stop at a barbecue joint or at a catfish shack in small towns across Texas, more than likely one of your dessert options will be pecan cobbler. Its appeal is wide yet you don’t see it often offered on larger city menus, which for me makes it all the more of a down-home dessert.

Now, you may be asking yourself, “What exactly is pecan cobbler?” I was wondering the same thing myself recently when a reader asked me for my best recipe. See, as much as my family loves its cobblers and our pecans, we’ve never served pecan cobbler. Nope, our pecan dessert of choice is a gooey custardy slice of pecan pie.

A little research was obviously in order. First, let’s talk about cobbler. When I think of cobbler I think of a filling, usually fruit, that has a crust on top. It can be a pie-like crust, a cake-like crust or a biscuit-like crust. But the key to a cobbler is that the crust and the filling intermingle usually with an equal ratio of crust to filling.

The majority of the pecan cobbler recipes I saw, however, had a pecan-pie filling on top of a piecrust. Perhaps I’m missing something, but I failed to see how this was any different from pecan pie, except perhaps that the cobbler was baked in a square baking pan instead of a pie pan.

pecan cobbler

My search continued. I then spoke to a friend who has eaten much pecan cobbler and he assured me that that those recipes appeared to be wrong—the crust should indeed be soft and fluffy, like a biscuit. After a little more digging, at last I discovered a recipe on Texas Monthly’s recipe swap. It was there that I found a woman who did make hers with a biscuit base and so I used that as a starting point for my adaptation.

As I’ve been finishing up my book, I’ve been reading many of my family’s letters. I came across one from my great-grandma where she talks about my grandpa making sorghum syrup with his father and brothers. While pecan cobbler wasn’t a dish my family made, in a nod to my heritage I decided to bake cobbler with sorghum syrup instead of the usual Karo syrup so often found in pecan pie.

Now, if you’ve never had the pleasure, sorghum syrup has a buttery, slightly burnt flavor that reminds me of caramel (or a bowl of Wheat Chex doused in honey, which was my favorite breakfast when I was in the 5th grade). It’s nowhere near as bittersweet and strong as molasses but sorghum syrup can be assertive. Paired with pecans, however, and the sorghum syrup brings out the best of this warm sweet nut—making the two together a natural team.

pecan cobbler

So how about that pecan cobbler? Well, when I tucked into my first (and yes, there was more than one) bowl I was reminded of pecan sticky buns or capirotada. And when topped with a sweet cool dollop of whipped cream, it was the ultimate in cold-weather comfort. Now, pecan cobbler won’t replace my love of pecan pie. But it doesn’t have to, as pecan cobbler is more than capable of standing alone. And, as always, small-town Texas barbecue joints and catfish shacks have done something right.

Pecan cobbler with sorghum syrup

Crust ingredients:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
4 tablespoons (1/2 a stick) butter, chilled
1/2 cup half and half

Filling ingredients:
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons half and half
3/4 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 a stick) butter, melted
1 cup sorghum syrup
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups pecan halves

Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream for serving

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x9-baking dish or a large cast-iron skillet.

Mix together the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Cut the butter into pieces and work it into the flour mixture with your hands or a pastry blender until it resembles pea-sized crumbs. Stir in the half and half, mixing until a bit loose and sticky. Pour dough out on a floured surface and knead for a minute. Roll until 1/8-inch thick and then press into the bottom of the baking dish or skillet.

To make the filling, mix together the eggs, half and half and brown sugar until well blended. Stir in the melted butter, sorghum syrup, cinnamon, sea salt and vanilla extract and stir until smooth and well blended. Place the pecans on top of the crust and then pour the filling over it. Bake uncovered for 40-45 minutes or until the custard is set. (Be sure not to overcook the cobbler, however, as it can become dry.)

Serve warm topped with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. And if you like the combination of sweet and salty, I highly recommend a light sprinkling of Maldon sea salt flakes on top as well.

Yield: 8 servings

Note: You can buy sorghum syrup at many farmers markets and specialty stores. If you choose, however, you can substitute in equal amounts Lyle’s Golden Syrup or Karo.

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Mary at Deep South Dish said...

Wow Lisa, that looks and sounds amazing! You know this southern gal loves her some sorghum - hello YUM!!

DessertForTwo said...

Lisa, I love your site so much because you always teach me something new! Even though I'm a native Texan, I have never heard of pecan cobbler! Now I'm very intrigued...

Trey Moran said...

Very nice! Now I just need to find a Sweet Potato Cobbler recipe that I like.

Tatersmama said...

Oh my goodness! I know what's going to be on the dessert menu this week! We won't be doing Thanksgiving this year, (I'm in Oz, and Aussies just don't 'get it" so I seldom bother) but I do make myself a special dessert on the day!
I do love me some pecans, and just found some the other day - grown in the USA!!!

SeattleDee said...

Oh my, that's one delicious looking cobbler. I am already a cobbler fan, but sorghum syrup is a totally new, unknown ingredient. One more item for the shopping list this week, and a new dessert to add comfort during blustery weather.

Chl said...

I can't wait to buy this cookbook. I hope it's just LOADED with pictures.

Rachel said...

I love that you do all this research for recipes and connect them to your heritage!
I've never heard of a pecan cobbler but it looks ooey-gooey good. I wish I could ask my Texan grandmother what she knew about this dish.

The Runaway Spoon said...

Oh, lordy. How long has it been since I had pecan cobbler? I just finished up a big pan of sweet potato cobbler for my post this weekend, and now you've got me wanting to use up this big ol' bag of pecans to make another cobbler.

Thanks for sharing, and reminding me of wonderful treat.

Karen from Globetrotter Diaries said...

Ah! That looks incredible!! I love pecans in desserts.. thanks for the recipe

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Mary--Love that sorghum as well!

DessertForTwo--That's what I discovered--it's definitely not as well known as it should be.

Trey--Sounds like The Runaway Spoon will be posting a recipe this weekend! (See comment below.)

SeattleDee--You should definitely find some sorghum syrup, it's so delicious!

Chi--There will definitely be photos in the book!

Rachel--Thank you! Half the fun is learning something new, I think!

The Runaway Spoon--I can't wait to see your sweet potato cobbler recipe!

Karen--You're very welcome. Pecans are my favorite dessert nut as well.

Stephanie said...

yummm!!! Beautiful photographs, my mouth is literally watering

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Stepanie--Thank you! And it tastes even better than it looks!

Sarah said...

My Mama being a Southern "Peach" transplanted to Texas, I grew up on sorghum syrup. I'm surprised so many people have never heard of it. I buy Steen's in the yellow can just like Mama did...... Thank you for keeping the old traditions going.

Nan said...

This may just be my contribution to the Thanksgiving feast! Something familiar yet different... yummy.

BlondeTexan said...

Thank you, thank you! I fell in love with pecan cooler from that prideful Texas bbq joint, but have been dissatisfied with the recipes I've found as well. I agree Texas Monthly had the closest, but it was still off. Sorghum! So happy you took the time to crack the code on this one. I'm thinking a lilittle melted homemade vanilla ice cream will be my topper.

Debra said...

This is definitely a "must try". I grew up in the South and was almost an adult before I realized there was an "r" in sorghum (always heard it pronounced "sog'um"). There is nothing more wonderful on a winter Sunday morning than a hot buttered biscuit drizzled with sorghum syrup. I'll bet it's fantastic in this recipe.

Susan S. said...

yum, yum, yum....although I'm a native Texan too, I haven't heard of Pecan Cobbler...but I'm sure glad I have NOW! What's NOT to love. Sugar, Pecans, Sorghum....delicious! I'm going to the store this weekend to by some sorghum and make this heaven sent recipe! Thanks!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Sarah--I agree, more people should know about how wonderful it is!

Nan--Exactly! Happy Thanksgiving!

BlondeTexan--I think that would be a dandy topping!

Debra--Ha! That is so true! On the flip side, to hear my dad say, "Wash," I always assumed there was an R in that word.

Susan--You can't go wrong with that combination, I agree!

Kristen Tucker said...

I just found my Thanksgiving dessert contribution for the family meal. This looks AMAZING! And I love the corn syrup alternative, although I'm sure sorghum's not any healthier sugar-content wise--but who cares; it's Thanksgiving! :) Thank you for exploring, discovering, experimenting, perfecting, and sharing!!!

Jumper said...

Thanks for this! I like pecan pie but it's a bit too sweet for me, really. And I can't believe I have not tracked down sorghum syrup, although I've heard of it all my life. I do love molasses, so if it's better than that, I have to try some.

The squirrels have unfortunately looted my pecan trees again this year. They are available, though!

Debra said...

I learn so much from your blog! I'm a born-and-raised South Texan and I have neither heard of pecan cobbler nor have I ever tried sorghum. However, my mother, who is from West Virginia, was raised on sorghum and butter on her biscuits.

I've actually been looking for sorghum lately because my mother has been talking it up as a good maple syrup alternative, but have not been able to find it. I'll check Canino's here in Houston, since you mentioned farmer's markets. I'm thrilled to have a non-GMO alternative to Karo--maybe now I can enjoy pecan pie again. And that cobbler? You bet I'm going to try that, and soon!

Thanks, as always, for the inspiration.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Kristen--It's probably not any healthier but it sure does taste better!

Jumper--This isn't as sweet as pecan pie but it's still pretty sweet.

Debra--Central Market or Whole Foods might have it, too. Good luck with your sorghum search!

Overstreet said...

It's a good thing I just bought two pounds of pecans from 4-H...

Miss Meat and Potatoes said...

Lisa - what is wrong with me and why have I never come across this before? You have to guide me to better Texas eateries my dear - I am clearly clueless. Love that you shared this - on my way to the store to get some sorghum...

nicole said...

I actually just had Pecan Cobbler at "Red, Hot, and Blue" the other night, for the first time (and I live in Texas!) It was quite good but missing something. I love the idea of the sorghum syrup instead of light corn syrup. I wonder if it's closer to using dark corn syrup? I have actually had sorghum syrup only a couple of times, and that would be at the "Hungry Mother" in Cambridge, Mass as they serve it with their cornbread. I liked the taste, though it was unlike anything that I had tasted before..a honey type consistency with a not too sweet taste...I suppose that I was thinking that it would be more like "Cane syrup" but it is a bit smokier isn't it?
Can't wait to try this recipe and I will absolutely use my cast iron pan to do it!

Katie@Cozydelicious said...

I have a newfound love for sorghum syrup. It's in or on at least half the dishes and drinks at Hungry Mother, my recent favorite local Boston (well Cambridge) restaurant. I'll have to try this recipe!

Marilyn said...

If you are in the Houston area ever, come down to Alvin and try Joe's Barbecue's Buttermilk Pecan Cobbler.
It combines two favorites...buttermilk and pecans.
It isn't on the menu except at Thanksgiving, but you can buy one to take home.

Yours looks delicious too, and I am saving this recipe to try. Love your blog!

Carmen @ Life Lines said...

This looks delicious. I remember having sorghum growing up in the Midwest...but I haven't even thought about it in decades. I've seen molasses in the store, but I don't recall seeing sorghum. Probably because I haven't been looking for it. I love peaches and I love pecan pie and I really like a good cobbler.
Happy Thanksgiving.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Overstreet--It is a good thing!

Miss Meat and Potatoes--Eat in small towns and you'll find pecan cobbler.

Nicole--It does have a complex flavor, which I love.

Katie--I'l have to try Hungry Mother! It's interesting how Southern food is so popular in the North East these days.

Marilyn--Will do!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Carmen--I think that sorghum can be a bit more elusive than molasses but if you look you might find it. Happy Thanksgiving to you!

Katryn@rampantcuisine said...

I LOVE your site because of your creativity with recipes and the fact that I usually learn about a new method or ingredient from each of your postings! I had never heard of Sorghum before reading this post! Can't wait to try this recipe!

Rich said...

Lisa, you've once again taught me about my state's fare from afar. As you likely know, Dallas doesn't have many great barbecue joints, but on my next road trip, I'll be looking out for the pecan cobblers, for sure. I suck at making dessert, though, so I may have to wait to make the actual recipe ...

Lisa said...

I haven't had sorghum for a long time but started looking recently and can't find it? Any suggestions? Probably online store?

LimeCake said...

I absolutely love pecans and this seems like the perfect use for them!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

LimeCake--It's a great way to showcase the pecan!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Katryn--Hope you enjoy it!

Rich--You can also find pecan cobbler north of Dallas at the catfish joints.

Lisa--You can order sorghum from Fain's Honey (no relation).

Tasty Eats At Home said...

I've never had pecan cobbler, but now is just as good a time as any! I have a pound or so of pecans just itching to be used! This sounds incredible.

t.turney said...

I recently moved to Seattle, WA from Texas and have been aching for all things pecan this fall season... so for Thanksgiving I made this dish and jumped out of complete giddiness at how WONDERFUL it is! Thanks for sharing! I loved it! The family I was with loved it! It was a HIT! and it successful satisfied the homesickness for a while.

J Fierce said...

I made this for a small dinner with friends-they said they loved it. I liked the pecan part, but it separated into a distinct sorghum part and a pecan part.

Anything I might have done wrong? Maybe I'm too midwest to love the sorghum.

The crust was definitely different and tasty! I loved that it puffed up.

Holley said...

My grandmother recently told me about pecan cobbler and I am dying to try your recipe!

Cookin' Cowgirl said...

You have been awarded the One Lovely Blog Award! Congratulations! I have featured you here:

Libby said...

Having grown up in Oklahoma and living in West Texas with pecan trees in the yard both places, I was surprised to have never heard of cobbler until we found it served at a Catfish place in East Texas. We love it! It is just a little different than pie and I wondered if it might have a cracker or oats in with the filling, but the puff might do it. The filling is thicker and clumps rather than just being smooth. The Sorghum could very easily be the difference in the taste. I could not decide what ingredient was different, that gave it a slightly smoky, not as sweet but very rich taste. I'm going to try this recipe I hope it is like the one they serve. The others I have found just didn't look right. My Dad would have loved this!

Sue in Grapevine said...

I made this yesterday to celebrate Texas Independence Day. Mine came out a little weird, but tasty. Most of the filling migrated to under the crust, while the pecans stayed on top.
Could it be that I didn't put the crust all the way up the sides of the pan? The recipe said to put in in the bottom of the dish. I did put it together in the order you said: crust, nuts, filling.
My husband is still grateful for a sticky pecan dessert, but I wondered if you had any wisdom to offer. Thanks.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Hi Sue, Yes, putting the crust up the sides a little bit might keep the filling from migrating.

Sue in Grapevine said...

Thanks, Lisa! I wanted to tell you that my 2, living-in-exile (in Nebraska & N. Carolina) Texan sisters-in-law love your cookbook.

Anonymous said...

I made this for the adult patrol at a recent Boy Scout camp. I baked it in a dutch oven, and it came out awesome. I had made it once at home first (in a regular oven) and my filling went under the crust like someone else commented. I also baked it too long so it was too dry. Having learned from that experience my dutch oven version came out perfect at camp. People were impressed that I did something more than a simple "dump" cobbler, and the flavor was amazing! Thanks for sharing the recipe.

-- Dave

Kurt M. V. Rich said...

Last year at a school reunion in Nashville I rediscovered sorgum molasses while having breakfast at the famed Loveless Motel. It was rich and addictive. Back in Houston I set out to find a quality sorgum similar to what I had had at Loveless. I found something very satisfactory at Whole Foods but it was quite expensive for only a small jar. I did find large and inexpensive jars of sorgum at Canino's market but the taste paled when compared to what I had in Nashville and had found at Whole Foods. My understanding is Revival Market buys from Texas sorgum farmers but it has a substantial mark up which I am not interested in paying. During my search last year a Texas sorgum producer told me his products are available in early to mid July. Aside from Canino's, Whole Foods and Revival Market, does anyone know where good rich quality but inexpensive sorgum can be bought in the Houston area, perhaps in the months ahead?

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