Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Strawberry cobbler

strawberry cobbler

According to a spring 1957 issue of the Claude News, the Business Women’s Club of this Texas panhandle town got together for a luncheon meeting. On the menu were roast beef, chicken and dumplings, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, vegetable salad, rolls, corn muffins, and (if you had any room after such a feast) strawberry cobbler for dessert.

When I go through Texas newspapers from the past, I’m always struck by how people’s local gatherings, whether for business or for pleasure, were considered newsworthy. If you dig around the archives, you’ll find stories about forty-two parties, ice cream socials, civic group meetings, and a host of other reasons for people to find time to spend with each other and enjoy some good food.

While the articles always conjure up charming images of people enjoying each other’s company, my favorite thing is reading about what our Texas ancestors shared at the table, such as the strawberry cobbler served in Claude all those years ago. While these days cobbler may not be the most common way to serve this beloved spring fruit, it’s definitely a dessert that deserves more consideration.

strawberry cobbler

The past few weeks I’ve been hearing about my friends in Texas going on strawberry-picking excursions and while we have seen some decent days here in New York (though as I write this it is once again freezing outside), it will probably be a month before we see fresh, local strawberries at the market. Early spring is like this, and a trip to the farmers market can be confusing as the trees are in bloom but on offer are the same lumpy potatoes and heads of cabbage that have been on display for the past few months.

While I like to eat seasonal local foods, it’s hard to stay true this time of year. Even the most committed often let their convictions slip. You’ll see people at my grocery store give a resigned shrug before grabbing bunches of asparagus or bags of fava beans flown in from warmer places. As for me, my non-local guilty pleasure is strawberries. At this point, I can’t wait any longer to enjoy their juicy, tart essence.

Of course, there is nothing finer than a strawberry picked fresh from the vine; the ones trucked in from far away can’t compare. Sure, the non-local ones have a strawberry’s basic flavor but they’re still a bit dry and cottony in the mouth, not to mention they often have more white flesh than red. If I were a more patient person I would wait.

However, the other day one of my favorite Houston food shops, Revival Market, announced they were serving strawberry cobbler. This seemed serendipitous, as I’d just been reading about strawberry cobbler in that old Texas newspaper. Clearly, it was time to make a batch myself.

There are several different crusts you can use for a cobbler. For this one I went with a biscuit crust, as the soft crust does an excellent job of soaking up the berries’ juices. And since cooking the strawberries coaxes out more flavor, a warm cobbler is a terrific dessert when you have less-than-perfect berries and chilly spring days. While I confess to making this because my berries weren’t very ripe or juicy, I believe it would be even better with the freshest berries in the crop. And while the cobbler is good on its own, it’s even better when served topped with large scoops of vanilla ice cream, which provides a creamy cool balance to the tender crust and soft berries.

strawberry cobbler

Whether you find yourself hosting a business club luncheon, a Sunday dinner, or are just looking for a quick and easy dessert during the week, I think you’ll find strawberry cobbler a welcome addition to the table. While it might not be as prevalent today in Texas as it was in the past, it’s certainly worthy of a comeback. Think of it as strawberry shortcake in a more cozy and warm form. And, you have to admit, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Strawberry cobbler

For the filling:
4 cups (2 pounds) strawberries, hulled and halved
3/4 cup sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the topping:
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup light cream
Vanilla ice cream, for serving

In a large bowl, toss the strawberries with the sugar and let them rest for 30 minutes or until juicy. Drain off the excess juice, reserving for another use. (If you prefer a soupier cobbler, skip this step.) Toss the strawberries with the flour, cinnamon, and vanilla, and place in a large cast-iron skillet or a 9-inch square baking dish.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

To make the topping, in a small pot, melt the butter over low heat. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Pour the melted butter and the cream into the dry ingredients, and then stir until sticky, wet dough forms.

Using a spoon, drop spoonfuls of the dough evenly over the strawberries, though it’s okay if some of the strawberries are exposed. Bake, uncovered, for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the crust is light brown and the filling is bubbling. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm topped with vanilla ice cream.

Yield: 8 servings

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27 comments:

Nancy said...

I think sometimes when you are a transplanted person you keep the food seasons of your old home in the back of your mind. I was born in California and while I certainly have been in Texas far longer (plus parts of my mom's side of the family lived here since the 1850's) I still have vague hankerings for the seasonal California food. Now my food loves are a mixture (luckily some of them overlap) but I think it's good. :)

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Nancy--That's an interesting observation! I never thought of it that way but I think you're right. And mine definitely overlap a bit.

Teresa said...

I am from Claude, Texas. Where in the world did you find a 1957 issue of the Claude News? It certainly isn't a very big newspaper, Claude has never had more than 1000 people living there. I made cobbler just last night, but it was blackberry and made like my grandma used to make it, with layers of pie crust.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Teresa--What a small world--I found the paper online. And my grandma also makes her cobblers with pie crust and they're just as delicious!

Rocky Mountain Woman said...

that looks so good. we won't have local strawberries here for a while, but this might tempt me to buy a box from the grocery...

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Rocky Mountain Woman--The time in the oven definitely improves the flavor of non-local strawberries.

Courtney said...

I tend to prefer frozen berries in my blackberry cobbler recipe, especially if the fresh berries available are sub par. I wonder how frozen strawberries would fare in this one?

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Courtney--I tested it with frozen berries and they also work. I first thawed them and then proceeded with the recipe.

shoreacres said...

I live about 20 miles from Froberg Farms in Alvin, and it's the height of berry season. I still have some of the flat I got on Saturday, and since I've always wondered how strawberry cobbler would be - well, I'm about to find out! What wonderful serendipity.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Shoreacres--That is serendipitous indeed! Enjoy!

Cate said...

Now I know what I'm serving for dessert on Easter. Thanks, Lisa Fain! (And sorry I missed your book signing the other week. I was hoping to say hi in the flesh.)

Harold Sharp said...

I would venture a wager that 99% of your readers do not know what a "forty-two party" is. If it is what i think you are talking about, it would involve a game of domino's named "Forty-Two". My parents used to play the game, I and the other kids watched, but never learned how to play. I know how to play all kinds of domino games and a few card games, but Forty-Two was for the grown-ups. If you find time, someday, if you know the rules, please do put that in your blog. i would love to learn how to play and loved the reference to it here. Thanks again.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Cate--You're welcome! And I'm having another NYC signing in September so hopefully I can see you then. It would be great to say hi!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Harold--My grandparents used to play Forty Two with a group of friends (and would serve King Ranch Chicken at their gatherings), but I have to admit I also don't know how to play. You've given me a challenge!

Anonymous said...

For the sons and daughters of 42 players, who stood and listened and watched, but never got to sit at the table: "Winning 42, Strategy & Love of the National Game of Texas" (4th Edition: by Dennis Roberson

Pixie O'Kneel said...

Are light cream and half and half the same thing?

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Anon--Thanks for the recommendation!

Pixie--No, light cream is labelled as such. But if your store doesn't differentiate between light and heavy cream, you can use regular cream. Half and half would also work.

Allen said...

For the sons and daughters of 42 players. Apps on iPhone and websites with free play are out there too. Dennis Roberson's book is great.

Kathie E. said...

This will be fabulous, can't wait to try it. Posts above about cobbler with layers of pie crust have me thinking of a blackberry cobbler I had once in Fredericksburg.

Anonymous said...

Revival Market has strawberry, basil, ricotta Kolache on Saturday morning. I'll be walking over to join the line.

Anonymous said...

I will teach you how to play 42 when you come to Texas. Thanks for the memory and Aunt Margaret's reference on the "also like" line.

Anonymous said...

Ah, now some of you are talking about the "right" kind of cobbler crust....with layers of pie crust! It's almost impossible to find a recipe, but my grandmother always made peach cobbler with pie crust layers and that's all I think is the way to go. By the way, Lisa, we recently were in Texas and drove down the road to your grandmother's home. It's no longer the peaceful wandering way it was. Many acres have been cleared for a big housing development and my cousins hear the noise of heavy machinery many hours of the day and night. Sad to see. Marken

Marina said...

This is the easiest, most juicy & delicious cobbler I've ever made. Rave reviews from everyone lucky enough to have a heaping serving with ice cream melting all over it!

Sharon Hill said...

I visited my son and his wife in Wisconsin, and he requested this for Easter Sunday lunch. We actually used frozen strawberries, and it was still wonderful.

Shelley said...

Those gatherings are also an important part of women's history. Before we were allowed in the boardrooms, we were trying to exercise power in our communities.

janna said...

I got back from San Antonio just this afternoon. A couple days ago while there, I sat in a food truck park and ate the most perfect strawberries, all on their own. But maybe turning them into cobbler will make the strawberries we have here in Iowa right now seem just as good.....

katestevenson said...

To be made this weekend. I've got a big potluck picnic on Saturday, maybe we'll make it into the local paper ;)
And agreed, I love that regular community socials used to be newsworthy. I've been researching my dad's side of our family on and off for years, and I've found great information thanks to those old newspaper articles. Sometimes going into excruciating detail about the food, the music... Genealogists in 100 years are going to have such an easier time, though, (assuming the internet still exists) they can just search by keyword in Facebook and email archives instead of growing cobwebs on their feet in front of microfilm machines at the library.

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