Maybe you don't think of yourself as someone who makes dessert. Maybe you think of dessert as a spoon and a tub of Ben & Jerry's, or a bowl of fruit, or maybe you just don't eat dessert at all because it makes more "sense" to just "eat dinner until you're not hungry anymore" and you "don't want diabetes" because you don't "have a latent death wish" because you haven't "wasted your whole life anyway."
Great. Grand. Good for you. Make peach cobbler anyway, ya friggin' jerk.
Look. I know what it's like. I used to think of dessert-making as something for the blue-haired set and, like, French people and Martha Stewart and successful grownups who have their shit together enough to actually make yet another quasi-meal at the end of a long day. I still think all of that, but I also have some peach cobbler, which makes it OK that my kitchen appears as though a giant picked it up and shook it vigorously for five minutes before dropping it roughly back into place.
The point here is that peach cobbler is goddamn great, and that it's June now, which means that peaches are in season and you are going to turn some of them into cobbler or so help me I will write you one hell of an angry letter. It's easy, it's delicious, and it will finally justify the presence of that 9-inch round baking pan you've had wedged into the back of a cupboard since time immemorial. The following preparation originated as a very delicious recipe from the fine folks at Epicurious, then went through many different, progressively tastier iterations in my devastated kitchen. You'll need a bunch of peaches (I mean, obviously, duh) and a lemon, which you do not currently possess, as well as a moderate number of typical baking ingredients, which you also do not possess, but which your nearest blue-haired or well-adjusted relative certainly does.
Let's get started.
The first thing to do is preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
While you're waiting on that, prepare your peaches. A word about that, if you don't mind. And also if you do.
Here's where a recipe in a cookbook would say something like, "Slice 8 peaches into thin wedges," and you would say, "Oh, that seems pretty straightforward," and an hour later you would emerge from your home, sobbing, clutching the mangled, mushy remains of your wasted peaches in your clawed and bitter hands and holding them up reproachfully to the blind, empty heavens. And then, instead of eating delicious dessert, you would change into a black turtleneck and smoke clove cigarettes in the dark and be just the worst, all because nobody bothered to talk to you about working with peaches.
Working with peaches is a pain in the ass—especially if, as all non-synthetic humanoids do, you prefer your peaches slightly softer and juicier, and so buy softer, juicier peaches for your cobbler. Here's why. The first step in producing sliced peaches is to separate the flesh of the peach from the pit; you do this by inserting a paring knife, cutting all the way around the peach in one direction, then grasping the two halves of the peach in your hands and gently rotating them against each other until one of them separates from the pit. Then you remove the pit from the remaining half of the peach by sticking the tip of a knife or your finger under the end of the pit and levering it the hell out of there. If you do this with a ripe, juicy peach, here is what will happen: You will grasp the two halves the peach in your hands and rotate them gently against each other, and the skin of one of them will completely detach from the flesh underneath, which will remain resolutely attached to the pit and far too slimy to handle, and then your peach will be useless for slicing, period, forever and ever, world without end, amen.
You should not infer from this that if you use harder, less fully ripe peaches, preparing them will be a breeze, because it will not be. You will still accidentally pulverize at least one or two of them with your clumsy hammerhands; you will still get sticky peach juice all over your arms; you will still rue the day the first stupid peach budded on the first dumb peach tree. Hang in there. Your eventual peach cobbler, when you taste it, is going to teach you Cantonese.
So eventually, after much wrangling and cursing and cat abuse, you will have transmuted a bunch of peaches into a bunch of peach slices. In a bowl, toss your peach slices with some other stuff: a third of a cup of sugar, the zest of a whole lemon plus most of its juice, and a heaping teaspoon of cornstarch. If you want to add a couple of wee drops of vanilla extract, that's not a bad idea, but it's also not necessary. Use your hands or a big spoon for the tossing, and be gentle: You're not producing sugary peach baby food, here. Once this stuff's all tossed together and there are no pockets of dry sugar or clumps of dry cornstarch anywhere, dump this mixture into an 8- or 9-inch round baking pan and stick it in the oven for 12 minutes.
Now, while the peaches warm and soften in your oven and the lemony sugary liquid congeals into a rich, sweet goo and your head turns into a drool firehose, take a break (if you should happen to have a tube of pre-made biscuit dough laying around and are lazy) or alternatively make some (both literally and figuratively) sweet biscuit dough. Decide for yourself how you'd like to go, here; either option is going to taste good, because cooked biscuit dough tastes good. If you'd like a reason for making your own, the directions following this will produce a sweeter biscuit-y topping for your cobbler than what you'll get from the cardboard tube. Also, it's really incredibly easy, and can be completed in the 12 minutes your peaches are cooking in the oven. Also, you'll feel more like you're giving the readers of your online food column a fair return for their zero dollars.
If you'd like a reason for using dough from a tube, doing so will give you 12 precious minutes of unencumbered nosepicking time.
So, let's pretend you're making your own dough. Here's how to do that. First, in a tiny little saucepot, bring a cup of water to a boil. While that's happening, in a bowl, stir together a cup of flour, half a cup of sugar, a heaping teaspoon of baking powder, and two big, generous pinches of salt. The salt is important, here: Your peach mixture is going to be sweet and tart; the ice cream you're eventually going to scoop on top of this thing is going to be very sweet; if salted properly, the biscuit-y crust will, when you taste all the elements in a single bite, balance all that sweetness and literally—literally!—cause your head to emit visible light. So, really, two generous pinches of salt. Don't be afraid.
Now, get a stick of cold butter out of your refrigerator and hack it into small pieces. How many? How big? Who cares! Just, cut a stick of cold butter into small pieces and, with your fingers, knead and pinch and crush these small butter pieces into your dry flour mix until your dry flour mix looks like it has a bunch of crushed little wads of butter in it, because that's what it has in it, and also your wedding ring, and you should probably get that out of there.
Is that little pot of water boiling? Good. Gently turning and stirring the flour mix with a fork in one hand all the while, drizzle some of that boiling water into the mix until it just, just hangs together as a dough, rather than a bowl of flour and sugar that got rained on in some places. (Note: You'll probably wind up using well less than half the water you boiled.) The butter will melt and disappear into the mix as you do this. There. You're done making biscuit dough. If you wanted to make some biscuits with your biscuit dough, this would be a good biscuit dough for making some biscuits.
And hey whoa wouldja lookit that, the timer is beeping and your peaches are done in the oven. Get them out of there; they're soft and good-smelling and also scalding hot so please do not dunk your face into them even though that is all you want out of life at this precise moment. Scoop big, glorious spoonfuls of your dough onto the peaches (or, if you used pre-made dough, just cover the peaches with a bunch of dough-discs, you lazy, lazy person), taking precisely no care to ensure even coverage of the entire baking pan. Once all the dough's on there, stick the pan back in the oven for a half-hour. You may now enjoy the unencumbered nosepicking time previously stolen away from you by your own irrational urge to make your own goddamn biscuit dough.
If your oven has a window and a working oven light, you'll know your peach cobbler is nearing completion when the biscuit dough has spread across the entire surface of the pan's contents and begun turning golden-brown. Alternatively, you'll know it's nearly done when the state of Georgia lifts itself off the continental bedrock, folds itself into an anthropoid shape, and appears outside of your window playing "In Your Eyes" on a boombox. In any case, eventually the timer will go off; yank the cobbler out of the oven, scoop portions of it into bowls, and serve it with vanilla ice cream.
So, look. You've probably eaten lots of things in your life. Stands to reason, right? I mean, unless you're the readingest infant who ever lived, then either you have eaten thousands upon thousands of things in your life or you're the readingest ghost who ever unlived. Many of the things you have eaten were probably very tasty. Delicious, even. This goddamn peach cobbler with vanilla fucking ice cream—hot and sweet and tart, then crumbly and crispy and salty, then cool and creamy and sweet, all the while rich and gooey and somehow just a little bit indecent ... maybe it's not the single tastiest thing you have ever eaten. But, then, why are you rubbing handfuls of it on your chest? Why are you crouched over the empty baking pan, sobbing uncontrollably? Are you always like this?
Weirdo. Make another one. Your guests would like some, too.
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Albert Burneko is an eating enthusiast and father of two. His work can be found destroying everything of value in his crumbling home. Peevishly correct his foolishness at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find lots more Foodspin at foodspin.deadspin.com.
Image by Devin Rochford.