September is my favorite month in food, weather and outlook. The number of days above 90 degrees finally peters off. I live for cardigan weather. I love that it goes in with a beach weekend and goes out with cinnamon sticks and warm cider. The markets are still teeming with peaches and plum, zucchini and eggplant, but you can also go apple picking and find some fancy new squash to cook. But my cooking always feels like it’s on one team or another — we’re either making caprese or we’re baking ziti, little for the in-between days. Where are the intersections of summer and winter squash? Where’s the peach and grape pie? Let’s fix this.
If you can read about something called a magic peach cobbler that you make more or less entirely in the pan you bake it and not have it in the oven, say, 15 minutes later, you are made of stronger stuff than me. It comes by way of the grandmother of Ian Knauer and if you go way back on this site, you’ll find he’s also the person behind those exquisite Brown Butter Brown Sugar Shorties, from his days at Gourmet, These days, he’s got a place called The Farm Cooking School in Stockton, New Jersey and spoke recently about his grandmother who, with seven kids, had no time to fuss with anything but straightforward recipes like this.
I have scoured hundreds of recipes and concluded that nobody agrees on what a cobbler is aside from being cousins of grunts, pandowdys, slumps, dough-boys and, no, I will never get tired of referencing baked goods with funny names. Most recipes agree that there’s fruit at the bottom and topped with either a cake batter or dollops of biscuit or dumpling dough, and sure enough, we have examples of each in the archives one with cornmeal drop biscuits and another with a crispy cake lid. But this renegade grandmother — sounds like a good life goal, tbh — doesn’t even follow those rules. There’s butter, an eggless pancake-like batter over it and then the fruit goes on top and in the oven gets enveloped like a buckle–style cake, creating deep pockets of collapsed fruit and crisp edges. You scoop it, still warm, from the dish so that the vanilla ice cream on top quickly succumbs unless you finish it first. I believe you have it in you.
This cobbler, adapted from Ian Knauer, was originally intended for 3 medium peaches, but I looked at my market haul and saw plums and apples — such a specific, delicious September intersection — and ran with it. I also added cinnamon to the topping because I think the aroma wafting through your apartment should stop people in their tracks when they come home. “WHOA. What’s that?!”I’d say this runs a tiny bit sweet (it’s supposed to) but if you think this might bother you, you could reduce the sugar in the filling by 3 tablespoons. Or, instead of ice cream, you could offset the sweetness with a spoonful of crème fraîche , mascarpone or unsweetened whipped cream on top.
- 1/2 cup (115 grams or 4 ounces) unsalted butter
- 1 cup (130 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 cup (200 grams) sugar, divided
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
- 3/4 cup (175 ml) whole milk
- 2 medium apples, peeled
- 3 small (I used Italian prune plums) or 2 medium plums, no need to peel
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Heat your oven to 350°F. Place butter in a 2 to 3-quart (3 was recommended, but I had a lot of extra space) baking dish or a 7×11-inch cake pan. Place pan in oven for 5 to 7 minutes, until butter has melted. Tilt the dish to ensure it is evenly coated with butter.Whisk together the flour, 3/4 cup sugar, baking powder and salt in a small bowl and stir in milk. Mix until smooth. Pour batter over the butter but do not stir, even if it looks like a puddle-y buttery mess.
Cut apples into 8 wedges, small plums into 4 wedges and medium ones into 4 to 6. Space fruit over batter. Sprinkle with cinnamon and then remaining sugar.
Bake the cobbler until it is set and golden on top, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool slightly on a rack. Serve the cobbler warm or at room temperature.