It was Tara (Austen Weaver) who introduced me to the idea of pie for breakfast.  She's a smart lady, that one.

cranberry blueberry breakfast cobbler

cranberry blueberry breakfast cobbler

She serves hers at room temperature, with milk, the day after things like Thanksgiving dinner. It makes perfect sense, as fruit and pastry and dairy are hardly unheard of a.m. foods, and I like the carryover of continuing celebrations.

And, as it happens with the best conversations you have with friends, that idea of hers got me thinking. I wondered about those times when you don't happen to be so lucky as to have a pie in the fridge, but wanted something similar.  Since pastry-making doesn't easily lend itself to spontaneity, cobbler was my proposed answer — one that could be thrown together the morning of, even, with some whole grains in the mix, and less butter and sugar than the usual. 

But breakfast cobbler required some thought. My instinct when it comes to cobblers it to lean towards the biscuit ones, the kind that has a velvety stew of fruit beneath a crisply crusted and golden top. However, that breed of cobbler requires cutting butter into flour, often enriching that with cream, and then either rolling out the resulting dough or dolloping it over the pan of fruit. And biscuits mean not only some work, but also a considerable cooking time, neither of which suited my breakfast aim. 

So we came to batter-style cobblers, a subject upon which I am no expert. Thank goodness I know some folks with opinions on the matter.

Batter cobblers are entirely different from the biscuit variety. Some have the batter on top, in a cakey, even layer. I've seen some  that are close to clafoutis, which soufflé up when baked, and are almost custardy at their middles. I chose to concentrate on recipes with a quick bread-like mixture poured into a skillet of melted butter, as in the procedure for Dutch babies or Yorkshire pudding, with then the fruit on top. 

berried breakfast cobbler

berried breakfast cobbler

I was stuck on the hope to keep baking time short, and the prep time even shorter. I nixed the consideration of any fruit that required cutting, pitting or hulling, or any that were so dense or rich with juice as to require long cooking. I had hoarded cranberries through December, so pillaged my frozen stash. In the freezer was also the last of the local blueberries I'd saved from last summer, tiny and wild ones still dusky indigo with bloom, so out they came too.

I cobbled together a simple batter, one that can (and has in our household) be whisked together by a child with minimal supervision or an adult who hasn't yet shaken off the ragged ends of sleep. It uses the muffin method of wet ingredients into dry, stirred only until everything is incorporated, but without any worry for lumps, and then it is scraped into a preheated skillet. Handfuls of fruit are spread on top, then a shimmering, scattering of demerara sugar, before all goes to the oven.

30 minutes later without any attention, and granting time enough for a shower and getting the table set and kettle on, the cobbler is done.

To borrow Tara's line, if pie and milk is like cereal (only better), a breakfasty batter-style cobbler with yogurt is like a pancake and muffins and cream of wheat mashed together into something unquestionably wonderful ( and not the mess that that sort of sounds to be).

By using a blend of white and whole wheat flours, the cobbler ends up with the best qualities of both. It is toothsome at the edge where it meets the pan, but plush where it cradles the fruit. The tart berries seep and relax into the batter, and the candied ginger and orange zest grant personality and fragrance to their twang. It is generous, gratifyingly warming eating, especially when spooned into bowls with dollops of yogurt or a pour of cream.

The cobbler is moderately healthy, managing somehow to giving the impression of being decidedly less so. It is sweet, but not too sweet, a firm possibility for breakfast, but also in the afternoon with a cup of tea, broken into pieces and eaten with your fingers, as a skinny snacking cake. If hard pressed, come dinnertime, I'd bet it could even be dessert.

As you may have noticed, there's been some renovations here. Fingers crossed, it's all gone smoothly and fiddly things like subscriptions should be maintained. That said, please excuse any wonky bits as the dust settles. Feel free to poke around and please let me know what you think.

berrybreakfastcobbler3.jpg

BERRIED BREAKFAST BATTER-STYLE COBBLER

In working up this recipe, I spent a lot of time working down the quantities of butter and sugar. The butter I think is at a good place; there's enough to get the edge of the cobbler nice and crisp, with a hint of richness even, but without superfluous weight. The sugar, which is already reduced in comparison to a dessert cobbler, is what I'm still unsettled upon. The next go round I might try to lose those two pesky tablespoons and cut the sugar to 1/2 cup — maybe split between cane and golden brown, or maybe using golden brown entirely, I've not decided yet.

Enough for 6-8.

For the cobbler

  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces, 1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup natural cane sugar, plus two tablespoons
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • zest scraped from 1/2 an orange or a whole clementine
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 cups frozen cranberries, thawed a little
  • scant 3/4 cup frozen blueberries, partially thawed if large
  • 1 tablespoon demerara, or other coarse sugar

To serve

  • Yogurt, sweetened or unsweetened, or milk or cream. I like Greek yogurt thinned with the juice of the clementine left from zesting.
  • A few tablespoons hemp hearts, sliced almonds, pepitas, toasted, or other crunchy add-ons for sprinkling. Granola, even.

Preheat an oven to 350°F (175°C). Place the butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet, then set in the oven to melt. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, crystallized ginger, and zest. In a small bowl or glass measuring cup, beat together the milk and the egg. Whisk the milk mixture into the flour mixture until just combined. 

When the butter in the pan has melted, carefully remove pan from oven. Pour batter into the pan and, without stirring it into the butter, coax it into the edges of the skillet with the back of a spoon. (For the record, the batter will look a stingy amount; have faith that it will be enough, as it does indeed swell and spread as it bakes.)  Scatter the cranberries over the batter, followed by the blueberries and the demerara. Bake until the batter browns, and the centre of the cobbler springs back when gently prodded, around 25-30 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before serving with whatever toppings suit your taste.

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in the spoon

What would you consider the value of a bowl of frozen yogurt?

To be clear, I don't mean its sentimental value, nothing as romantic as all of that, I'm talking about nitty-gritty, slap-a-pricetag-on-that-puppy value.

Hold on, let me give you the details before you all start yelling out answers all The Price is Right-style on me.

This is not just any frozen confection. It is removed from the insipidly-sweet ranks of those frozen yogurts parading as ice cream. It has the unmistakable twang of yogurt, softened only slightly by sweetness. This is one that puts Greek yogurt front and centre; yogurt so thick that when spooned it falls lazily back upon itself in luscious folds. This is one where the yogurt plays equal partner to handful upon handful of mixed berries that have been squished and squashed into a violet-hued pulp.

It's darn good stuff.

Still can't decide? I'll be more specific. Would you think that the aforementioned frozen yogurt was worth, hmm ... I don't know ... say, a bouquet of peonies?

I'm totally serious. You can keep your dollars and cents, thank you very much, I will happily hand over pints in exchange for armfuls of blooms.

Why, you ask? The peony is one of my two absolute favourite flowers. They are, without a doubt, the most feminine of beauties; debutante-dreamy with their frilled crinoline petals. And I am surrounded by them, everywhere but in our yard. While our neighborhood is filled plentiful bushes, heavy with showy blossoms, ours is a peony-free zone. Our yard is too shady for their liking.

In lieu of turning to a life of floral theft, I am seriously considering a trade with our neighbors. Or, better yet, a frozen yogurt stand at the end of our driveway. One bloom for one scoop of equally girly-girl pink yogurt sounds fair, doesn't it?

Epilogue:

My father has glorious peonies growing at home; if our neighborhood's contingent are debs, his are divas. His bushes boast bountiful blooms, bodacious in their size. He kindly gifted me with some recently, on Father's Day no less. (If you look carefully in the photograph above, you'll catch a glimpse of his flowers in the reflection on the spoons.)

The next day, I made Dad a batch of mango frozen yogurt.

So all's well that ends well, dear reader. The only thing wanting is that I do wish I offer you some frozen yogurt. We could sit around my kitchen table, leaning into our bowls, and have a good chat. I could excitedly share with you the news that I am a contributor to the summer issue of UPPERCASE magazine.

I came to know about UPPERCASE gallery through the art of Jennifer Judd-McGee. When she unveiled the piece she had completed for an upcoming show, I was curious to learn more about the (Canadian!) gallery hosting the exhibit. And when I did, I became an immediate fan of Janine Vangool and her many creative endeavours. The magazine is her latest, and I am happy to be included in its pages.

The issue will out on July 2nd. Here's a sneak preview of what I made, and a peek between the covers. In other news, I have also been working on a revised About section, with a little more about me and answers to often asked questions. See the link at the left.

MIXED BERRY FROZEN YOGURT

Greek yogurt is rich to say the least, and heavy on the tongue. It provides a rounded base to all the high-note acidity of the fruit juices.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups fresh mixed berries, I used strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar, see note
  • 1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 cups Greek yogurt, or well-drained whole milk yogurt

METHOD

Take your lovely berries and, in a large bowl with 1/3 cup of the sugar, crush the life out of them with a potato masher or the back of a spoon. Add the lemon juice, stir briefly, and cover. Allow the berries to macerate at room temperature for about an hour.

Using a coarse sieve set over another large bowl, press the berries through the mesh with the back of a spoon. Underneath the juices should be thick and slightly pulpy, but all seeds and larger fibers should remain above. Once all the berries have been sieved, you should have a generous 1 cup of purée.

Stir in the yogurt. Sweeten, a little at a time, with the remaining sugar. As so much will depend on the sweetness of your berries, add the sugar judiciously, tasting often. You want to take the mixture to where it tastes balanced to your palate, then sweeten it a little bit further. Sweetness is dulled by freezing, so this extra oomph will compensate.

When satisfied with the level of sweetness and all the sugar has dissolved, cover and chill the mix for two hours. Freeze according to your ice cream maker's manufacturer's instructions.

Makes about 1 quart. Soften at room temperature for a few minutes before scooping.

Notes:

• I have used as little as a 1/2 cup of sugar, and as much as almost a full cup for this recipe.

• As Elise points out, frozen yogurt will turn icy once frozen for more than 6-8 hours. So really, the universe is telling you to eat this yogurt the day its made. If you really must store it for longer than that, follow her advice and "add a tablespoon of vodka or kirsch to the mixture right before churning."

It is beautiful out.

No wait, let me say it again for those who feel differently about heat than I do. It is hot. It is humid, with clear sunshine interspersed with rather-impressive thunderstorms and torrential rain.

Now I'll admit, I am a lucky one; I am one of those sorts that lives for heat and revels in temperatures others may consider rather sweltering. Dry heat or sticky with humidity, I will always choose a day that is blistering over a day that is remotely cold.

I even take particular joy the dramatic tendencies of our climate. There is something wholly romantic about a midday thunderstorm. The day suddenly turns to dusk, the air heavy and thick with moisture; and afterwards, who cannot enjoy the green, green, green smell of wet grass and soaking leaves, and the reward of a cool breeze. Even as I write this, rain is pouring through trees alight with sunshine and I can hear not-so-distant peals of thunder.

But, even though I consider the weather to be lovely and sultry, I can see my loved ones virtually wilting as the days go on. And so I feel compelled to aid as only I know how - with food.

While I will admit my days have been busier as of late, what with the arrival of our newborn son and the constant entertainment that is his big brother, I have still managed to get back in the kitchen. Like the lovely familiarity of a tune you've hummed for a lifetime, getting back to cooking and baking has brought me the satisfaction of beloved habits. In this mood I have been looking over my cookbook collection, rediscovering old favourites that somehow seem new again.

With that in mind, I have brought together a few of my best-loved recipes I hope will keep you cool for the summer nights ahead.

This past weekend, I was going to do a lot of things. I was going to deal with that pile of laundry. I was going to read a bit more of that book on my nightstand. I was going to wax rhapsodic, again, about the gorgeousness of the season. I was even going to make tremblingly pretty Gewurztraminer gelées, studded with plump blackberries.

You will note, I was going to do those things. In fact, I did not end up checking any of those tasks off my list. The weekend turned out to be a fabulous one, and I was taken with other diversions. Come Monday my mood was so bright that I felt the need to celebrate the weekend's end; it was that good.

The aforementioned berries were glorious specimens of Loch Ness blackerries from the kind folks at Schouwenaar Orchard and Vineyard. Large and glossy black, the pine cone shaped bundles were simply addicting. Starting out with a full flat of these babies, we'd munched our way through the majority by Sunday evening.

Too perfect to mar with cooking, too pretty to hide under mounds of cream, the crowning glory of a fruit tart seemed destiny for the last of the tempting fruits. Wanting something as special as the weekend had been, I decided upon Martha Stewart's pistachio pastry crust for my base. More of a shortbread than a traditional pie crust, butter is even more enriched by the addition of ground nuts. The pistachios in turn tint the pasty a delicate chartreuse. My buoyant mood was not one that allowed for the patient stirring required for a pastry cream, so I turned to a simple alternative; thick mascarpone whipped to luxurious lightness, barely sweetened and scented with vanilla.

The perfect backdrop to the blackberries, the perfect end to the perfect weekend. No agenda needed.

Blackberry tart with pistachio crust

Ingredients
Pistachio crust
1/4 cup heavy (35%, whipping) cream
All purpose flour, for dusting
3 ounces (85 grams) white chocolate
2 tablespoons icing (confectioner's) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
9 ounces (275 grams) mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
2 pints blackberries
1 tablespoon black currant jelly or blackberry jam
1 tablespoon unsalted, hulled pistachios

Prepare pistachio pastry dough as per recipe. On a lightly-floured work surface, roll out chilled dough to a 1/4" thick, 12" round. Lightly press dough into a 9" fluted, removable bottom tart pan, then chill for 10 minutes. Using a paring knife, trim excess dough. Scraps and leftover dough can be rerolled once and then baked as shortbread cookies.

Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Prick (dock) pastry all over to prevent puffing during baking. Line with parchment paper, leaving an overhang over all edges. Weigh down with pie weights, uncooked rice or dried beans, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove parchment and bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes, or until the shell is lightly browned all over.

Cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then remove tart ring to cool completely.

Melt chocolate using a double boiler or microwave, then set aside to cool slightly. Once cool, use a pastry brush to thinly coat the inside of the cooled shell with chocolate. Chill for 10 minutes or until set.

Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the heavy cream, vanilla and sugar until soft peaks form. Remove from mixer and set aside. Switching to the paddle attachment, cream the mascarpone until light and fluffy. On low speed, gently stir in half the whipped cream until just combined. Using a spatula, gently fold in the remaining cream.

Fill the prepared shell with the mascarpone mixture. Chill the tart for 20 minutes to firm up the filling or prepare to this point up to 3 hours ahead of time.

Melt the jam, with a scant 1/2 teaspoon water, using low heat in the microwave. Remove from oven and stir. Set aside to cook slightly. Top the filled tart with blackberries, then lightly brush lightly with glaze. Scatter with pistachios and serve immediately.

Makes one 9" tart.

Notes:

• This filling is not particularly sweet; you may want to adjust the sugar to best suit your tastes.
• Neufchâtel, blended ricotta or cream cheese can be substituted for the mascarpone. In these cases, amount of heavy cream may need to be adjusted accordingly.
• The pistachio crust I used is not available online, but I would think that Martha Stewart's Pistachio Graham-Cracker Crust would be a fine substitution, as would a classic pâte sucrée.
• It hardly needs saying, but this pastry and filling can be used as a basis for almost any fruit tart.

Epilogue: It has just come to my attention that the lovely Béa
had similar notions this week; two tastes of the same theme!