I didn’t really grow up with dessert. Not that my family never made sweets; the heirloom box of Grandma’s recipes is practically nothing but sweets, written in an endearing yet frustrating shorthand style with helpful instructions like “Mix. Bake.” But we certainly didn’t have dessert every night, and when cakes and cookies and butterscotch haystacks were around, we ate them when we wanted – not necessarily after dinner. In fact, chocolate cake for breakfast was certainly not unheard of.
My sweetie, though, grew up in a very different household. Dessert at Arne’s house was practically a religion. Dinner was simply not complete without dessert, even if all that was available for it was a bowl of freezer-burned ice cream. Even lunch usually featured dessert; not finishing a meal with something sweet was unthinkable. I remember being frustrated on more than one occasion when Arne said he couldn’t come over because the family hadn’t eaten dessert yet. This made no sense to me at all.
When it came time to blend our household traditions, we started out on my family’s end of the spectrum – unsurprisingly, since I’m the cook. But Arne loves dessert, so I started making it more and more often. Now I’m fully assimilated. An evening doesn’t seem complete to me without at least a mouthful of something sweet: a little chocolate, an apple with peanut butter, or maybe a cookie (or two or four, if they’re small) and a glass of milk.
But though the major conversion was mine, I did bring Arne over to my thinking (if not exactly my family’s) in one way: I vastly prefer fruit desserts, and now he does too. I make a lot of crisps, from the very simple (a handful of granola baked over a bowl of lightly sweetened blackberries) to the relatively complex (Cranberry Apple Gingersnap Crisp) – though crisps as a rule are simple, which is part of why I make them so often.
I love cobblers too, but hadn’t found a recipe I liked very much – or at least not one that was both scrumptious and simple. Last week, though, I had a container of blueberries. They were pretty nice looking, but the fact is I don’t like blueberries much. I wanted to do something that would make them enticing. So I turned to my most inspiring dessert book, David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert.
There I found a recipe for nectarine-blueberry cobbler. I didn’t have any nectarines, but I did have a pear that needed to be used ASAP. Close enough. I threw it together and waited as it baked, fingers crossed. The biscuits stayed fairly pale as they cooked, maybe because the biscuits are fairly light on butter. Whatever. This cobbler is delicious. The biscuits are fluffy and light, as advertised. The blueberries intensify in flavor in the oven, and go nicely with the pears. (It might be even better with the original nectarines or peaches, or you could just use berries alone – next time I’ll try it with blackberries, my favorite fruit.) The biscuits are not too sweet, which adds to the light feel of the dessert and lets the fruit really shine. A tiny scoop of ice cream adds pizzazz, but isn’t necessary.
Arne and I often eat dessert over a crossword puzzle. On this night, we pushed the puzzle aside to concentrate on our cobbler, and couldn’t stop exclaiming over how perfect it was. It goes together in a flash and should work beautifully with all kinds of fruit. I know I’ll be making this recipe a lot, and I hope you will too.
I halved the recipe to get what you see here, so doubling should work beautifully.
Fluffy Biscuit-Topped Blueberry Cobbler with Pear
Serves: 2 Time: 45 minutes Hands-on: 15 minutes
1 pint blueberries, washed
1 medium-sized ripe pear, chopped
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons port wine, optional
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (or not, if using the port)
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sugar
large pinch salt
2 tablespoons very cold butter, cut in 4 pieces
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon milk and some coarse sugar, optional
Preheat oven to 375. Lightly grease two medium (cereal bowl size) oven-proof bowls.
Toss together the blueberries, pear, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, port if using, and vanilla. Spoon evenly into the prepared bowls.
In a food processor, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt. Add the butter pieces and pulse until they’re cut up very small. (No food processor? Alternately – these are actually the original directions – freeze the butter, grate on the large holes of a box grater, and stir into the flour mixture.) Stir in the buttermilk until the flour is evenly moistened and a cohesive dough forms.
Spoon the dough over the fruit in rustic lumps. For a slightly more finished look, brush with milk and sprinkle with coarse sugar.
Put on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the biscuits are fully cooked and the fruit is bubbly throughout. Let cool a few minutes and serve, with a little ice cream or whipped cream if you like.