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Peach cobbler as you’ve never seen it


Whether it’s a fancy apple tarte Tatin, a robust pineapple-ringed upside-down cake or a saucy flan, there’s something thrilling and suspenseful about turning your homemade dessert on its head.

Any of these acrobatic dishes would taste fine served right-side up from the pan. But it’s that stunning reveal that adds a little drama and puts the fruit right on top, where it can shine.

That’s the inspiration behind this upside-down peach cobbler.

In traditional peach cobbler, you mix peaches with sugar and sometimes butter, hide them with rounds of biscuit dough, and bake. Spooned out of the baking dish and served in bowls, the cobbler’s modest simplicity is part of its charm. But, however delicious this might be, it doesn’t do much to show off the peaches.

Throw in a gilding of caramel and an elegant flip, though, and you’ve got a confection to win oohs and aahs.

Most of the effort of this recipe goes into simmering the caramel, which is what makes this truly special. Caramelizing sugar deepens its flavor and reduces its sweetness, tempering the fruit here and adding complex and pleasingly bitter notes. Don’t worry if the sugar seizes and clumps when you add the fruit. It will melt when you cook everything together, condensing the peach juices and making them richer still.

The biscuits turn golden brown on top but stay soft and pillowy underneath as the cobbler bakes, so it’s less like a crisp-crusted Tatin and more like an upside-down cake with delightfully crunchy edges. Also, you can prep the biscuit dough ahead, even several days in advance for a great party dish.

After baking, be sure to let your cobbler rest for about 10 to 15 minutes before inverting it onto a platter. This helps the caramel firm up and soak voluptuously into the biscuits. But don’t let it go longer or the caramel may cool and glue the fruit to the pan. (If it does, pry off the stuck peaches and place them gently back on top of the biscuits.)

Like all cobblers, this upside-down version benefits from a drizzle of heavy cream or a dollop of yogurt or ice cream spooned on top. Just don’t cover up the fruit, which has worked its way so winningly from the bottom up.

Recipe: Upside-Down Peach Cobbler

By Melissa Clark

This juicy pastry crosses a peach cobbler with a caramel-coated apple tarte Tatin. To make it, the peaches are caramelized with sugar in a skillet just like apples are in a classic tarte Tatin. But then, instead of being covered with pie dough or puff pastry, the fruit is topped with fluffy biscuit dough. While baking, the biscuits rise and brown, creating a golden, tender pillow on which the jammy fruit lands when it’s all unmolded. The whole thing is a bit more cakey in texture than the usual crisp-crusted Tatin, with the allure of fresh ripe peaches.

Yield: 8 servings

Total time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Ingredients

For the biscuits:

  • 1 3/4 cups/225 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup/50 grams sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 6 tablespoons/85 grams cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon/192 milliliters sour cream, more for serving
  • 1 tablespoon Demerara or raw sugar

For the filling:

  • 3/4 cup/150 grams sugar
  • Pinch of fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 4 tablespoons/56 grams unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature
  • 2 pounds small peaches or nectarines (8 to 10), halved and pitted (if using large fruit, quarter instead of halving)
  • Sour cream, crème fraîche or whipped cream, for serving (optional)

Preparation

1. Place a piece of parchment or wax paper on a small rimmed baking sheet or a large plate.

2. To prepare the biscuits, in a food processor, pulse together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Pulse in butter just until the mixture looks like lima beans. Add 3/4 cup sour cream and pulse just to combine. Alternatively, you can do this in a bowl, cutting the butter into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter or two knives, then mixing in the sour cream. If the mixture is still too crumbly to hold together, add a tablespoon or two of water (or even a bit more: It should hold together as a crumbly, but not floury, dough).

3. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and pat dough together, incorporating any stray or dry pieces. Divide the dough into 9 equal pieces and roll them into balls. Transfer to the parchment paper-lined baking pan or plate, and flatten balls into 1/2-inch-thick disks; wrap loosely with plastic and chill for at least 20 minutes or up to 24 hours.

4. Heat oven to 350 degrees. To prepare the filling, in a 10-inch nonstick skillet, combine 1/4 cup water, sugar, salt and honey. Bring to boil, stirring. Stop stirring and continue to simmer until the caramel is the deep amber brown color of an Irish setter (it may be difficult to see with the skillet), 6 to 10 minutes.

5. Remove from heat and whisk in butter (stand back, the caramel may bubble up and splatter).

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