Dessert

A Genius Peach Cobbler With a So-Wrong-It’s-Right Hot Sugar Crust

August  8, 2018

Every Wednesday this August, we’re giving you sneak peeks of some of the most gloriously summery recipes in our almost-born cookbook Genius Desserts. (You can order your signed copy now to get your mitts on the rest when the book drops September 4th!)

As I mentioned last week, this month is a full-tilt Genius Desserts extravaganza, in which I sneak you summery recipes straight out of the book every Wednesday till you can see the real book in all its glory on September 4th.

This week’s sneakery was one of my favorite shock discoveries in recipe testing for the book, which mostly happened in the Food52 test kitchen on Saturdays from morning until very late into the night. Only with great help from my testing assistant Makinze Gore, I was able keep my head on straight as we tried up to 11 or 12 recipes in a day.

Around 5 p.m. that particular Saturday, we finally had to brave the (as I now know, necessary, fully genius) step of dumping a cup of boiling water over the beautiful batter we’d just made (not to mention 4 1/2 pounds of perfectly good peaches).

I was extra uncertain because, unlike most other Genius Recipes, where I have the trusted endorsement of one of you to keep me going, I’d found this one on my own leafing through Erickson’s book A Boat, A Whale, and A Walrus (though if I’d done my homework, I would have seen that Deb Perelman had also loved it over at Smitten Kitchen back in 2015).

Needless to say, my faith in following Erickson’s recipe through any doubts paid off handsomely, in layers of crispy-sweet cap, fluffy cake middle, and juicy-bright peach pool party down below. Hers is unlike any cobbler I’ve had, yet reminds me happily of the mini cobblers we’d make on Girl Scout camping trips: biscuit mix and peaches bundled up tightly in their cans and thrown into the campfire coals.

Just like other recipes that start with an “Oh, there is no way this is right”—much like tackling a daunting hike or art history midterm or escaping the room with friends—I felt immediately bonded to it. Below are the full recipe and story from Genius Desserts—I can’t wait to hear how you and yours bond with it, too.


Genius Desserts Sneak Peek!

Renee Erickson’s Peach Cobbler With Hot Sugar Crust

When beloved Seattle chef Renee Erickson took over Boat Street Café from Susan Kaplan in 2003, she inherited this quirky peach cobbler recipe along with it. The café closed in 2015, but its spirit lives on through a half dozen other sunny Erickson restaurants, and in recipes like this one. The peaches aren’t peeled or even thickened with flour or starch, because the fruit is the point—juicy and textured however it may be. It’s brightened with lemon juice and zest and nothing else, a counterweight to the sweet batter and sugary top.

Only after smoothing on a layer of batter and dusting the top with sugar do you encounter the uncomfortable step of sloshing hot water over the top of your lovely cobbler. You won’t want to do it, but if you poke around on enough blogs or in community cookbooks, you’ll find similar recipes— though the water is usually poured over a mix of cornstarch and sugar. The topping here is pared down to just sugar, which melts and then fuses together in the oven as the water steams away. A dainty crust forms, blanketing the cake and saucy peaches like a sheet of Bubble Wrap, begging to be popped.

Photos by James Ransom

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

Order Now

The Genius Desserts cookbook is almost here! With more than 100 of the most beloved and talked-about desserts of our time (and the hidden gems soon to join their ranks) this book will make you a local legend, and a smarter baker to boot.

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35 Comments

Annie August 24, 2018
I absolutely love this recipe. I made it twice last weekend and have another batch in the oven as I type this :). Many thanks for sharing this wonderful, new iteration for peach cobbler. By far, my favourite.
 
Hieu N. August 21, 2018
Hello! Would using almond or coconut flour work as an alternative?
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. August 21, 2018
Hi Hieu, it wouldn't be as fluffy of a cake layer (for that you might want to look into gluten-free blends, homemade or otherwise), but it would probably make something tasty anyway. If you make it, can you let us know how it goes?
 
Hieu N. August 22, 2018
Thanks Kristen! I will definitely try it and let you know! Thank you for sharing all these yummy recipes!
 
pvanhagenlcsw August 12, 2018
This recipe is delightful although I was caught between the original post and the corrected one. I made the dough with 1/4 cup of milk and knew immediately something was terribly wrong. By the time I reviewed the recipe to make another crust, the mistake had been corrected to 3/4 cup milk. I briefly thought I was losing it so was grateful to hear others had a similar experience. It was a great success and made a delicious dessert for brunch too the next day.
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. August 21, 2018
I'm so glad you thought to double-check, and that it worked out well in the end. Thanks for the brunch tip!
 
Angela August 11, 2018
This is how I grew up making cobbler! Our recipe was a newspaper or magazine clipping, saved in an album of such finds, called "Bailey's Shiny-top Cobbler". One of my early baking accomplishments was successfully pouring the boiling water and getting the whole thing into the oven. Also great for blackberries.
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. August 21, 2018
I love this name so much. It's perfect!
 
clare August 10, 2018
I actually made this the other day pulling from Smitten Kitchen's website. It was outstanding. i flicked the water over the crust, instead of pouring, a little less scary and I did end up with a crackly sugary crust! Also, as someone suggested below, I did macerate the peaches beforehand and reduce their juice, so it wouldn't be super runny. I made it for my in-laws and it was completely devoured, which never happens as they don't usually care for dessert!
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. August 21, 2018
Thanks for sharing your tips, Clare—great to know! Glad it was a hit.
 
Kathy M. August 10, 2018
Ya know, I understand mistakes are made. But I made this as originally posted and it was awful to work with. I ended up deconstructing it after baked, rebaked it to make it something edible. I also know you're sorry. I'm just asking all you Internet posters and writers to please be more careful. Thanks in advance.
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. August 10, 2018
Hi Kathy, I'm so sorry for the hassle and wasted time and energy—I feel terrible and hope that you were able to finagle something tasty out of it. Thank you for understanding.
 
J August 10, 2018
Could this technique be used with other baked goods - thinking muffins or quick breads?
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. August 10, 2018
That's a great idea—I think it would be fun to try, just scaled down to the surface area of the baked good in question. (Our Recipe Developer Emma Laperruque might be scheming up something similar with a mini cobbler...)
 
Judy August 9, 2018
Can this be made with 1% orc2% milk?
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. August 9, 2018
Yes, sure thing—by the way, in case you printed out the recipe already, I wanted to let you know that I just fixed a typo in the online version of the recipe. It should be 3/4 cup milk, not 1/4 cup, though the grams listed are correct.
 
Bea August 9, 2018
As you know curiosity killed the cat..lol..so I'm heading to the grocery to pick up the peaches (I only have 2) so I can make this. I love peach cobbler so I'm hoping it tastes fantastic!!
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. August 9, 2018
Good for you, Bea! In case you printed out the recipe already, I wanted to let you know that I just fixed a typo in the online version of the recipe. It should be 3/4 cup milk, not 1/4 cup, though the grams listed are correct.
 
Paula A. August 8, 2018
Could this be made with frozen blueberries when peaches are out of season (or any other recommended fruit)?
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. August 9, 2018
Yes, in fact Luz (who'd in the video with me above) made it with blueberries and it was delicious! By the way, in case you printed out the recipe already, I wanted to let you know that I just fixed a typo in the online version of the recipe. It should be 3/4 cup milk, not 1/4 cup, though the grams listed are correct.
 
Nancy K. August 8, 2018
I don't do dairy..anyone ever try it with substitutes? Thank u!
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. August 9, 2018
Hi Nancy, almond milk or other alternative milks should work fine here. If you need a sub for the butter, too, you could try coconut oil (refined if you don't want a coconutty flavor) or I know some vegan bakers like Earth Balance.
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. August 9, 2018
By the way, in case you printed out the recipe already, I wanted to let you know that I just fixed a typo in the online version of the recipe. It should be 3/4 cup milk, not 1/4 cup, though the grams listed are correct.
 
Nancy K. August 10, 2018
Thank u! It sounds terrific!
 
Marcie August 8, 2018
This looks and sounds divine. But I'd prefer that the peaches be less runny. How could you use some cornstarch or arrowroot to make the juices a bit more syrupy?
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. August 9, 2018
Hi Marcie—ripe fruit is always a little unpredictable, but I would just make a point of aiming for peaches that are ripe but still a bit firm (as we used in the photo) and be sure to cool the cobbler at least 30 minutes before serving. The peaches we had on the video shoot day were supersoft and exploding with juice, which is why we ended up with a very juicy, but still very tasty, cobbler. That should do it, but if you still want to add cornstarch or arrowroot, I'd just compare to the ratio of other cobblers or pies you've enjoyed in the past. Or, with a little extra prep time, you could use Rose Levy Beranbaum's brilliant pie trick of macerating the fruit in sugar to draw out the juices, then straining and reducing them, so that you can use less thickener. That recipe will be in Genius Desserts, or you can find it in her books The Pie & Pastry Bible or the newer Baking Bible, or on her blog here: http://www.realbakingwithrose.com/blog/2008/07/30/heavenly_peach_galette
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. August 9, 2018
By the way, Marcie, in case you printed out the recipe already, I wanted to let you know that I just fixed a typo in the online version of the recipe. It should be 3/4 cup milk, not 1/4 cup, though the grams listed are correct.
 
Gershmiller August 8, 2018
This looks wonderful! Would you make any adjustments for plums? (my husband is allergic to peaches)
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. August 9, 2018
Hi Gershmiller—I think the tartness and slight bitterness of plums would be nice here with the sweet top. Let us know how it goes! I'd aim for ones that are ripe but still firm, not supersoft, so they have a hope of holding up through baking. Nectarines are a great substitution, if he's not allergic to those. Mm, apricots would be good, too. By the way, in case you printed out the recipe already, I wanted to let you know that I just fixed a typo in the online version of the recipe—it should be 3/4 cup milk, not 1/4 cup, though the grams listed are correct. I hope you love it!<br /><br />
 
Gershmiller August 9, 2018
Thanks so much for the thoughtful answer. Plums also make me think cardamom might be a nice addition.
 
Emma L. August 8, 2018
Well, I know what I'm doing this weekend!
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. August 9, 2018
Hooray—I will eat any leftovers!
 
Lee August 8, 2018
Can this be made with almond milk
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. August 9, 2018
Hi Lee, sure that should be fine—by the way, in case you printed out the recipe already, I wanted to let you know that I just fixed a typo in the online version of the recipe. It should be 3/4 cup milk, not 1/4 cup, though the grams listed are correct. I hope you love it!
 
Lee August 9, 2018
Thank you, ,will be making it on Saturday, will let yall know