Fruit desserts have always been my favourite, especially if that fruit is in season! I always wait eagerly for the strawberry season. One of the many perks of being in Pune is the proximity to Mahabaleshwar, which accounts for nearly 75- 85% of strawberries produced in India. Pune gets fresh supply of these red beauties daily.
This tart fruit was introduced to India by the British. Mahabaleshwar was developed as a hill station during the British Raj and was the summer capital of Bombay Presidency. The cool climate and red soil benefitted the growth of strawberries here and hence this entire Panchgani-Mahabaleshwar belt is now famous for the production of strawberry along with other berries like mulberry, gooseberry and raspberry. Mapro, Mala and Manama have set up their big centres for manufacturing of preserves, jams, toppings, crushes etc., in the vicinity.
This awesome fruit is great in many desserts as flavour, filling and topping. One of the popular British desserts is a cobbler, which essentially originated in the British American colonies. Cobbler is a rather simple dessert with a fruit compote filling topped with a biscuit or pastry. The origin of the name cobbler is ambiguous, but one of the more plausible story could be that it is derived from an archaic word cobeler meaning a wooden bowl. Cobblers are generally baked in a dish and can be compared with a pie. The main difference between them and the pie is that cobblers do not have pastry at the bottom. The pastry on the top varies according to the region for example in Britain it could be scones, in the US it could be a short crust pastry or a biscuit. Also there is confusion between cobblers and crumbles which are also very British. Crumbles also have a fruit filling but are covered with a crumb topping. All three – cobblers, pies and crumbles are delicious in their own right and taste great when served with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Be it a pastry or a crumble on the top, the taste is gorgeous because it gets soaked on the bottom with the fruit syrup and is still crisp on the top. This textural variation is of paramount importance in their success!
Any seasonal fruit is good to create the cobbler. Peach, apple, plums and strawberry all make good cobblers. My version uses strawberry and also juice and zest of orange to add that extra flavour boost. Here is the recipe:
- Strawberries hulled and halved 250 g
- Grated zest of 1 orange
- Orange juice 1 tbsp
- Cinnamon powder 1/4 tsp
- Sugar 3/4 cup
- Corn flour 2 tbsp
For the topping
- Flour 200 g
- Baking powder 1 tsp
- Cold Butter 100 g
- Brown Sugar 50 g
- Cold milk as required.
- Salt 1/4 tsp
Do it this way:
- For the topping, in a bowl take sifted flour and baking powder. Mix in sugar and salt. Add grated butter and rub it into the flour with finger tips till the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Add cold milk by tablespoon and mix till soft dough is formed. Roll the dough into a circle of 1/4 inch thickness between 2 sheets of baking paper. Refrigerate.
- Preheat the oven to 180 ° C. In a baking dish, mix together all the filling ingredients.
- Take the topping out of the refrigerator and cut it into strips of width 2 cm and length according to the diameter of the baking dish. Arrange the strips on the bowl filled with the strawberry mixture in a latticed fashion. Pinch the edges to the rim of the bowl and cut off the extra dough. The remaining dough can be refrigerated and used for another time.
- Bake the cobbler in the oven at 180 °C for 35-40 min or till done. Serve hot or warm along with a dollop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
Here is a practical tip, sometimes juices ooze out of the bowl and drip into the ovens. Insert a tray below to collect the drippings. Also Sweet Charlie variety of the strawberries is sweet and the dish requires lesser sugar. I made mine with Sweet Charlie. Basically you need to adjust the sugar according to the tartness of the fruit. The baking time will vary according to the thickness of the topping. So increase the baking time if you like thicker pastry.
Give this dessert a try till strawberries are in season.