Put aside the great Sonker vs. Cobbler debate which inevitably rears its ugly head whenever either of these delicious desserts presents itself in Surry County.
This is not about what you call it, but how you make it. And the easiest way to get there. You may be a fan of pie dough crusts, or biscuit crusts, or dumplings, or even puff pastry, but you have to admit, the quickest way to get there is the cuppa, cuppa, cuppa route.
A recipe so simple the title is almost the recipe. Now repeat from memory what your mother taught you when you were five: a cuppa flour, a cuppa sugar, a cuppa milk, a sticka butter. Technically, the whole thing falls apart right there because a stick of butter is actually a half cup, but who’s to argue with tradition? Some people call it ‘cuppa, cuppa, cuppa, sticka” for that reason, but that’s really not necessary, because surely you can remember it.
In fact, some of the sassier grandmas call this delicious confection neither a sonker nor a cobbler, but a “No Fool’s Pie” because the recipe is so simple any fool can do it.
Which is not to say there are not variations on the theme.
Sheryl Mohn says, “this receipt always makes me think of Steel Magnolias — Truvy serves it with vanilla ice cream to cut the sweetness.”
And you can too, if you agree with the fictional folks in Chinquapin Parish, Louisiana, that it is possible for a dessert to be too sweet, although, admittedly, that is not a commonly held belief locally.
Eva Winemiller solves the whole “cuppa” or “sticka” butter dilemma by leaving the butter out entirely.
“I feel like the butter would make it too heavy,” she said.
A bit of questioning reveals that Winemiller doesn’t substitute margarine or lard or coconut oil or some other fat for the butter.
“I don’t use it at all, never have. My grandma doesn’t either.” Winemiller added, “my grandma’s is always good.” Indeed, her grandmother WillaDean Queen is a Mount Airy cobbler/sonker maker of note.
Brittany Buckley was skeptical of butterless cobbler. “Butter makes the bread moist. Never had it without butter.”
Winemiller defended the honor of her cobbler and said to Buckley, “Brittany, I always use the juice from the peaches. It’s still moist. And has buoyancy.”
Dottie Jackson takes another variation on the vintage recipe. Her Ma Ma Barker’s Black Berry Cobbler recipe does not use milk.
“She taught me how to do this when I was still so little that I needed a chair to reach the counter,” said Jackson.
So even the simplest of recipes can have variations. And it turns out that Americans in general, and Southerners in particular, are not the only ones looking for a shortcut in the kitchen.
High-end French ceramic bakeware manufacturer Emile Henry, known for more than a century for the even heat distribution of its cookware, has a recipe for a four-ingredient peach cobbler on their website — of which the only ingredient it has in common with the cuppa, cuppa recipe is the fruit. Perhaps not coincidentally, the recipe makes use of Emile Henry’s $130 Flame stewpot.
The claim to fame of Emile Henry’s line of Flame ceramic cooking vessels is that they can be used on top of the stove, and their super-easy four-ingredient recipe is designed to be used on top of a grill. So if you have a hankering to bake your cobbler amongst the hot dogs and burgers at your next cook-out, whip out the gold card and Emile Henry will fix you up. But if you are willing to go old school and put your cobbler in the oven, a $12 knock-off from Aldi’s will do the trick quite nicely.
Not only is it surprising that an upscale French cookware manufacturer has a four-ingredient cobbler recipe, it’s even more surprising what those ingredients are. Peaches naturally, a little cinnamon, which is a nice touch and a bit of a surprise as it is 25 percent of the ingredient list, but the last two ingredients take the cake — a box of white cake mix and a bottle of Sprite.
Not what one would expect from a nation better known for steaming snails in champagne than resorting to cake mix or cooking with pop.
And as any Southerner knows, fruit covered in cake mix is not a cobbler, it’s a dump cake. But how would the folks at Emile Henry know that though, being French and all? Even that faux pas can be forgiven since they’re experimenting with soda as an ingredient. What’s next? Dr. Pepper wings and 7-UP pound cake at the Cordon Bleu? The mind reels.
All cultural shaming aside, the Emile Henry Peach Cobbler is actually quite good. Be careful to spread the cake mix out good, and slowly pour the soda on, doing your best to saturate all of the cake mix. You might want to grab a fork and stir a little bit.
You know the folks at Emile Henry are new at this cake mix and soda cookery thing when the cooking directions say to put the cake mix in a bowl to whisk in the cinnamon. They clearly have no idea that the sort of person who cooks with cake mix and pop is not going to dirty a bowl and a whisk when it’s completely unnecessary.
Once you get the plastic pouch of cake mix out of the box, tear it open and measure the cinnamon right into the pouch. If there’s room, twist the pouch shut and shake it. If not, stir it in with the measuring spoon, right in the plastic pouch. The measuring spoon is already dirty. No need to get a whisk involved.
About halfway through the cooking time, it’s not a bad idea to pull your cobbler out of the oven and make sure all of the cake mix has moistened. If it hasn’t, gouge around with the cinnamon measuring spoon or the fork you used earlier until it is. And might as well, turn it around when you put it back in the oven. Emile Henry cookware may heat perfectly evenly, but your oven probably does not.
So there you go, two ways to enjoy the fruits of summer quickly, easily and deliciously. One of them will make you feel a connection to your ancestors, the past and all that went before, and the other will make you giggle, and could possibly cause you to be less intimidated the next time a snooty waiter in a French restaurant gets imperious with you.
Emile Henry Peach Cobbler
6 medium-ripe peaches, sliced
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 box white cake mix
1 -16 oz. lemon-lime soda
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease the inside of a 3.5-quart baking dish and arrange the sliced peaches in the bottom. Whisk together the cinnamon and dry cake mix, then pour the mix evenly over the peaches. Gently pour the soda over the dry ingredients to moisten evenly—if there are some very dry spots, you can stir gently with a fork without disturbing the peaches, but don’t worry about it looking like a uniform batter—it will come together as it bakes.
Bake the cobbler for 30-40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the edges start to pull away from the pan.
From Sue Johnson’s moon-phase gardener’s calendar. A no butter version, but there is a teaspoon of baking powder. But as any good Southerner is going to use self-rising flour, it’s not necessary. Sue grows raspberries in her garden, but also forages for wild ones.
1 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 cup milk
1 cup raspberries
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Combine the sugar, all-purpose flour and baking powder together, then add the milk. Mix well. Pour the mixture into a greased 9” x 9” pan and sprinkle the raspberries evenly throughout. Bake for 30 minutes. For the last 5 – 10 minutes, you can sprinkle some sugar on top to create a nice crust.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.