I don’t usually make desserts, so this season’s blackberry glut has been a challenge for me. I’m not a fan of sugary-sweet “treats”, and blackberries require a fair bit of sugar to bring out their flavor. I’m also suspicious of most dessert recipes, which often taste too sweet for my liking. Is this an American thing? Has our reliance on corn syrup acted as a kind of “sugar heroine”, forcing us to use even more sugar in our recipes to obtain the intended effect? Case in point: I recently made a rhubarb pie from a recipe at allrecipes.com. The recipe came with 4.5 stars and loads of great reviews, but my friends and I in London all agreed with the result: it was so sugary that we couldn’t even taste the rhubarb. Such a shame! I definitely don’t want my blackberries to share the same fate.
That’s when I came across this recipe for Blackberry Slump, what BBC Food calls “an American version of a blackberry cobbler”. I’m not exactly sure what makes this an “American version”, because it isn’t made with the usual flour-based cobbler top. Instead, the pastry is made with polenta, a very coarse corn meal, and toasted hazelnuts, both of which give the cobbler a wonderful texture. Think cornbread soaked up with sweet delicious berry juice.
And what about those berries? Guess what – not too sweet! This recipe uses mainly peaches and their juice to sweeten the blackberries. The fruits compliment each other well without turning into one contiguous mass of fruit mush – both the peaches and the blackberries retained their unique delicious flavors. I cooked these as individual portions in my new little ramekins. They freeze well this way and can be easily reheated in the oven.
The only thing I change from the original recipe is the ratio of cobbler to fruit. The BBC Recipe results in a one-to-one cobbler to fruit ratio. I prefer more fruit, so am providing the recipe here with only half the cobbler topping. Of course, you could always double the fruit instead and have plenty of leftovers for later. =)
The ultimate way to eat this dessert is with vanilla ice cream. Mmm. Vegans in the audience, I’d be curious to know how a vegan cobbler top would work, replacing the butter with oil and the milk with soy milk. Any takers?
The original recipe on BBC Food uses twice as much cobbler topping. I thought this was too much so halved the amount here. Feel free to adjust the proportions of both to suit your tastes!
411g can peach slices in fruit juice drained and 5 tbsp juice reserved
2 tbsp caster sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp lemon juice
FOR THE TOPPING
88g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
13g butter plus extra for greasing
1 tbsp caster sugar
25g hazelnuts skinned, toasted and chopped
- Heat oven to 375F/190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Lightly butter a 1.7 litre ovenproof shallow dish. Spread blackberries and drained peach slices in the bottom of the dish. Mix together the caster sugar and cinnamon, then sprinkle over the top and pour over the lemon juice and the reserved juice from the peaches. Bake, uncovered, for 10 mins until the juices begin to run. Remove the dish from the oven and set aside.
- To make the topping, sift the polenta, flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt into a bowl. Rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture is the consistency of breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and toasted nuts and mix well, then stir in the milk to make a soft, sticky dough.
- Increase oven temperature to 430F/220C/fan 200C/gas 7. Drop spoonfuls of the dough over the top of the berries, then return to the oven for 15 mins until the topping is golden brown. Serve hot with cream, custard or ice cream.