Tuesday, August 7, 2012


The boy crawls in at his parents' feet, spelunking his way through jumbled legs and sheets until he emerges at their sleepy heads with a huge involuntary inhale. Flip flop sneeze cough and he's on his back tugging at the comforter and complaining that he doesn't have enough pillow room. He closes in on the mother, grasping her face and decorating lips cheeks chin neck with kisses. He rolls over and delivers the same to the father.

"Hey, Dash," says the mother, "I think daddy got more kisses."

And he's back with thirteen more for the mother.

"Mama, can I be in the Winter Olympics?"

"There's no snow in Berkeley. You might want to try for the Summer Olympics."

"What are the sports in Summer Olympics?"

"Weightlifting, running—"

"Mama, I already know how to run."

"Right. You'd totally win that race."

The father continues the list, "Swimming, archery, gymnastics, fencing, cycling, shooting, diving—"

"Wait. Wait. WAIT!" shrieks the boy. "Shooting? Can I learn shooting?"

The mother pretends she has fallen back to sleep.

"When you're older," the father replies. "When you're much older."

The mother has so much to say and says none of it.

The father nudges the boy, "Why don't you ask that woman over there to be a good mama and get out of bed and get us some cobbler for breakfast."

"Believe it or not, we are out of cobbler. And I'll just have to be a bad mama this morning because I'm staying in bed."

"You're not a bad mama," the boy whispers into the mother's ear. "But I have a question. What are you thinking about with your eyes closed?"

"I'm thinking about my coffee," the mother whispers back.

"Mama's thinking about her coffee," the boy relays to the father.

"She's always thinking about her coffee."

The father leans in to the boy and asks, "Should we hug her?"

The mother doesn't resist as the boy and the father execute a slow motion eight-limbed envelopment.

The father murmurs, "Isn't mama delicious?"

And for a fleeting moment the mother is floating on an unfamiliar raft in the middle of a crazy perfect domestic ocean. 

The mother slips out of bed, puts on the kettle, and starts making her fifteenth cobbler of the summer.
A few thoughts on cobblers: 
Before adding any sugar, taste the fruit. In general, peaches and blackberries need very little additional sugar (only a tablespoon or two). Plums and blueberries will need need a bit more. Just try to keep the fruit tasting like it was just picked. Not like it was preserved in sugar.

Small amounts of lemon juice and zest, Grand Marnier, vanilla extract, vanilla bean, or orange flower water can help enhance the fruit flavor without dominating.

It takes a few extra steps, but I'm loving the combination of tart dough topped with streusel (made with Marcona almonds). This is a great way for kids (or grownups) to start playing with dough. Let them roll, cut, press, and tuck the dough in any way they want. Cobblers should look funky and messy.

Because the streusel topping is spread on top of the tart dough, the brown sugar sweetness doesn't dive down into the bubbling fruit. This helps maintain three very distinct layers of texture and flavor: pure fruity bottom, gooey doughy middle, and crunchy nutty sweet top. 

Remember, you can (and should) add a fourth layer of creamy and sweet with vanilla ice cream. Or crème fraîche. Or heavy cream (the best breakfast ever).

(Serves 4  for dessert with leftovers for breakfast.)
I've baked this in every possibly tart, cake, pie, and gratin pan. Just don't use a dish with a removable bottom or it will leak.

for tart dough:
1 recipe for basic tart dough (make sure dough is refrigerated for at least 3 hours; you will have leftover scraps for your next cobbler)

for streusel:
4 tablespoons salted butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour (for streusel)
1/2 cup finely chopped Marcona almonds (or try blanched almonds, pine nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts)

for fruit (totaling about 6 cups when cut up):
5 large peaches and 5 large nectarines (or any combination of pluots, plums, apricots)
1 pint blackberries (or olallieberries)
1 pint blueberries 
2-6 tablespoons sugar (depending on sweetness of fruit and size of your sweet tooth)
juice/zest from 1/2 lemon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
pinch salt
2 tablespoons flour (for fruit)

for egg wash:
1 egg
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Remove tart dough from freezer or fridge and let it soften a bit. Roll out tart dough (about 1/2" thick). With a pizza cutter or knife, cut into 1" strips or any desired shape and place flat on a sheet pan. Refrigerate until fruit is ready.

For the streusel. Melt butter. Take off heat and mix in brown sugar, flour, and nuts. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

For the fruit. It's best to peel all stone fruit (though plum skins can add nice tartness and color) by placing it in boiling water for 15 seconds and then shocking it in ice water. Skins will (usually) slide right off with the help of a paring knife. Cut 1" wedges directly into your baking dish. Add berries. Sprinkle with sugar, lemon juice/zest, vanilla, salt, and flour. Stir gently to combine.

For egg wash. Combine egg and cream.
Assembly. Place strips of dough over mixed fruit so that the pieces are overlapping a bit. You want to leave some lovely little pockets for steam and oozing juices to escape. Paint dough all over with egg wash. Spread streusel on the top of the tart dough (no need to cover all the dough).

Bake until golden brown and bubbling (about 45 minutes but check after 30). Poke the tart dough to make sure it's almost firm and crisp on top and still a bit soft on the bottom. Serve immediately with ice cream. Or room temperature with heavy cream.


  1. Hi, I enjoy your blog immensely and have to comment on your cobbler...I love it! Summer=cobbler, and lots of it, please. You're a lovely mama, and you'd still be one had you stayed in bed with coffee. Lucky family!

  2. I love this post, it reeks of summer...lazing in bed with family and cobbler. I also love how the crust is patched together from little strips, and, most of all, that you used Marcona almonds, they are amazing!

  3. As I read this, I felt like I was in bed with you all. (Sorry, but it's true.)

    Also, your husband totally played you like a fiddle. Smart man.

  4. cheryl. you're right! the motherfucker totally played me.

    crap. i didn't have a single f-bomb in this post until i responded to your post. i give up.

    i love my bed. and if you ever get your butt to berkeley we just might have tea and cookies in my bed.

  5. How do you have time or brain to cook and bake beautiful things? I assume your both kids are home now on a summer break. Your posts are like your food, rich and beautiful. You have one more fan. I spend most of my life in the kitchen but I never made cobbler before. I am going to this week. Will let you know how it came out. Thanks!

    1. one thing i've loved about doing some of the recipes over and over again is that you don't have to use your brain anymore. just your hands. and lots of deep breaths. and my son is in preschool through the summer. so i actually have a bit of time during the day with my 9-year old daughter. but yes, mornings and evenings are bonkers. let me know how your cobbler turns out!

  6. Here Here to a moment of "crazy perfect domestic ocean." Topped with cobbler for breakfast! Now that's perfect in every way.

  7. I think I just melted into puddle of goo, that was the sweetest thing ever!!

  8. You inspire with every post! I'm relatively new to your musings and so happy I found them.
    I am curious what kind of camera you use?
    Great pics every time! Of course with your talent is probably you not the camera doing that!

    Cheers and Thanks!

    1. ann. thank you! i love my camera. it'si a nikon D90 with an f/1.4 lens. the final photo of a cobbler breakfast is from my iPhone (instagram).

    2. Adorable story. Love this. And that cobbler looks so summery and fresh.

  9. my tummy did a flip reading this. i've been lucky enough to wake up this way. bliss. then there are the other times—like today—when, at too-early-o'clock, the big one whispers loudly in my ear that he has to pee before walking off to do so... b/c he's nearly 6 and can... without telling me even.

    sigh. i'm thinking of (more) coffee too, now.

    thanks for another lovely post and recipe.

    1. yes. coffee. what would we do without it. thanks, stacie!

  10. I love the way you write! This post transported me to our usual, stinking hot summers and the smells that come with them - even though it's the middle of winter here at the moment...

  11. Beautiful, Phyllis. I fucking love this post I fucking love this post I fucking love this post.

  12. It's great that the sweetness of the fruit allows you to add very little to no sugar. Thanks for the cobbler recipe.

  13. i made this the other night! delicious! love it and your basic tart dough recipe. so simple! I think i will make a mini cherry tomato tart with the leftover scraps

  14. That is all kinds of fucking great.

  15. This whole post is delicious. Thanks, once again, for sharing.

  16. What a beautiful sentence:

    And for a fleeting moment the mother is floating on an unfamiliar raft in the middle of a crazy perfect domestic ocean.

    And somehow the next one, getting up and making the cobbler, is even better.

  17. I love your writing and your recipes.They are the best!! I made this cobbler a few weeks ago and it rocked. Tonight I used the same recipe only substituted Olallieberries we picked yesterday with blue berries. So freakin' good! Thank you.

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