Make Something New Every Day


This blog is inspired by all those who love to cook, whether experienced or not, and who continue to experiment with new ideas & ingredients, and best of all, share their passion with others.

The first entries are recipes prepared by the students of Lionel Wilson College Preparatory Academy in Oakland, CA. Fifteen students with varying cooking experience participated in my weekly workshop (via Tutorpedia), and successfully prepared various meals, snacks, and baked goods as part of an after-school program.

Along with the recipes from that class, I will continue to add new seasonal items, spanning every genre of the culinary world, as well as a helpful list of links to recipes, instructional videos, and places to shop and volunteer in your area.

Feel free to ask me questions and share your recipes and ideas as well. I look forward to cooking with you.


June 10, 2011

I Cannot Tell a Lie...Cherry-Apricot Cobbler is the Bomb!

At 18 I landed my first job as a pastry chef at Lark Creek Inn in Larkspur, CA. I wasn't old enough to drink with the staff (well, legally anyway), so I pretty much kept to myself and kept my nose & my hands clean. Everything I made was from scratch, and it being summer, I had oodles of fresh ingredients to work with every day. One dessert in particular, the cherry-apricot cobbler, kept my hands quite messy. I might sound like an old man complaining about walking uphill both ways to school, but try pitting a 10 gallon bucket of cherries without a pitter, and see how grumpy you get.
Don't fret. For this cobbler you only need about 2 pounds of cherries (along with 2 pounds of apricots), and whoa, Nelly, are they good this year! Now, Now, Now is the time to make this insanely delicious cobbler, so go to the market, get your fruit, and get down.

GET IT TOGETHER
2 pounds of cherries (Bings, baby)
2 pounds of apricots (they should be ripe, but firm)
3 tablespoons corn starch or tapioca flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup apricot jam (homemade, or Cascadian Farms)

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" cubes
3/4 cup cold, well-shaken buttermilk 
2-3 tablespoons sugar for sprinkling over the dough
PREPARE THE FRUIT
Wash the fruit. Using a paring knife, slice the cherries in half lengthwise, and tear out the pits. Trust me, unless you have some amazing pitter, this is the fastest way to do this. Then cut the apricots into chunks about the same size as half a cherry. Preheat the oven to 400'. Stir in the corn starch, sugar, and jam, and pour the mixture into a 13x9x2 glass baking dish. As you can see, I made two smaller cobblers (one to keep, & one to share). So long as the volume is about the same, do what works for you.

Bake the fruit at 400' until it's bubbling (about 35 minutes). While the fruit is cooking, make the biscuit dough.

MAKE THE DOUGH
Mix the flour, 1 tablespoon of the sugar, baking powder, salt, & baking soda together in a medium bowl. Stir to combine.
Add the cold butter pieces, and "cut" into the flour mixture using a pastry cutter, a fork, or your fingers. The goal is to get the butter bits coated in flour & small enough to resemble rolled oats. It's best to leave a few bigger lumps than to get it all too fine. What you're doing is creating layers of cold butter wrapped in flour. When this dough bakes, you'll get golden, flaky layers of goodness. The more you work the dough, the tougher & heavier it will bake up. That's bad. With biscuits, less is more. Add the cold buttermilk, and using a spatula, fold together to create a uniform dough. DO NOT OVERMIX.
Carefully remove the pans and set them on a cooling rack. Reduce the oven to 375'. Use a teaspoon to drop small balls of dough over the hot fruit. Be careful not to touch the fruit or the glass dish - they will be extremely hot. The dough will expand as it bakes, so leave a little room between the dough balls for steam to come through, and for the dough to rise. Sprinkle the dough with a little sugar, and use oven mits to place the dishes back in the oven. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the dough is golden, and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into a dough ball.
 Glass holds heat like crazy, so let the cobbler cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. If you'd like, pour a little heavy cream over each serving, or top with vanilla ice cream. Totally gonzo.


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