Update 8/19/2016: For a delicious gluten-free version, scroll to the end of this post. Dennis agreed with me that the gluten-free version was as good or better than the original!
I rediscovered this old recipe, written down more than thirty years ago, when I unpacked some of my cookbooks and recipe files from the box I’d packed them in at the start of the kitchen renovation. This dish was a potluck staple of my former pastor’s wife in Klamath, Joyce Fleshman. I’ve tweaked it just a bit, substituting butter for margarine (we all baked with margarine back then before we knew how bad for us it was), and adding a splash of my homemade vanilla. I also substituted organic, whole-wheat pastry flour for all-purpose flour. And this coming week, after I pick berries again, I propose to make this recipe with the Bob’s Red Mill bean-based gluten-free flour that I use so often. I’ll let you know how that turns out, but I’m sure it will work, as I’ve subbed it for all-purpose flour in other recipes like this.
Usually when I make cobblers, I make a soft, sweet biscuit dough to top the hot fruit, which has been mixed with sugar and some kind of thickener, cornstarch or tapioca. I made one of these a couple of weeks ago, and it was good, as always. But somewhere in the back of my mind was the memory of this other cobbler that I always loved when Joyce made it all those years ago. When I found the recipe, I was really eager to try it, and the dish lived up to my memory. The batter for this cobbler produces a more cake-like texture, and as it bakes, it makes layers in the pan, with the berries in the middle layer, separating the two cake layers. The fat in the pan produces a crisp, shiny surface. It’s really good.
Joyce’s Berry Cobbler
½ cup (1 stick) butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups milk (whole is best for baking)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
4-6 cups of ripe blackberries (Use lesser amount if your blackberries are super ripe and rendering juice.)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the butter in a 9X13 inch baking pan and place in oven to melt. While butter is melting, mix together the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Beat in milk, eggs, and vanilla until mixture is smooth. Pour batter over melted butter in pan, mix in slightly, swirling batter through butter with a spoon. Sprinkle berries on top of batter evenly. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes, or until bottom layer is set when tested with a sharp knife. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
Note: The berries sink to the bottom or middle as the batter rises and the cobbler bakes.
The cobbler may need more baking time if your berries are very juicy, or you use the larger amount of berries. I live at about 4500 feet, and it took about 50 minutes in the oven at 350 to get the bottom layer of the cobbler set. Baking this at a lower altitude will probably take less time, so keep an eye on it.
We ate this warm out of the oven with ice cream the first day, and oh, baby. It was very good cold with whipped cream the next day. My granddaughter, who loves to bake, helped me pick the berries and make the cobbler, and she was a fan after she tried the dish. For me, eating it brought back a lot of memories of church potlucks with good friends when my kids were little, and of Joyce, whom I loved.
For the wheat flour, substitute same amount of gluten-free flour (I use the bean-based flour from the bulk bin at Winco, which is Bob’s Red Mill).
Add 2 teaspoons xanthan gum to dry ingredients.
Follow directions as above.
This version might take an extra 15 minutes or longer to bake. The texture is slightly different, more like a sponge cake crumb.