Tuesday, August 20, 2013

TWD: Johnnycake Cobblers | Raspberry-Fig Crostata

Tuesdays with Dorie baking through Baking with Julia
by Dorie Greenspan
Contributing Bakers: Johanne Killeen (#1) / Leslie Mackie (#2)

This week we had the option of making one of two recipes.  I decided on both, after reading how easy they each were to put together.

Dessert #1

This cobbler comes together quickly and can be made on a moments notice; especially if you have some fruit laying around that needs using up.

I wish I had fruit laying around - it probably would have been more flavorful. I used a combination of white peaches, white nectarines, and plums. The peaches and nectarines were a tad on the firmer side (equates to not being super flavorful). The plums - perfect. However, they pretty much disintegrated after sautéeing.

The biscuit topping calls for stone-ground white cornmeal (there is an actual cornmeal called johnnycake meal - hence the name of the dessert). I went with your basic Alber's yellow corn meal. The corn meal gives a nice pleasing crunch to the biscuit topping.

The instructions say to bake the cobblers until the topping is a nice golden brown, which mine were. So very beautifully browned. Yet, they were a bit raw in the center. You may want to take a wooden skewer and test it before pulling them out of the oven, and if they are raw, but browned, cover with a piece of aluminum foil and continue baking till done.

To me, these were just OK. I'm thinking some cinnamon, nutmeg, or cardamom added to the filling would be a nice addition.

 Dessert #2

Easy as this is to make, it's not as quick as dessert number one. Once the dough is made, it needs to chill for one hour before rolling out, and again for another thirty minutes after the tart is filled (the filling needs to cool to room temp as well) and completed. The tart also needs to cool completely before slicing. Do not cut into it while still warm as I did, no matter how much you want to. The filling will start to ooze out. This does not make for a very visually appealing slice of pie.

If you look closely at the photo, you will notice this is not your typical lattice work. Normally you place your strips across the pie in even increments, then you fold back every other strip and lay a single strip perpendicular to the parallel strips. Unfold your parallel strips over the single strip, then fold back the opposite strips of last, placing another single strip as before, and continue in this manner until your pie is covered.

Here she has you place one strip vertically down the left side of your tart and then place the next strip horizontally across the top of the tart, crossing the first. You continue this way until your pie is covered. Not only is this way easier and quicker, but there is no way this dough would hold up being folded back and forth as described above. I had a few instances where my dough would break upon transferring from the cookie sheet to the tart.

This dough has an interesting flavor and texture. The texture is almost cookie like, not flaky like your typical pie dough. And the toasted almonds and sesame seeds give it a touch of earthiness.

At first, having a slice of this beautiful dessert slightly warm, I was not impressed. I took half of the pie to a friends house, and she and her husband thought it was tasty, as did my sister, who I took a slice to as well. My sister says the crust reminds her of those cookies at Christmas time that come in the big blue tin - the ones that are shaped like a pretzel. Really the only resemblance is the coarse sugar topping (they are a butter cookie). But that's OK. I think those cookies are delicious. 

However! Having another slice the following morning and then again two days later (hope you are not reading this Kelley! :}), I thought it to be quite good. It's so much better cold.

You simmer half of the fruit with some sugar, flour, lemon zest and butter (as I type this, I don't recall adding butter..) until the fruits break down, release their juices, and the liquid thickens.  Then you add the remaining fruit and some lemon juice to taste.

The dough did not feel sticky to the touch, but it did stick to my rolling pin. I ended up rolling it between two pieces of parchment paper. The dough for the lattice topping is cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips. (As you can see, I cut my strips closer to 1/4-inch-wide.)

The parchment paper made for an easy transfer to the pie tin. (Rather than trying to lightly roll the dough over the rolling pin to transfer.)

After the tart has chilled, brush with egg white and sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Do hop over to browse the TWD LYL: Johnnycake Cobbler/Raspberry-Fig Crostata link, to see what recipe was chosen by the other bakers from our talented group, and to see their take on these desserts.

Johnnycake Cobblers
Serves 4 to 6

The Fruit

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup sugar, or more to taste
6 cups sliced nectarines and purple plums (9 to 12 pieces of fruit)

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sugar, stirring to dissolve, then toss in the fruit. Stir the fruit around to coat each piece and then cook, stirring now and then, until the fruit is soft and gives up some of its liquid. Increase the heat to high and cook f or a few minutes more, to boil down the juices a bit. Spoon the fruit into 4 to 6 individual soufflé molds, ramekins, or ovenproof bowls (they should hold 6 – 8 ounces) and set aside while you make the cobbler biscuit.

The Biscuit

1½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
½ cup stone-ground white cornmeal (you can use yellow)
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon minced ginger (optional)
½ stick (2 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
1¼ to 1½ cups heavy cream

Heavy cream or ice cream, for serving (optional)

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 425°F.

Put the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and the ginger (if using), in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse 5 or 6 times, just to mix the ingredients.

Add the pieces of cold butter. Being extremely careful not to cut your fingers, reach in and toss the butter around (I spooned out some of the flour mixture into a small bowl, to toss the butter with the flour) to coat each piece with flour. (This will help cut the butter evenly into the flour – it’s an optional step; if you’d rather skip it, you’ll still have a great cobbler.) Pulse the machine 18 to 20 times, or until there are no lumps and the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the ingredients and pour in 1¼ cups heavy cream, stirring with a fork to draw in the dry ingredients from the sides of the bowl and form a dough. If the mixture is too dry and does not hold together, add more cream, as much as ¼ cup more. You want a soft, moist dough that forms curds as you stir it.

Spoon the dough onto the top of the fruit, dividing it evenly among the cobbler pans. Don’t worry if the fruit isn’t completely covered or if it’s covered unevenly – this is a homey dessert and part of its charm is its rough, craggy top. If the fruit bubbles up and over the top, so much the better.

Place the cobblers on a foil- or parchment-lined jelly-roll pan and bake for 12-14 minutes, or until the tops are nicely browned. (The golden biscuit is the key; you don’t have to worry about the fruit, as it was cooked before it went into the oven.) Transfer the cobblers to a rack and let them cool for 5 to 10 minutes – they’re best served warm. If you must make them ahead of time, keep them at room temperature – do not reheat.

If you’re serving the cobblers with a pitcher of heavy cream, encourage people to crack the tops and create a little opening for the cream to be poured in; ice cream can be scooped right onto the cobbler tops, cracked or not.

Large Cobbler

Turn the cooked fruit into a 10-inch deep-dish pie pan (with a capacity of 1½ quarts) and spoon on the biscuit topping – there is enough topping to cover all the fruit. Bake for 14-16 minutes, until the biscuit is golden and the fruit bubbling.

Baking with Julia/Dorie Greenspan

Raspberry-Fig Crostata
Serves 8 to 10

¾ pound fresh figs, quartered
¾ pound fresh raspberries
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup (packed) light brown sugar
1½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Fresh lemon juice to taste

1 recipe Sesame-Almond Dough, divided into 2 uneven “halves” and chilled (recipe to follow)
1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water, for egg wash
Coarse or turbinado sugar

Put half the fruit in a medium saucepan, keeping the remaining fruit close at hand. Add the sugars, flour, lemon zest, and butter and stir to mix. Bring the mixture to a soft boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. The fruits will release their juices and the liquid will thicken. Turn the mixture into a bowl and stir in the uncooked fruit. Taste a spoonful, paying particular attention to the saucy liquid, and add lemon juice as needed. Cool the filling to room temperature.

Remove the smaller piece of the dough from the refrigerator and give it a few bashes with the end of your rolling pin to soften it enough to get it rolling. Working on a floured sheet of parchment, roll the dough into a 10-inch circle. Using a ruffle-edged pastry wheel or a thin sharp knife, cut the circle into ½-inch-wide strips. Slip the parchment onto a baking sheet, cover the strips with waxed paper, and chill the dough while you roll out the bottom crust.

Working on a floured surface, roll the bottom crust into an 11-inch circle. Carefully center the dough over a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom and gently work it into the pan, pressing it evenly into the bottom and up the sides. Don’t’ worry if the dough breaks (as it inevitably will); it is easily patchable. In fact, the dough, when soft, is similar to a press-in crust – just press a piece of dough into any hole and it will stick. (If the crust is really soft and unworkable at this stage, refrigerate it again before proceeding.) Trim, leaving a bit of dough as an overhang, about 1/8 inch, and use it to build up a slight ledge around the edge of the tart.

Pour the cooled filling into the tart shell and brush the edges of the shell with egg wash.

Remove the lattice strips from the refrigerator and count the number of strips you cut. Plan on using half for the vertical strips, half for the horizontal, and figure out the spacing between each strip accordingly. Lift one strip of dough from the parchment paper with the help of a long icing spatula and place it vertically across the left side of the tart. Brush with a little egg wash and trim the ends even with the edge of the tart. (I trimmed the ends at the end, all at one time.) Now place a strip horizontally across the top of the tart, crossing the first strip; brush and trim. Continue in this way, alternating vertical and horizontal, until the top is covered.

Chill the tart for about 30 minutes before baking. It can be kept in the refrigerator for a couple of hours if necessary; cover with plastic. Cover the remaining egg wash with plastic wrap and refrigerate while the tart is chilling.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F.

Remove the tart from the refrigerator and brush once more with egg wash. Sprinkle the top with coarse sugar. Place the tart on a parchment-lined jelly-roll pan to catch any drips and bake for about 45 minutes, until the pastry is a rich golden brown and the filling is bubbling. Transfer to a cooling rack. After about 10 minutes, remove the sides of the tart pan and slide the tart off the base onto a platter. Serve the tart at room temperature.

This is best the day it is made, but leftovers can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for 1 day. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Sesame-Almond Dough
Makes enough for a 9-inch lattice topped tart

2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¾ cup unblanched almonds, lightly toasted and cooled
½ cup sesame seeds, lightly toasted and cooled
½ cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon finely chopped lemon zest (If I recall correctly, I used the zest of one lemon - approx. 1        teaspoon.)
2 sticks (8 ounces) cold butter, cut into ½-inch cubes

Whisk the eggs together with the vanilla extract until blended; set aside until needed.

Put the almonds, sesame seeds, and 1 tablespoon of the sugar in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse until the almonds are very finely chopped, but not oil or pasty. Turn the mixture into the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and add the remaining sugar, the flour, cinnamon, salt and zest. Mix on low speed for a few seconds, just to combine the ingredients.

Keeping the mixer on low, add the butter and mix until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Don’t worry if a few large pieces of butter remain; you can work these out later. Add the egg mixture, mixing only until the dough is uniformly moistened and forms curds, about 15 seconds (it took longer for me). Turn the mixture out onto a smooth work surface.

Knead the dough gently a couple of times just to fully blend the ingredients. Chill for at least one hour.

Gather the dough into a ball and cut it into lopsided halves. Shape both pieces into disks (the smaller “half” will be used for the lattice).

The dough can be made ahead and refrigerated, wrapped in plastic, for up to 2 days before using or wrapped airtight and frozen for a month. Thaw, still wrapped, in the refrigerator.

Baking with Julia/Dorie Greenspan


  1. I made both recipes too. I liked the crostata, but was not a fan of the cobbler. I had some problems rolling out the crostata dough, but my tart still looked pretty good. Yours is gorgeous!

  2. You did both! I only made the crostata. I had issues with the dough... your lattice definitely ended up better than mine.
    Both of yours look really delicious.

  3. Wow, now I want to make the crostata, too! Interesting lattice technique...I'm going to try iit :)

  4. They do look amazing Cathleen! A lot of work for sure. Too bad you didn't like the crostata so much. I had to use apples and raspberries and really loved it, especially the dough.

  5. Yeah, I totally ignored the lattice instructions... both your desserts came out beautifully.

    We made both too and enjoyed them down to the last bite.

  6. I'm so impressed that you made both desserts! Both look beautiful, your lattice-work and decoration are especially impressive. I had the same problem with the cobbler--it looked cooked through but it was totally raw.

  7. I went with just the cobbler myself, but man--that is a beautiful crostata! I always like linzer tarts better the next day...this sounds sort of similar.

  8. Wow, what gorgeous desserts! I have never made a cobbler, but I would love to try!

  9. You're crostada looks great. Love it. I will taste it tomorrow, for I made it today. Thanks for giving me that tip.

  10. Wow, what a lovely crostata. I love the lattice and the extra decorations.
    I made the cobbler and plan to bake this interesting crostata soon.
    Thank you for sharing the step by step tutorial.

  11. Oh so sorry!! I even didn't mention how good you were to bake them both.
    Your cobbler is also beautiful... ;-)

  12. the more i read about the cobbler, the more i think i need to bake one! your tart looks beautiful!

  13. Great post, and fantastic pics! I thought the cobbler could have used a little something else too.
    Your crostata is beautiful. Glad to hear you loved it more the next (and next) time you tasted it! ;)

  14. I love that you did both recipes. Your desserts are soooo gorgeous! Just amazing.

  15. You made both!! The crostata is so pretty! I particularly like how the scarf matches the colour of the fruit filling. :-) I also made the crostata, and it was very tasty.

  16. Wow Cathleen, that crostata looks great! Definitely something to try in the future. Love the beautiful photography on both your recipes. We only made the cobbler this time around, and like you, also noticed that it was slightly undercooked in the center even after extra baking time. We both thought that reducing the amount of dough on future trials of this recipe might be a good idea. Other than that, though, we loved it. The flavor of the ginger and peaches was great.

  17. Your crostata and cobbler look fantastic. I will use the parchment paper rolling to help with the stickiness. I wasn't able to make either but now that I have seen yours I want to give it a try.

  18. Oh my goodness you did both and your crostata looks divine. I may have to go back and make that one... Your cobbler looks great in the ramekins. I will check for doneness on the cobbler next time as well...


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