Peaches are simply one of the best ambassadors for summer. They are sweet, juicy, and seem just so old-fashioned in the best way possible.
Remember peaches as a kid? The fuzz was near impossible to remove from the skin, so biting into one meant that your chin would get irritated by the bristly outer layer. The inside flesh so adhered to the pit that even if you just sucked the peach pit in your mouth to get off the last bits of stringy peach flesh, it just wouldn’t let go. I had this love/hate relationship with peaches. If not perfectly ripe, the meat was hard and almost bitter. But if you waited even a day too long, the peach practically disintegrated into juice in your hands as you bit into one. But when a peach was at the height of ripeness, it was PERFECT!
These days peach fuzz comes off easily with a tea towel. Scoring a peach and twisting releases it seamlessly from the pit. And the flavour is still as wonderfully sweet as it was when we were kids. Sometimes farmers playing with their crop dna is a good thing! So now it’s time for peach pies, peaches and cream ice cream, roasted peaches on pancakes, grilled peaches with burrata and prosciutto, and of course, cobbler.
Cobblers, like crisps, brown betties and even pan dowdies, are simply the easiest ways to prepare fruit for dessert. They are all just variations on a theme. Fruit is tossed with sugar and spices, some flour or cornstarch to help thicken the juices as they bake up, and everything is placed in a pan or skillet. The fruit is topped with variations on streusel or biscuits, which bake into the best crusts, soaking up some of the juices and getting all crispy and golden brown. It’s less fussy and precise than having to bake a pie, so baking up one of these desserts is much more approachable and relaxed.
Peach cobbler is what happened this past weekend in my kitchen. We were all getting together with Jim’s family. Jim’s brother Tery is allergic to sugar. Ever since he was a little boy, he would get the most severe headaches. They discovered that the root cause was sugar. So his mom cut out all sugar for Tery. Her baking changed as well. The only sweetener that he seemed to tolerate was maple syrup. So it was either that, or dried figs and dates that she would use to sweeten baked goods for the kids.
I was going to bring dessert. The peaches at the farmers markets are perfect right now. Living near Niagara, we have access to some of the best peaches in the country. So many varieties, and so sweet and juicy. So I had a basket on the counter- it was the obvious choice for a dessert. And I was going to make it a dessert that Tery could partake of, as opposed to be being a passive observer as he often is as we order desserts when going out.
Alanna Taylor-Tobin has a fabulous Peach Cobbler in her book, Alternative Baker. Because she uses maple syrup as the sweetener for the filling, I knew that this would be my inspiration. She also uses bourbon for the fruit, which just goes fabulously with peaches and maple syrup, and would make all the guys so happy. But then I thought about it. I love adding spices to peaches. Which ones would work well with the maple syrup and bourbon? I decided on sweet smoked paprika, white pepper and allspice. Toss the fruit together in all of the above, and we have the makings of a memorable peach cobbler.
What would I do for a topping? I adore the crunch that comes from anything baked with cornmeal. And cornmeal just seems like a natural with bourbon as well. So it would have to be a cornmeal biscuit type of topping. Instead of buttermilk, I would use kefir. I always have kefir in the house, and it works as a worthy buttermilk substitute. Instead of sugar, I would again add a smidge of maple syrup. I didn’t feel the need to make the topping overly sweet. The filling was intense enough. And most of us would be adding ice cream on top of the finished cobbler, so I held back. But you could add a bit more if you want.
Alanna has us baking up the fruit part way before topping it with the biscuit batter. This gives the peaches a head start, since they are going in raw, without peeling. Then the topping gets spooned over the bubbling fruit and back into the oven until the topping is golden brown.
Seeing Tery’s face when I said that dessert was ‘Tery Friendly’ was worth it! He was so happy to join us all with his own bowl of cobbler, even if it wasn’t topped with ice cream. And everyone was thrilled with the bourbon. I was a little concerned that they might have found it overpowering. But no, even though my two sisters-in-law are not not bourbon drinkers, they loved the level of bourbon in their bowls!!
You guys will love how easily this comes together. The biscuit batter is actually created in a food processer. This can be done while the peaches are in the oven for the first part of the baking process. Then just spoon the batter over the fruit and pop it back into the oven. Of course, for Tery, I switched out the sugar for maple syrup. The final topping will be less sweet than your average cobbler topping. If you are not avoiding processed sugar, I will understand if you add a some granulated sugar to the recipe, say another tablespoon of it.
Let it set for a few minutes before spooning it out into individual bowls. This will give the juices a chance to settle back down and create a lovely sauce.
Alternatively, you can also take this recipe and prepare it in individual baking dishes or mini cast iron skillets. ‘Cuz everything is just cuter in mini form!!!
You guys are all peaches! Love hearing from you all , let me know what you think of this one. And don’t forget to tag me in Instagram when you cook up a recipe from here. Would love to see what you guys are doing in your kitchens 🙂
Spicy Maple Bourbon Peach Cobbler with a Cornmeal Topping
Summer's bounty of peaches, along with maple syrup, bourbon and savoury spices create the perfect bubbly filling. A cornmeal biscuit topping creates the crunchy lid. All you need is ice cream!
- 8 ripe peaches about 8 medium-large peaches, or enough to make about 7 cups, sliced
- 1/4 cup bourbon
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 3-4 dashes of Old Fashioned bitters
- 2 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tbsp smoked sweet paprika
- 1/2 tsp ground allspice
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- 1/8 tsp white pepper
- 1/2 cup AP flour
- 1/2 cup cornmeal
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp grated lemon zest
- 1/4 lb 1 stick of cold butter, diced
- 3/4 cup kefir , or buttermilk
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
Preheat the oven to 425F (220C)
Rinse the peaches and remove the fuzz by rubbing them in a tea towel.
Cut the peaches in half and twist to remove from the pit. Slice each half into about 5 slices.
Place all of these wedges into a large bowl.
Add the bourbon and maple syrup and gently toss.
In a small bowl combine the cornstarch and all the spices. Stir to combine well. Sprinkle this over the peaches and gently toss to coat evenly.
Transfer the peaches and all liquids to a buttered or sprayed baking dish or skillet. The baking dish must be at least 9 inch square or diameter, and the skillet should be a 10 inch cast iron skillet preferably. Unless of course you are making individual ones, in which case, ensure that the baking dishes can hold at least 1 1/2 cups.
Place on the centre rack in the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until the juices are bubbling.
Combine the flour, cornmeal, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and lemon zest in a food processor. Pulse a couple of times.
Add the diced butter and pulse until the butter has been cut down into small pieces.
Add the kefir or buttermilk and maple syrup and pulse until just combined.
Remove the baking dish from the oven after 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 400F
Dollop spoonfuls of the batter all over the bubbling fruit.
Return to the oven and bake for a further 20-25 or so minutes, until the topping is golden brown, and the fruit is bubbling.
Set aside to cool on a baking rack. This will allow the fruit to thicken up, and the biscuit topping to finish baking from the residual heat.
Serve at room temp or warmed up, with vanilla ice cream or maple infused whipped cream.
You can also refrigerate any leftovers and reheat before serving.
If sugar is not an issue for you, feel free to add another tablespoon to the biscuit topping. My recipe doesn't have an overly sweet topping. But the filling makes up for it!