Blackberry brandy cobbler

JAMES PEREIRA/Sun-Gazette Correspondent
Shown is blackberry brandy cobbler.

JAMES PEREIRA/Sun-Gazette Correspondent Shown is blackberry brandy cobbler.

While they fruit throughout the summer, blackberries are one of the special treats of late autumn because they persist long after other harvests are finished.

I had my heart set on peach cobbler rather than cake for my birthday, but October is late for peaches and with the peach blight this year, fresh peaches were right out. Aaron came home with basketfuls of blackberries, instead. In the end, I was just as happy, because this blackberry brandy cobbler is delicious.

Owing to binary moral philosophy and overwhelming sentiments of anti-blackness, medieval Europeans regarded the blackberry with some mistrust, attributing at least two different folk tales to the origin of the berries’ darkness. One claims that, when Lucifer was cast from the heavens, he fell amongst blackberry brambles, and the fruit was forever marked with shadow. Another claims that blackberry canes formed Christ’s crown of thorns, and thus the fruit is black with shame. Still other folk tales regard blackberries as a fairy fruit and claim various blessings or curses are invoked by passing underneath a “fairy arch” of blackberry canes.

One reason for this disdain for blackberries may be their wild character — blackberries favor sandy soils and partial shade, making them defiant toward traditional cultivation of cleared and tilled plots, relegating them to forest’s edge and the periphery of society. “Out where the blackberries grew” serves as a poetic description for the far side of the fields and the conceits of a world of wild, unexplored darkness that ancient Europeans viewed as existing beyond their borders.

Now that untamed wilderness has more popular appeal, the suggestion of blackberries foraged from unspoiled woodland groves is alluring, even if blackberries are now factory farmed throughout the year.

Despite what some confectioners would have you believe, the natural character of blackberry isn’t one of unrestrained sweetness, so I tried to tone down the sugar for this recipe, using raw sugar for its extra molasses-y nuance. A couple shots of brandy also add depth and sharpness, with woody notes that emphasize the deep fruity flavor of the blackberries. Just a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg round things out, adding warmth and additional aromas. Sparkly underneath a crackly sugar crust, the cobbler looks sufficiently festive dressed up with ice cream and whipped cream.

Blackberry brandy cobbler

For the filling

3 cups blackberries, fresh or (thawed) frozen

1/2 cup turbinado sugar

2 tablespoons brandy

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon sea salt, finely ground

For the topping

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup turbinado sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon sea salt, finely ground

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, very cold, diced

1/4 cup buttermilk, very cold

The finishing touches

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon buttermilk

2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

Preheat an oven to 350 F and butter 8-by-8-inch baking dish.

Stir together filling ingredients in a large bowl, then pour into the prepared baking dish and set aside.

In a separate large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.

Scatter in the butter and either pulse in a food processor or use a pastry cutter or two forks to cut together until you get roughly pea-sized crumbs.

Slowly fold in the buttermilk and mix until just combined.

Drop batter by spoonfuls or handfuls on top of the filling, in a jagged but roughly even layer. Press down lightly.

Make an egg wash by beating together the egg and 1 tablespoon of buttermilk in a small bowl. Brush over the top of the pastry (if especially jagged, you may need to dab) and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until the top is richly browned and the filling is bubbling. Allow to cool at least a few minutes before serving.

Since meeting in 2005, Pereira and Aaron Peterson have enjoyed cooking, entertaining and sharing recipes together.

Inspired and edified by family history, cookbook collections and their travels (and the meals they’ve eaten on them), their blog, GourmetGents, launched in October 2011 as an extension of their love for all things epicurean.

They feature family recipes, unfamiliar ingredients, baking experiments, cooking tips and lots of food photography, all with the occasional snarky aside.

For more recipes, visit gourmet gents.blogspot.com.

GourmetGents is published on the fourth/last Sunday of the month in the Lifestyle section.

They can be reached at the Lifetsyle Department email, life@sungazette.com.