Ginger Black Pepper Cherry Cobbler

I ended up with a case (18 pounds!) of organic sweet cherries a couple of weeks ago because the Co-op had an Extreme Produce Sale and who could say no to $1.50/lb organic cherries?! Not I.
So, I pitted those suckers (it looked like a crime scene on my countertop ..) and now I’ve got a freezer-full of cherries to make into things!
I was going to make a pie using this recipe (adjusting slightly because I don’t have sour cherries) for a potluck, but then changed my mind because pies are difficult and messy at a potluck. So, cobbler!
I sort of {ahem} cobbled {knee-slap} this recipe together using some of the black pepper ginger syrup I had in the fridge for the cherry base and the shortcake recipe I’ve been refining and using this summer for the topping (a mash-up of the crust from the pie recipe linked above and shortcake recipe from Williams-Sonoma).
The ginger and black pepper add a subtle zing to the not-too-sweet cherries. The biscuit topping is scone-like and all the better with the bit of almond meal.
And paired with almond whipped cream, it was a hit!

Recipe:

Cherry Base
Approx 3.25 lbs sweet cherries, fresh or frozen, pitted and halved
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup black pepper ginger syrup *
4 tbsp corn starch

Biscuit Topping
3 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup almond meal/flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into roughly 1/2″ pieces and kept chilled
2 large eggs
2/3 cup heavy cream**, plus more as needed

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 375. Butter a 9 x 13 pan.

2. Mix the cherries and sugar in a large pot and heat over medium heat. Cook until the cherries release their juices and the sugar dissolves.

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3. Whisk together the ginger syrup and corn starch in a small bowl. Once the cherries are hot, add the syrup-corn starch mix and increase heat a little to med-hi. Stir regularly as everything heats and thickens. Once the mix is thick and jam-like, remove from the heat and set aside while you make the topping.

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4. Whisk the flours, sugar, BP, and salt together in a medium bowl. Add the diced butter and, working quickly to keep everything cold, combine the butter and dry ingredients using a pastry cutter or your fingers till the butter is incorporated, but there are still slightly larger chunks of it remaining—that somewhat uneven texture they usually call “coarse meal”.

5. Whisk the eggs and cream in a small bowl and then pour into the flour-butter mix. Stir everything together gently with a spoon till it forms a dough, but not past the point where the flour is moistened. If it looks too dry, add more cream by the tablespoonful till it all comes together. Don’t over-mix!
The dough can chill at this point, but it’s not essential.

6. Spoon the cherries into the 9 x 13 pan. Take spoonfuls of the dough (about golf ball-sized) and drop on top of the cherries, covering the top.
(I ended up using only about three-quarters of the dough, so I froze the rest for a later use.
…And by later use, I might mean sneaking off hunks of it with a paring knife to snack on when my daughter’s not looking…)

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Pop it all into the 375 oven for between 25-30 minutes. It’s done when the cherries have bubbled up through the topping and the topping itself is nice and golden.

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Yum.
Now for the whipped cream. For a crowd, I used a pint of heavy whipping cream, a scant quarter cup of sugar, and about 2 tsp of almond extract.
Ideally, whip the cream in a cold metal bowl because it goes faster.
You can, of course, use an electric handheld mixer or standing mixer with ballon whip, but I really like to whip cream by hand with my trusty old whisk.

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Why?
I’m not sure and I could certainly philosophize on the subject (really, why does one do anything a harder way when an easier way to do it exists …?), but I think it’s because of the connection to the process and being able to really feel the cream change states.

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Whatever the reason, I do really recommend doing it once in your life just to say you have. It will hurt your arm a little, but it doesn’t take any longer than with a handheld mixer, so pop on your Devo cassette and get whipping!

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Chow down, or get this all to your gathering quickly! This dessert is at its finest when the cobbler is warm and the cream is cold.

* If you don’t want to (trust me, you WANT TO) or don’t have the time to make the ginger syrup, here are two things to consider:
1. I made this recipe much quicker by making a few changes:
a) I scrubbed, but didn’t peel the ginger–you’re straining it out after all.
b) I coarsely ground the pepper.
c) I heated the syrup and let it simmer for about an hour on low heat. It infuses much faster with heat.
2. Instead of the syrup, you could just add about a half cup more sugar and a little ground ginger and ground black pepper to the mix. Then whisk the corn starch in a quarter to half cup of cold water before adding to the hot cherries.

** I’ve used whole milk instead of cream and it still makes a yummy biscuit.

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