Since starting college, summer vacations have taken a drastic turn. They used to be so great: only 2 months long, just enough time to chill out, relax, and have some fun. My friends and I all pretty much worked at the same pizza shop about 15 hours a week. It gave us enough money to go out for ice cream, go to the mall, or take a trip to Hershey Park, leaving enough to slowly build up that college fund. There were just no worries; it was okay to be a kid and be lazy. Then I would throw a culinary camp into the mix and cross-country preseason and I don’t think I was ever bored.
Things are different now. Half of my friends stayed at their school towns to work so I see them once a month. We don’t just relax anymore. It’s about working, making money, figuring out what we are going to do when we graduate in 9 months!!!! And if you are me and don’t start the job search until finishing summer school in mid-June, it’s about a constant stream of “we’re not looking for any summer help” for a month until it's too late.
The scariest part is, the summer “breaks” will just keep getting stranger. In a year, when real life starts, it won’t even be a break anymore. Just another season. The beginning of a time where life is not in a set schedule of school-break-school-break. Many of us will begin new journeys, start careers, move to other states, perhaps. After we all reconvene for the various graduation parties, who knows when my friends and I will all be together in one room again. Gah! Is it just a little obvious I’m freaking about the future?
However, the nice thing about summer is that break or no break, it will come around every year and there are some things that will always be there with it. Notably, there will always be peaches. Come July, the peach trees present to us their perfectly ripened and juicy fruits. The farmer’s markets display them proudly so that even people driving by can’t help but slow down at the sight of rosy flesh peeking out of wooden baskets. Without fail, a day will come where you get a peach so ripe you end your snack with pearls of pink juice dripping down your arm and a ring of stickiness around the mouth. The juice probably missed your plate completely, sending stains across the tablecloth. You may even need to change your shirt. But that’s okay; it reminds you of carefree days long and gone. It reminds you simply that the essence of summer still exists in one little fruit, no matter how much summer has changed. As long as there are peaches, things will still be okay.
That is why on my birthday a few weeks ago, I wanted a peach cobbler instead of cake. I knew that all of my friends, for the first time in a long time, were going to all be together and things were going to be as close to those summers past as possible. So what better way to enhance that summer nostalgia than with peaches? The filling for the cobbler was a little less standard but I was following Jamie Oliver’s filling recipe so I expected it. He did away with the cinnamon, nutmeg, and fallish flair and replaced it with orange juice, lime zest, and fresh ginger. And I added a splash of amaretto too for a little something extra. Somehow, this remix made it even more festive, made a cobbler that not only hinted but screamed summer. It was zingy, sweet, and juicy with the fluffiest cream biscuits on top. If I could take a bite into high school summer this would be it. This can bring it all flooding back.
I was making this recipe for my birthday dinner party so there was a lot of cooking going on all day. Of course I wanted it served warm, but since I didn’t want to mess with assembling and baking when guests were present, I made the whole thing a few hours before. I just let it sit a room temperature and popped it in a 200 degree oven about 30 minute before eating to let it warm up. This worked perfectly and the biscuits stayed really crisp and fluffy. Although the pictures show the cobbler in ramekins, I only made 2 of these individual portions. The rest of the cobbler was baked in a large 9X13 casserole dish.
For the filling
12 ripe peaches, peeled and cut into wedges
2 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ cup brown sugar (use a bit less if peaches are really sweet)
zest from one lime
zest and juice from one orange
one inch ginger root, peeled and grated
2 Tbs. amaretto (optional)
For the topping
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
2 Tbs. sugar
1 Tbs. baking powder
1 stick cold butter, cut into cubes
1 cup cold heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and grease a 13X9 inch casserole dish. In a mixing bowl gently combine the peaches with the vanilla, brown sugar, lime zest, orange juice and zest, ginger, and amaretto. Stir until the brown sugar is melted. Transfer into the dish, spread everything around evenly, and bake for 10 minutes to let the peaches soften some.
While the peaches roast, prepare the biscuit topping. In a food processor, combine the flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, and butter. Pulse until you have pea-sized crumbs of butter. Transfer mixture to a mixing bowl. Pour in the cream while stirring with a fork and continue to stir until the flour is just completely moistened.
When the peaches are finished cooking, remove them from the oven and stir them a little to make sure noting is sticking to much to the edges. Add a little water if they look too thick. Then, place the biscuit dough on top. Take a golf ball size piece of dough and form it into a ¼ inch patty and place it on top of the peaches. Continue doing this, making sure each of the patties have a small gap between one other, until the peaches are covered. You may have a little dough left over; you can use it or not, whatever you like. Bake the cobbler for 20-25 minutes until the topping is golden brown and crispy. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.