I am quite fond of peaches, perhaps because I’ve spent most of my life in Texas and Georgia. And maybe because it was a peach that helped me ease back into Texas after a brief stint in Northern California, land of lemonade springs and trees full of avocados and figs and grapefruits and . . . sigh. Anyway, I was feeling a tad culinarily deprived until I discovered the peach tree in the backyard of my Austin rental house. It was a little forlorn, drought and neglect having taken their toll. But damned if the spindly thing didn’t sprout fragrant pink flowers that slowly but surely gave way to real, live fruit. Yes, the specimens were puny, at least those that still clung to the branches above the sticky, squirrel-gnawed remains of their brethren. But I was thrilled nonetheless to serve as temporary caretaker and beneficiary of a hardscrabble orchard of one.
We’re just about to find out what kind of peach crop the Hill Country has in store for us this summer, but it’s not too early to get excited about this dreamy masterpiece from Denise Gee’s Sweet on Texas, in which the rosy fruit is cradled in warm pillows of cinnamon-scented dough and blanketed with melty vanilla ice cream. Whether the fruit you get your hands on is robust or skimpy, this cobbler will give you the warm fuzzies either way.
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons light honey (clover or orange blossom)
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
5 cups fresh peach slices
3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Melt the butter in a 9 x 13 baking dish.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar, the baking powder, and salt; add the honey, milk, and vanilla, stirring just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Pour the batter over the melted butter (do not stir).
In a large, nonreactive saucepan, bring the remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar, the peach slices, brown sugar, lemon juice, and lime juice to a boil, stirring constantly, then remove from heat. Pour the peach mixture over the batter but do not stir. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
Bake for about 40 minutes or until golden brown, shielding the crust with foil during the last 10 minutes of baking so that it doesn’t overbrown. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
Adapted from Sweet on Texas, by Denise Gee. Published by Chronicle Books.