May-June 2014 | Food & Drink

Cooking Class

The Uncomplicated Cobbler

As spring moves into summer and juicy fruits become readily available, making a simple cobbler or crisp is an easy way to get dessert on the table without spending a lot of time in a hot kitchen. And one of the first vegetables of the season—rhubarb—pairs nicely with one of the first fruits of the season—strawberries—to make a delicious treat that’s sweet and tart.

Both crisps and cobblers are easy to make, but it takes a little more time and expertise to produce a cobbler’s light and fluffy biscuit topping. Crisps are a bit simpler: Fruit is topped with a crumbly mixture of flour, butter, sugar—and often nuts and oatmeal—that bakes up light and crisp.

Either dessert is delicious on its own, but no one is likely to complain if you top it with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Rhubarb-Strawberry Cobbler


2 pounds of rhubarb stalks, trimmed of leaves and tough ends, sliced ½ inch thick
1½ cups sugar for cobbler or 1¼ cups sugar for crisp
1 pound strawberries, hulled and cut to same size as rhubarb
3 tablespoons cornstarch or 6 tablespoons flour
Juice of one orange
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Cream-biscuit cobbler topping (or crisp topping)
Milk and sugar for sprinkling


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a bowl, toss together the rhubarb, sugar, strawberries, cornstarch (or flour), orange juice and vanilla extract. Let the mixture sit 10 to 15 minutes while prepping the topping.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a 9-by-13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish (or similar 3-quart dish). Alternatively, split the filling into eight 1-cup ramekins.   
  4. Arrange cut biscuits on top of fruit. Brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar if desired. If using the crisp topping, scatter it evenly over the fruit.
  5. Place the baking dish on the top of a sheet pan (to catch drips) and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the topping is golden brown and the fruit mixture is bubbling up through the center. If the topping starts to get too dark after 30 minutes, turn down the oven to 350 degrees.

To make a Cream-biscuit cobbler topping:

Helpful Hint: The dessert can be assembled and refrigerated up to 12 hours in advance of baking. If making a crisp, substitute that topping for the biscuit version.


1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups cake flour
¾ teaspoon salt
1 level tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
2 cups heavy cream


  1. Sift together flours, salt, baking powder and sugar.
  2. Cut cold butter into the flour mixture using a pastry cutter or two knives until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Butter should be pea-sized or slightly smaller.
  3. Pour cream into flour mixture and fold together. The mixture should look a little lumpy.  
  4. Transfer the mixture to a lightly floured work surface and gather the dough together. Gently roll or pat dough into a ½-inch-thick round.
  5. Cut biscuits with a cutter of desired shape and size.
  6. Gently gather scraps and roll one more time. Cut additional biscuits. Discard remaining scraps.

To make a crisp topping:

Helpful Hint: You can double the crisp topping recipe and freeze half for the next time you want to make a fruit crisp. 


1½ sticks (6 ounces) cold unsalted butter, softened
1 cup light-brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats
1½ teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt


Combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl. Using a pastry blender or your fingers, mix the ingredients together until large crumbs form.