Look, at this point in the year, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want something to be better than expected.
That’s why we need to talk about peach cobbler. It’s a reliable, wonderful, cozy summertime staple. It’s perfect as it is, and yet… in light of the last seven months, it seemed like a fair endeavor to attempt making classic peach cobbler even better.
Great cooking comes down to confidence
Thus, Salted Caramel Peach Cobbler was born unto us.
GET THE RECIPE: Salted Caramel Peach Cobbler
Seriously though, It’s amazing how a drizzle of homemade salted caramel can elevate even the comfiest, most beloved desserts to incredible new heights. It’s a little touch of something special that makes a world of difference. That being the case, this recipe—while a guaranteed crowd-pleaser—is fairly simple. It can be broken down into three basic parts, all of which are easy to prepare: the peaches, the topping, and (of course) the caramel.
These summertime gems are the stars of your cobbler, so you’ll want to reach for the best you can find. (Which means if you have access to Georgia peaches, grab those—because despite what people from states other than Georgia say, they are better.) Remember, if you’re working with ripe, juicy, fragrant peaches, you hardly need to add much to make their flavor sing.
You’ll need six medium-sized peaches for this recipe, peeled and cut into moderately thin slices. This should give you roughly four heaping cups of peach slices. However, if you wanted to slip an extra peach or two in there, I seriously doubt anyone would mind.
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Now, because peak-season peaches are inherently sweet, the topping contains a fair amount of sugar, and we’re finishing this whole shebang with Salted Caramel Sauce once it’s out of the oven, the recipe is relatively conservative when it comes to sweetening the filling. A couple of tablespoons of light brown sugar and a couple of (generous) tablespoons of the caramel gently stirred into the peach slices was the sweet spot for me. That said, if you know going in that your peaches are a little under-ripe, don’t hesitate to add another spoonful of either to the mix.
In addition to the sweet, you’ll also want to add a little acidity for a balancing touch of brightness. For this, you can use lemon juice—or, if you don’t have a lemon on hand, a mild vinegar (such as rice wine vinegar or white wine vinegar) will do the trick. I kept the recipe basic, but if you’d like to add a little spice to your cobbler—like cinnamon, ginger, or even a sprinkle of cardamom—now would be the time to do it. Just stir the spices of your choosing on in with the sugar and acid, and then pour your peaches into a lightly greased 9-x13-inch casserole dish.
When it comes to peach cobbler, there are three basic ways to create a topping: with a batter, with biscuits, or with pie dough. A lot of traditional, Southern peach cobbler recipes involve a baking powder-heavy batter that’s poured into the bottom of the pan and topped with peaches; and as the cobbler bakes, the batter puffs up, covering the peach filling. This is initially the route I tried to take with this Salted Caramel Peach Cobbler; however, a couple rounds of testing later, I found myself wanting for less cakey vibes and more crispiness. A quick consultation with a peach cobbler pro (i.e. a south Georgia-based grandmother who has made more than her fair share of cobblers) made the solution obvious—pour the batter on top. Duh.
For this simple batter, you’ll start by whisking together equal parts flour and granulated sugar, along with a little baking powder and salt. Next, you’re going to cut a stick of unsalted butter into the dry mixture, as you would if you were making pie dough or biscuits.
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This step guarantees a good, even distribution of butter throughout the topping. Just cut a chilled stick of butter into small pieces and toss it into the flour mixture; then, using a snapping motion with your thumb against your index and middle fingertips, rub the butter pieces into the dry ingredients until it’s thoroughly dispersed.
Finally, you’ll mix milk (any percentage from skim to whole is fine here) and vanilla extract (for an extra touch of richness) in a measuring cup and stir that right into the buttery flour mixture until just-combined. If your batter looks really thin and lumpy—don’t panic, you’ve done everything right. Pour that not-so-appealing batter right over the peaches and you’re ready to party. And by party, I mean bake at 375 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes.
So now for the reason we’re all here—that “something special” factor: the caramel.
For anyone who’s never made caramel sauce from-scratch, I completely understand the intimidation factor, but I want to assure you, it’s so much easier than you think. And trust me, it’s a skill you’ll be happy to have in your back pocket.
GET THE RECIPE: Salted Caramel Sauce
This recipe for Salted Caramel Sauce doesn’t even require a candy thermometer. You’ll just want to stay nearby to keep an eye on your caramel as it cooks—because sugar goes from golden-brown to burnt-black real fast. That being the case, my number one tip for making caramel is to have everything you need measured out and at the ready on your countertop, so there’s no need to go moseying off to the fridge to grab an ingredient. It’s too easy to get sidetracked once you start moseying anywhere.
For this recipe, I’d recommend grabbing a heavy-bottomed saucepan that’s larger than what you think you need. Now, all you’re doing is heating a mixture of sugar and water until the sugar melts and you have a syrup. You’ll do this over medium-low heat and you can (and should) stir the mixture frequently with a wooden spoon. Once your sugar is dissolved, you’ll increase the heat to medium-high in order to bring the syrup to a boil. At this point, you’ll want to ditch the spoon and gently swirl the pan every so often instead. This swirling action is a more effective way to ensure even cooking than stirring.
You’ll also want to have a pastry brush in a glass of water handy. And every so often, brush water down the sides of the pan in order to take care of any crystallized sugar build up. (You’ll thank yourself later when it’s time to clean your pan.) If you don’t happen to have a pastry brush, you can also use a small, clean (as in, never-used), food-safe paint brush—or honestly, even a brand-new toothbrush will work instead. And if you don’t have those items either, you can very carefully use a moistened paper towel or coffee filter to wipe the sides of the pan.
Once your sugar syrup has turned a deep, amber color, you’ll pour in some heavy cream. And this, my friends, is the most terrifying part of the process (it’s not that scary) and why you want to have a larger pan than you think necessary. When the cream hits the hot caramel syrup it’s going to bubble and foam up vigorously. But in response, you’re going to drop some cubed butter into the pot and stir gently, and everything will calm down. You’ll be left with a beautiful, velvety-smooth caramel sauce. Take it off of the heat and sprinkle in your salt. Boom.
The Salted Caramel Sauce recipe above yields more caramel than you’ll need for a single peach cobbler, but who’s complaining? Store the leftovers in a container with a tight fitting lid and refrigerate. You can whip out your homemade salted caramel to top ice cream, dip apple slices, glaze cakes, and so much more. Just gently reheat it in the microwave or on the stovetop first.
For the record—yes, you can use jarred caramel sauce for this cobbler. But, you’ll miss out on all the fun detailed above. And who’s really trying to do that?
You’ll want to give your cobbler a little time to cool down and “set up” after you remove it from the oven; thirty minutes to an hour, depending on your patience level. When it’s game-time, finish your cobbler with a show-stopping pour of caramel sauce over the top and give it a sprinkle of flakey salt like Maldon.
Obviously, vanilla ice cream belongs alongside a Salted Caramel Peach Cobbler, so scoop it on, dig in, and let the rest fade away. At least for a few bites.
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