Skillet Peach Cobbler

Saturday, May 23, 2020

There is nothing like a juicy, ripe, sweet peach in the summer. Unfortunately, it can be tricky to capture that in peach desserts. Peach season is fickle, at least if you live in an area where you need to rely on store-bought imports. Some years it feels as if we hit the jackpot and other times, the peaches are nothing to write home about. I can't tell you how many summers I gave up on developing peach recipes because I kept ending up with bland, mealy, dry peaches. I actually started writing most of my recipes using nectarines, which somehow seem to be more reliable. But this year, I'm over it. One thing quarantine has helped me to do was to get over my apprehension about buying frozen produce. In some cases I've found that I prefer cooking from frozen, like peaches. The thing about frozen peaches is that they are picked at season's peak, so they are always ripe and acceptably sweet. Consistency is so important for developing recipes. Frozen peaches release a lot of juices as they thaw and cook, which is exactly what you want for most baked desserts. Perhaps one of the best bonuses is that there is no extra work involved to peel them and remove the pits, which has been disastrous for me with some batches of fresh peaches. So, frozen peaches was the easy choice to make this skillet cobbler. 

In my apple cobbler recipe I showed you how to make a cobbler using pie crust. It used to be my preferred way of making peach cobblers as well, but the pie crust adds more time. My skillet peach cobbler is much easier because it's topped with a buttermilk biscuit dough, so it can be thrown together without any advance planning. That's the best kind of dessert in my book. The topping is based on my 3-ingredient buttermilk biscuit recipe. It's an all-butter party, but if you were so inclined, try replacing half the butter in the topping for good quality leaf lard. The last tweak I made to this recipe was dialing back the amount of buttermilk because frozen peaches were juicy enough to produce some of the liquid that the biscuits will absorb. If the biscuit topping is too wet, it won't fully bake underneath the crust. 

My biggest takeaway from testing peach cobblers is not to go too heavy on the thickener. You want to be left with a good amount of syrupy peach juices after baking. Tapioca, which I use for pies, sucked up way too much juice. I found that cornstarch works just fine for a cobbler and is readily available in most pantries. If your frozen peaches weigh a little more than two pounds, use them all - but don't go under two pounds. You can increase to as much as three pounds of peaches if you prefer a deeper cobbler. Just scale up the remaining filling ingredients, and make sure you bake it in a deep dish skillet. I used my trusty 10" Lodge skillet, which worked perfectly to hold two pounds of peaches. The skillet made sense to me because I wanted to pre-cook the filling, so it's easy to start this on the stovetop, add the biscuit topping, and then bake in the oven. If you don't have an oven-safe skillet, you can simply transfer the cooked peach filling to an 8x8" baking dish.

You can play around with seasonings as this won't change the structure of the recipe. In the past I was admittedly a little heavy-handed with the spices, which perhaps was a result of over-compensating for shitty peaches. Just a pinch of nutmeg, cardamom, and cinnamon works perfectly without masking the fruit. I rarely have almond extract, but a small dash (not as much as you would add for vanilla) works to enhance the peach flavor as well. I'm usually satisfied with vanilla extract, but a splash of bourbon or cognac is also amazing. A simple sprinkle of sugar over the top of the biscuits adds extra texture. If you'd like to finish with more of a glaze, brushing the biscuits with honey butter or my favorite - peach preserves - is the way to go. And of course, serve this with your favorite whipped topping or vanilla ice cream.

Ingredients for the filling:
2 lbs peeled and sliced peaches (frozen recommended)
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 to 1/3 cup granulated sugar (adjust by taste)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Juice of 1 small lemon
1 tsp cornstarch

Biscuit topping:
1 cup self-rising flour
2 tbsp buttermilk powder 
3 tbsp granulated sugar, plus 1 tbsp set aside (optional)
5 tbsp unsalted butter (chilled)
1/2 cup ice-cold water 

*Substitution Notes:
  • Self-rising flour can be substituted with 1 cup all-purpose flour + 1.5 tsp baking powder + 1/2 tsp salt.
  • 1/2 cup liquid buttermilk can be used instead of water, just omit the buttermilk powder. If you want to use whole milk, add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice. 
  • I have not tested this recipe with gluten-free or dairy-free substitutions.
Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Yield: Serves 4 - 6
Recommended equipment (affiliate links): 10" cast iron skillet or 8x8" baking dish, mixing bowl, silicone spatula, pastry brush (optional)

There's no need to thaw your frozen peaches. Simply add the peaches and butter to the skillet over medium heat and let the butter melt. Every couple of minutes give things a stir. 

The liquid doesn't need to come to a full boil. When the peaches are warm and have started to release their juices, stir in the spices, salt, sugar, and vanilla. Wait until the sugars have fully dissolved in the peach juices to give it a quick taste test before deciding if you need any more sugar. I rarely found the need to use more than 1/4 cup. 

In a small dish, dissolve the cornstarch into the lemon juice and add that to the peach filling. Give it a stir and remove the skillet from the heat. 

Preheat your oven to 400°F.  In a small bowl, mix the flour, buttermilk powder, and 3 tablespoons of sugar. Cut in the butter using your fingers until small flakes are distributed throughout the flour. Then stir in the water, mixing gently, just until a sticky dough forms.

Use a spoon to distribute the biscuit dough over the top of the peach filling. It won't cover the whole surface now, so gaps are fine. Do not be tempted to increase the biscuit topping, trust me.

Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake at 400°F for 10 minutes, or until the biscuits are mostly risen and set on top. Sprinkle the reserved tablespoon of sugar over the top of the biscuit, then allow it to finish baking for another 20 minutes or so. 

(If you'd like to try a glaze, you should do that at the 10 minute mark instead of sugar. For this batch I melted one tablespoon of peach preserves and brushed it over the top.)

The cobbler is done baking when the biscuits are fully cooked. You may want to lift up a small piece near the center to check the underside of the biscuit for any doughy areas. The peach juices should be bubbly around the sides, and if you give the skillet a shake the cobbler should wobble. Overbaking will result in too much of the juices evaporating.

Once the cobbler is out of the oven, allow it to cool for 10 minutes before digging in. That's the hardest part, but you really do want to give the peach juices time to settle just a bit. 

Serve the peach cobbler warm or at room temperature, with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream preferably! Like most biscuits, this cobbler is best right out of the oven. The biscuit topping will soften the longer it sits. That's not a bad thing, especially if we're talking leftovers for breakfast - but if you're making this for a party, serve it fresh.

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  1. What can I use as a substitute for buttermilk powder?

  2. OMG Angela! I've been binge reading and saving your recipes like CRAZY. I made the oxtails and they were superb, and I'm going to make the peach Cobbler this weekend! Thank you for bringing a touch of refinement and class to soul food, we really need it right now.

  3. This looks so good! I have a few bags of peaches that I picked and processed last summer, just hanging out in the freezer, and I think this is going to be their destiny! Nice to see a recipe especially written for frozen fruit. :)

  4. I've never heard of using nutmeg or cardamom on peaches. What a good idea! Also, leftovers for breakfast? I'm liking what I'm hearing.

  5. Sidney WilliamsonJune 11, 2020 at 6:51 PM

    Made this last night for my dad's 55th Birthday and it was such a hit! Absolutely stunning, I substituted most of the sugar with brown sugar and have a slightly bigger skillet so I used more peaches, flour, milk and butter. Thank goodness it's big enough to guarantee leftovers! I will be making this all year!

  6. Just made this for dinner tonight, thank you for an amazing recipe!