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Easier than pie

Monday, November 7, 2011

A pie, when made right, is nice, but unless I have the time, I think there is too much work involved. And making pie isn't as easy as the idiom proclaims – the dough needs to be rolled out (not to mention made well in the first place) and properly laid into the pie dish, blind-baked, cooled, filled, maybe topped with an upper crust, crimped and baked again. After all that effort, I can't even guarantee that I will get everything right.
    I don't like to say a recipe is fast or easy; we don't all have the same levels of cooking skills so it's relative. But I do think a cobbler is easier to make than a double-crust (or even single-crust) pie because the preparation isn't as elaborate: a biscuit topping spooned onto a fruit filling is the most direct way to describe it.
    A cobbler isn't the most elegant-looking dish, but unlike a pie, it has all the elements of a perfect dessert and can hold its own – it doesn't need ice cream or cream or custard to make it better than it already is.
    I have another cobbler recipe out in print today ("The upper crust"). The filling uses pineapple and the biscuit dough is made with buttermilk.
    Still in the cobbler mood, I looked for inspiration in my latest acquisition, the newly minted Cook's Illustrated Cookbook. I liked the sound of a biscuit topping with crystallised ginger added to it but didn't want to use pineapple again. Mango seemed like a good combination with ginger.
    That's the good thing about a cobbler – it can be made with almost any fruit. Tropical fruit, I suppose, is unusual in a cobbler, but if strawberries and balsamic vinegar go well together and maple syrup and bacon are a marriage made in culinary heaven, then combining pineapple or mango with ginger, vanilla or allspice can't be bad.
    It wasn't.
A cobbler is easily tweaked to use whatever fruit is available
   The fruit is prebaked before the topping is put on and baked some more. In that initial baking, the fruit caramelises and adds flavour. Since I had half a tin of cherries left over from the pineapple cobbler I had made earlier, I added that to the mango and blueberries. It gave the mix a rosy tinge and broke down into a jammy texture.

Use a light hand when mixing the biscuit dough for a tender topping
    My sister Judy helped with the recipe. She was a little timid when rubbing in the butter, though, so I took over and she snapped the pictures.
A sprinkling of flavoured sugar adds crunch to the topping
    When Judy saw the amount of dough we had mixed, she remarked that there might be too little of it for the top. But the dough rises and spreads out in the oven, while remaining puffy, and lets some of the filling show through for an attractive finish as well.
The cherries become jammy when they bake
    We made this at my godmother's home yesterday and she put out a vintage table-cloth inlaid with lovely needlework for the photo. Being the clumsy clod that I am, I was so afraid I would get a spill on the cloth but Godma insisted I use it. Fortunately, it remained stain-free.
No need for formalities, just scoop and serve
Serves 6-8

450g mango flesh, diced (about 2 cups)
150g blueberries
100g tinned cherries, drained
3 tbsp caster sugar
¼ tsp allspice
1 tbsp cornstarch
Pinch of salt
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
Zest and juice of 1 lime

Ginger biscuit topping
140g (1 cup) all-purpose flour
60g (3 tbsp) caster sugar
¾ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ salt
3 tbsp minced crystallised ginger
50g (5 tbsp) unsalted butter, diced and chilled
80g full-fat plain yoghurt
1 tbsp coarse sugar
Pinch of ginger powder
  • Preheat oven to 220°C. Add all the filling ingredients to a buttered 23cm pie dish. Toss gently, then arrange the fruit evenly in the dish. Bake until the fruit begin to bubble around the edges, about 10 minutes.
  • For the biscuit topping: While the fruit is baking, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and crystallised ginger together in a medium bowl. Add the butter and rub in with your fingertips until mixture resembled coarse meal (this can be done in a food processor). Add the yoghurt and mix with a fork until a cohesive dough comes together (do not overmix). This step should be done just before the biscuit topping is mounded on the fruit to bake.
  • Remove the fruit from the oven and put mounds of dough (about a heaped tablespoon each; use an ice cream scoop for even-sized portions) on top of the fruit, spacing them slightly apart.
  • Mix the 1 tbsp of coarse sugar and ginger powder together and sprinkle each mound with the mixture.
  • Return to the oven and bake until filling is bubbling and biscuits are golden brown, about 20 minutes, rotating pie dish halfway through baking. Transfer to wire rack to cool until warm, about 20 minutes, before serving.


  1. I love the look of this cobbler, love the mangoes in it, sounds so yummy!

  2. Thanks Jeannie, and welcome to my new site!


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