Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Dairy-Free, No Sugar Added, Choose-a-Fruit Cobbler

Hey there, Brave Foodies! Welcome back to “Hey, I Can Eat That.” Tell me, how was the soup?

I spent so much time talking about experimentation last time, I never got around to leaving you a recipe! To make it up to you, I’m not going to yap at you at all today (well, I probably will but I promise I’ll keep it to a minimum). Instead, I’ll jump right in with a recipe for “Dairy-Free, No Sugar Added , Choose-a-Fruit Cobbler.” The preparation time on this varies quite a lot based on what fruit you choose. This is a fairly large cobbler but you can use a single layer cake mix and a 8"x8" or 9"x9" square pan to make a smaller dessert.

Here’s what you’ll need:

*9” x 12” baking pan (non-stick is nice if you have it but not required)
*Sugar-free White or Yellow Cake Mix for a two layer cake – make sure you read the ingredients label since some mixes do include dairy (if you can’t find this or don’t need to avoid sugar, we’ll discuss an alternative as we go. Of course, you can use a regular cake mix if sugar isn't a problem for you.)
*Margarine (I like the soft tub variety. If you can have dairy, you may certainly use butter if you prefer.)
*A few teaspoons artificial sweetener (or sugar if you prefer and it fits in your diet)
*Cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon juice (these are optional)
*Flour (1 or 2 tablespoons)
*Fruit - apples, berries, pears, peaches, any combination you like – enough to cover the bottom of your baking pan 1” deep

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees

First of all, choose a fruit. I like apple, peach and cherry, personally. Heck, you don’t even need to have just one. Apples pair very nicely with cherries or blueberries so you could use both. What other fruit combinations do you like? More importantly, what’s in season? We’ll be using a standard 9” x 12” baking dish, so you’ll want enough of whichever fruit you choose to cover the pan about 1” deep. Wash, peel, slice and prepare your fruit as appropriate. Most berries can be used as is. You’ll want to slice strawberries, though. Peeling is optional but I generally do peel my apples, peaches or pears. Not everyone cares for the texture of the peel in their cobbler. Do as you like seeing as you’re the one who gets to eat!

Lightly oil your baking dish with vegetable oil (if you’re soy sensitive, use canola or sunflower). Keep it very light by putting the oil on a paper towel and wiping the pan with the towel. If you’re using a non-stick pan, you can skip this step.

Arrange your fruit in the pan as evenly as possible. I like to have the fruit about an inch deep in the pan. If you put in less fruit, you’ll end up with more cobbler crust than fruit and it will be dry. Too much and the fruit won’t be done and soft before the crust gets too brown. If your fruit seems a bit dry (as in, it wasn’t particularly juicy in preparation), you can add two or three tablespoons of apple juice. Now is the time for some creative sniffing. I like to add cinnamon and/or nutmeg to my cobbler. You can also drizzle a bit of lemon juice to preserve color and add a bit of tartness. Sniff and see what smells good to you. If your fruit is on the tart side, you can even sprinkle a bit of artificial sweetener evenly over the pan. Sprinkle a tablespoon or so of flour evenly over the fruit. Dot the surface of the pan of fruit with small pieces of margarine. By small, I mean roughly 1/2”. Don’t get carried away with this. We’ll be using more on top of the crust so a little at this point will go a long way. The margarine can be pretty widely spaced. You’re going for moisture and richness, not oily fruit.

Spread the dry cake mix evenly over the fruit. Do this gently so as to avoid smushing your fruit all around. You really want to keep this as even in the pan as possible. Dot the top of the cake mix with margarine. This time, you will want to be more generous. The margarine will melt and mix with the cake mix to make the cobbler top so you want enough to moisten all the cake mix. You may sprinkle the top with a bit of cinnamon and/or nutmeg, if you desire.

Put the pan into a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. After twenty minutes, you’ll need to watch so you remove it before the crust gets too brown. Golden is what you’re looking for. You’ll need to use a fork or toothpick to test the fruit. It doesn’t need to be super soft but you’d rather not have it very crunchy. When the fruit is soft and the crust is golden, remove and cool the pan on a wire rack. This can be served warm with a scoop of no-sugar-added or dairy free ice cream or eaten plain. It’s nice cooled or even refrigerated. Since it can be made in advance and reheated (15 -20 seconds in the microwave per serving or put the whole pan back in a 325 degree oven for 5 minutes or so) or served cool, this can be made in advance. Handy!

Let’s mention some alternative ingredients. If you aren’t avoiding sugar, you can use pie filling in place of the fruit. This is very convenient and speeds up preparation quite a bit. If you are able to find no-sugar-added pie filling, you’re in great shape. You can also try canned fruit packed in its own juice. Just be aware that canned fruits and pie fillings will result in a softer fruit in your cobbler. This isn’t a bad thing but you should still know that when you choose your fruit. If you are having trouble finding a sugar free cake mix, you can use a baking mix such as Bisquick. Use the dry ingredients of the coffee cake recipe or biscuit recipe. If you use the biscuit recipe, add artificial sweetener to taste. Yes, you’ll have to taste the mix to get your proportions right. In my experience, artificial sweetener used in a 1:1 sweetener/sugar ratio is pretty darned sweet. If that suits your taste, perfect. Adjust the amount so it is appealing to you.

Now that you’ve feasted on wild, new pizza and alternative beef and vegetable soup, you’ve earned a bit of dessert.

So, until next time, let’s go eat that!


Anonymous said...

A gluten-free baking mix will work for those with celiac disease.

Sandra Gordon said...

A gluten-free mix will certainly do the trick for Celiac's. Thanks for the suggestion!