This week's dessert was no exception: we were invited to a sort of potluck dinner at the home of a French-American couple here in town. So there were two Franco-American families, an expat Brit with her daughter and parents, and a French family who had moved here from, as I understand it, North Africa. Very international--just like our dinner parties in Mississippi! Many lame attempts by us Anglophones to communicate in French; many lame attempts by the Francophones to speak English. And yet we all had a great time.
Our hostess, Pamela, tried very hard to communicate what dish everyone should bring, but in the end, it seemed that everyone brought a dessert. There was coconut flan and chocolate mousse and this cobbler (with the custard sauce recipe that will follow) and some cupcakes that I made because I was worried the cobbler wouldn't be enough for 13 people. All these desserts came after snacks, a starter, a main course, cheese, salad, and many bottles of wine. I think we were all in pain afterwards. But everything was so good!
So, to the cobbler. Again, I had reservations about this one. I'm not necessarily a fan of cooking oranges. That seemed strange to me. And I was a bit nervous that in the headnotes, Maida just reminisced about buying Pepperidge Farm bread rather than raving about the recipe itself. Still I plowed on.
One major change I made to the recipe was to thicken it with tapioca instead of making a roux. That was because I began making the cobbler at about 6:15 and the party was at 7. I also saved myself a bunch of extra dishes that way. And I like the gooey way tapioca thickens a fruit filling.
Also in the interest of time, I did not bother to roll out and cut biscuits for the topping. As I did for the cherry cobbler, I just dropped them on. They looked fine and tasted great.
The verdict? Delicious!! It's hard to go up against coconut flan and chocolate mousse, but everyone seemed to love the dessert. It was unfamiliar to the French because it's not a classic "crumble" (crisp), but they liked it because it wasn't too sweet (a miracle for a Maida dessert) and it didn't have any cinnamon :-). But they asked me many times what flavoring I had used. Orange flower water? Cinnamon? I guess the orange zest was kind of a nice background flavor. And all the butter in the filling probably also helped. It was delicious with the custard cream, but I think just some vanilla ice cream would be delightful as well.
Here's the recipe as I made it. You can bring it to a potluck with pride, or just save it all for yourself.
Apple and Orange Cobbler
3 lbs. tart apples (I used Pink Lady; Maida recommends Granny Smith), peeled and sliced into about 12 slices per apple
Grated zest of 1 orange
1/2 c. orange juice
3 oz. (6 T. ) butter
3/4 c. (5.25 oz.) sugar
3 large oranges, cut into segments without membrane (if you really wanted to cheat, I bet you could used canned drained mandarin oranges)
about 1/4 c. minute tapioca
1/2 t. vanilla
Butter a wide, shallow 2-quart baking dish (mine was an oval gratin dish) and have it waiting around. In a large skillet with a cover, put the apples, orange juice and zest, butter, and sugar. Mix and then cook, covered, over medium heat until the apples are barely tender. Meanwhile, segment your oranges (check out this video to see how. My segments were not nearly as pretty) into a bowl and let the juice fall into it as well. Add the tapioca and vanilla and let that sit until the apples look ready. Once the apples are just tender, take them off the heat and stir in the orange/tapioca mixture. Spoon that into the baking dish and let it sit while you make the biscuits.
2 c. minus 2 T (7.5 oz.) sifted flour (I used some whole wheat)
1/4 t. salt
2 t. baking powder
3 oz. (6 T.) cold butter, cut into about 12 pieces
2/3 c. cold milk
sugar/vanilla sugar/cinnamon sugar
Heat the oven to 450. Get out your food processor. Put the flour, salt, and baking powder into the bowl of the processor and give it a few pulses to mix. Then toss in the butter and pulse that until the butter pieces are no larger than small peas. Finally, add the milk and pulse until everything is just incorporated. With two small spoons, scoop out the dough from the processor and dot the dough all over the fruit. You'll see from my picture that the dough doesn't really cover the fruit, but that's OK. Now brush the biscuits with some cream or milk, and sprinkle them with about a tablespoon of sugar (I used vanilla sugar, but cinnamon sugar would be nice as well). Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the biscuits are nice and brown and the fruit mixture is bubbly. Serve this hot. I turned off the oven after the baking time and left the cobbler in for a couple of hours, and it was still very good--it was very warm and not dried out. It's also good microwaved the next day for breakfast.