Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What the Heck is a Black Velvet Apricot?

My little friend, K, was in a musical recently, and though I hate going into town on the weekend and try to avoid it, I had to be there for her Saturday performance. Afterwards, since I was already out and about, I decided to take a drive to see if maybe I could find a house that I could afford to buy in an area where I might like to live. I had no such luck locating a house, but I did make two critical discoveries in my travels. First--and the importance of this cannot be overemphasized--I found pineapple Dole Whip being served at Sweet Treat in little old Peru, NY! Who would have thought I could have a little taste of Disneyland so close to home? Secondly, though I usually make an annual pilgrimage to Columbia County, NY for sour cherries (that's three hours from here), I discovered that my favorite local orchard, Northern Orchards in Peru, has them! Ok, so they didn't have many this year due to the non-summery weather and some very tenacious birds, but I did get enough for a couple of pies, and I'll know to get them there next year! Yeah!

As it's still so cool and wet and, well, spring-like here, I still have rhubarb that is thriving. So when my friends, June and Tom, invited me over for dinner on Sunday evening, I had originally envisioned a rhubarb-sour cherry cobbler. My friends enjoy very tangy desserts, and the sour cherries would also honor the return of our wayward Michigander friend, Vicky, who would also be in attendance. I had in mind to make a old-fashioned, comforting cobbler. Though I usually prefer a crisp, or better yet, a crumble, I thought maybe I had overlooked the merits of the humble cobbler, and I should give it another try.

However, when I was in Sam's Club last week, I spied a package of something called "Black Velvet Apricots" that were marked down to $1.88 for three pounds! They had lovely, dark purple, nearly fuzz-free skin, and I assumed that the markdown meant that they were getting too ripe. I had no idea what they were really, but I felt certain that they would make a tasty cobbler. (As I was to learn later, they are basically an aprium--50/50 apricot and plum.) Therefore, it was going to be a sour cherry and aprium cobbler...UNTIL I looked down from my bedroom window Sunday morning and spied a TON of raspberries waiting to be picked! I started with one five-dollar plant about five years ago, and now I have a whole fence line of them! And they must really be liking all this rain, because some of the berries this year were as big as my thumb!

Having picked a quart of raspberries (in three brief sessions between downpours) with many of them already being overly-ripe, I decided to leave the sour cherries in the freezer for another time and, at long last, finally settled on a Black Velvet Apricot and Raspberry Cobbler with Buttermilk Biscuit Crust. Does that sound DELISH, or what? Well, it was! The fruit flavor combination was terrific, and I enhanced it with a little crystallized ginger in the mix (and served it with a scoop of Haagen-Dazs ginger ice cream as well, which was a very complimentary pairing). However, in the interest of full disclosure, I have two complaints. One, by swapping out raspberries for sour cherries, I ended up with a LOT more juice, and though I added an extra tablespoon of thickener, my cobbler still ended up runny...tasty, but runny. Boo hiss. Secondly, though cobbler has its devout fans, I am going to stand by my conviction that a crisp or crumble is generally preferable. Sorry, haters, but I said it! Still, this was a very yummy and very homey dessert, and with all of the summer fruits that are available to us now, you might just want to try it for yourself!

Black Velvet Apricot and Raspberry Cobbler with Buttermilk Biscuit Crust
(Source: adapted from
Food Blogga via Nick Malgieri's How to Bake)

3 pounds Black Velvet Apricots, washed, pitted, and cut into eighths
1 pint (2 cups) fresh raspberries, rinsed
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour*

3 tablespoons tapioca flour* (or instant tapioca that has been ground in a food processor)
2 discs crystallized ginger (probably 2 tablespoons)

1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
juice of half a lemon
2 tablespoons butter

Buttermilk Biscuit Crust:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons cold butter
2/3 cups buttermilk

1 tablespoon buttermilk, cream, or milk
1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons raw sugar crystals, for sprinkling on top

Place rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees. Use a 9 or 10-inch pie plate or a 1 1/2 quart (8 x 8 square) oven-proof baking dish.

Place prepared fruit in a large bowl. Add sugars, flours, ginger, extracts, and lemon juice and stir VERY gently so as to not break up the fruit. Set aside while making the biscuit topping.

To make the crust, combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. and stir well to combine. Cut the butter into 8 or 10 pieces and rub into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Make a well in the center and add the buttermilk. Stir gently with a fork, being careful not to overwork the dough (or it will become leaden.) Let the dough stand in the bowl for a couple of minutes to let the flours absorb the liquid.

Flour a work surface and turn the dough onto it. Fold the dough over itself 2 or 3 times, until smoother and less sticky. Lightly re-flour the work surface and roll the dough to about 1/4-inch thickness. For circles, using the top of a drinking glass or a round cookie cutter, make about 12 rounds.

Transfer the fruit mixture to the baking dish that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Place dots of butter over of the filling, then arrange the biscuit rounds on top, slightly overlapping the edges. Brush with glaze, and sprinkle with raw sugar crystals.

Alternatively, you could make a full top crust by rolling the dough out slightly larger than the size of your baking dish. Trim excess dough and flute the edges of the dough at the rim of the dish. Make 4 or 5 (1-inch) slashes in the center of the dough.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the crust is deep golden brown and filling is bubbling gently. (For easy clean-up, you may want to place a sheet of tinfoil on the rack under the baking dish to catch any drips--or use a Silpat or parchment-lined sheet pan under the dish) Cool before serving. Cobbler is best served warm or at room temperature. It can be enjoyed plain or with some whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla (or ginger!) ice cream.

*I think I'd swap out corn starch for the AP flour next time, and I amended the original recipe and my first attempt at it to include three tablespoons of tapioca flour, too. That should fix my runny cobbler!

1 comment:

Randi said...

that looks great!! I really should buy a raspberry plant. I take it the birds leave it alone? You could always come to Canada and buy a pail of sour cherries. I just bought one for work. 10lbs was 19.99.