Recipe Review

I Tried the Mind-Boggling Trick for Better Peach Cobbler, and Now I Understand the Hype

updated Jul 22, 2021
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Credit: Headshot: Jim Henkens; Peach Cobbler Photos: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Back in 2003, Seattle chef Renee Erikson inherited more than just a restaurant when she took over the now-shuttered Boat Street Cafe from Susan Kaplan. She also gained an unorthodox recipe for peach cobbler. This version of one of summer’s classic desserts relies on a technique that I’d never seen before. Ripe, peak-season peaches are covered in a sweet batter, and then get a thick coating of sugar. Just before baking, you do the unthinkable: Pour hot water over top. Here’s what happened when I went into the kitchen.

Credit: Headshot: Jim Henkens; Peach Cobbler Photos: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

How to Make Renee Erikson’s Peach Cobbler

Cut large, unpeeled peaches into 1-inch chunks and spread them into an even layer in a 9×13-inch baking dish. Zest and juice a lemon directly over the peach pieces and toss to combine.

Cream butter and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer. Then add the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat again until the mixture is crumbly. Reduce the mixer’s speed to low and slowly pour in the milk. Once all of the milk is in the bowl, increase the mixer’s speed to medium and beat until the batter is light and fluffy.

Use a large spoon to cover the peaches with the batter, then spread the batter into an even layer. Sprinkle granulated sugar over the batter and pour hot water evenly over the sugar. Bake the cobbler until the topping is brown and cooked through, and then cool for about 30 minutes before serving.

Credit: Patty Catalano

My Honest Review of Renee Erikson’s Peach Cobbler

The crackly crust atop a cake-like layer, plus the sweet, rosy peaches made this recipe easy to love. It was the only recipe in the showdown to skip the tedious step of peeling peaches, and I’m a convert. The peach skins imparted lovely sunset hues to the cobbler without any undesirable texture. The proportion of peaches to topping was also exactly what I was looking for, and seasoning them with just lemon juice and zest (no thickeners, sugars, or spices) was sufficient; the tart lemon juice was the perfect counterpoint to the sweet fruit.

Although this recipe does require a stand mixer for the batter, which means more dishes to clean, it makes for a topping that’s soft, buttery, and tender. The unexpected step — sprinkling sugar over the top of the batter and then drizzling hot water over that — proved to be brilliant. This ingenious method melts the sugar and gives the top a crunchy, caramelized crust. It is the perfect textural contrast to the soft, jammy peaches.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

If You’re Making Renee Erikson’s Peach Cobbler, a Few Tips

  1. Don’t skimp on the sugar. Shower the entire 1/2 cup of granulated sugar over the top of the cobbler, even if it feels like too much. The precise proportion of water to sugar that melts before baking is what gives the topping the crackly, golden crust.
  2. Wait 30 minutes before serving. With no thickeners added, the cobbler relies on the natural pectin of peaches. It won’t be easy, but let the cobbler cool for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the cobbler to reach that perfect balance between jammy and juicy.

Overall rating: 9/10

Credit: Renee Erikson Headshot: Jim Henkens; Edna Lewis Headshot: John T. Hill; Peach Cobbler Photos: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Have you ever made Renee Erikson’s Peach Cobbler? Tell us what you thought!