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A Genius Peach Cobbler With a So-Wrong-It’s-Right Hot Sugar Crust

Peach cobbler sitting on a pair of white and blue plates, next to the corner of a large bowl of peach cobbler on a blue table
James Ransom

Unlike most other Genius Recipes, where I have the trusted endorsement of one of you to keep me going, I’d found this one on my own leafing through Renee Erickson’s book A Boat, A Whale, and A Walrus (though if I’d done my homework, I would have seen that Deb Perelman had also loved it over at Smitten Kitchen back in 2015).

Needless to say, my faith in following Erickson’s recipe through any doubts paid off handsomely, in layers of crispy-sweet cap, fluffy cake middle, and juicy-bright peach pool party down below. Hers is unlike any cobbler I’ve had, yet reminds me happily of the mini cobblers we’d make on Girl Scout camping trips: biscuit mix and peaches bundled up tightly in their cans and thrown into the campfire coals.

Just like other recipes that start with an “Oh, there is no way this is right”—much like tackling a daunting hike or art history midterm or escaping the room with friends—I felt immediately bonded to it. Below are the full recipe and story from Genius Desserts—I can’t wait to hear how you and yours bond with it, too.

Bird's eye view of a blue plate with orange peach cobbler, a pitcher of milk and a larger tray of cobbler
James Ransom

When beloved Seattle chef Renee Erickson took over Boat Street Café from Susan Kaplan in 2003, she inherited this quirky peach cobbler recipe along with it. The café closed in 2015, but its spirit lives on through a half dozen other sunny Erickson restaurants, and in recipes like this one. The peaches aren’t peeled or even thickened with flour or starch, because the fruit is the point—juicy and textured however it may be. It’s brightened with lemon juice and zest and nothing else, a counterweight to the sweet batter and sugary top.

Only after smoothing on a layer of batter and dusting the top with sugar do you encounter the uncomfortable step of sloshing hot water over the top of your lovely cobbler. You won’t want to do it, but if you poke around on enough blogs or in community cookbooks, you’ll find similar recipes— though the water is usually poured over a mix of cornstarch and sugar. The topping here is pared down to just sugar, which melts and then fuses together in the oven as the water steams away. A dainty crust forms, blanketing the cake and saucy peaches like a sheet of Bubble Wrap, begging to be popped.

Renee Erickson’s Peach Cobbler with Hot Sugar Crust

• 10 large, ripe peaches (about 4 1/2 pounds / 2kg), pitted but not peeled, cut into 1-inch (2.5cm) chunks
• 1 large lemon
• 1/2 cup (110g) unsalted butter, softened
• 2 cups (400g) sugar
• 1 1/2 cups (190g) all-purpose flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt
• 3/4 cup (185g) whole milk
• 1/2 cup (120g) hot water
• Heavy cream, for serving

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