Sunday, May 17, 2015

strawberry biscuit cobbler

Strawberry Biscuit Cobbler

I don't enjoy bridal showers. Or baby showers. Or any other social gathering that involves pastel mints and feigning interest in games like making dresses out of toilet paper with a bunch of women I don't know. So when it came time to plan a bridal shower for my sister last year, you can imagine my dilemma. How could I possibly throw her a shower that appropriately acquitted me of my maid-of-honor duties, but which didn't drag in all the aforementioned ways?

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We -- my sister and I -- started off by brainstorming a theme. One that didn't involve teacups or garden parties. The date she selected coincided with our town's annual carnival, so it seemed natural to piggyback on that idea and go with a country fair theme. Plus, it  meant we could have fun fair food. No pastel mints or mimosas at this shower.

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And then we scrapped the games. No one wants to be forced to play a game, but lots of games are fun when participation is voluntary. So we decided to set up a few yards games -- washers and bean bags -- to see if people would participate on their own. (They did.)

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But what kind of fair only includes women? (Besides a discriminatory one.) As the final piece of the much-more-fun-bridal-shower puzzle, we decided to invite women and men. And the groom. We would have a wedding shower instead of a bridal shower. And we would serve beer -- a little social lubricant for all of the men attending their first shower. Which was, literally, all of the men at the shower.

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We set up a tent and went full throttle on the country fair-themed food and decorations. We even got a homemade ice cream vendor from St. Louis who serves scoops out of an antique ice cream tricycle. The weather was sublime -- hot enough to make the beer go down smoothly but with a slight breeze to keep sun weariness at bay. But the best part was that everyone had a great time, the bride and groom in particular. Even my father -- who was skeptical about selling the idea of a co-ed shower in rural Illinois -- had so much fun that I heard him wonder out loud why everyone doesn't do something like this.

The bridesmaids took care of making the homemade favors (see the last picture following the recipe below) and the groomsmen and my dad took care of the beer, so I was able to keep my out-of-pocket costs for the whole shower under $500. Not bad at all considering that we had plenty of festive decorations, homemade food (or food that was otherwise unique to St. Louis), ended up with 65 attendees, and could have comfortably served another 25 more.

Strawberry Biscuit Cobbler

Thanks to some help from a good friend who was a trooper about hulling and slicing several Costco-size containers of strawberries, I made four of these strawberry biscuit cobblers the day before the shower. They were the perfect sweet accompaniment to the homemade vanilla ice cream, and they didn't suffer any ill effects from day-before preparation or from spending several hours outdoors during the shower. (Though I did keep them in the shade and covered to deter the flies.)

You will end up with some leftover juice from the strawberry jam that doesn't get added to the cobbler. As a bonus, you can freeze this juice into ice cube trays and use the cubes to flavor cocktails and lemonade.

Strawberry Biscuit Cobbler
Adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe
Yields 8 servings

Strawberry Jam Filling
2 pounds fresh ripe strawberries, washed, hulled, and cut into half-inch pieces
scant 2 cups granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Biscuit Topping
1 3/4 cups flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
6 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
3/4 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing
Coarse sanding sugar, for sprinkling

To make the filling:
Cook the strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice in a large pot over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 4 cups (about 12 minutes). Let cool completely. The strawberry jam can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

To make the biscuit topping:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a medium-large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, granulated sugar, and salt. Cut in the butter until the largest pieces are the size of peas. Mix in cream with a fork until the dough starts to come together but is still crumbly. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead once or twice to make smooth. Pat the dough into an 8" round, about 3/4-inch thick.

To make the cobbler:
Spread 3 cups strawberry jam in the bottom of a 9 1/2-inch deep-dish pie plate or skillet. Place the biscuit dough round on top, brush with cream, and then sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake until bubbling and golden, about 50 minutes. (If the top is browning too quickly, tent it with foil.) Let cool before serving.

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