Some cobblers are like cake: neatly sliceable, with bits of soft fruit strewn in the crumb. Others are more like pie, with a jammy compote sandwiched between two flaky crusts.
But the cobblers I love best are the biscuit-crowned ones, which don’t resemble any other pastries at all. Juicy and soft on the bottom, with golden rounds on top, they are exactly what to make when you have fresh, ripe fruit in need of a home, and when you are craving something cozy and maybe even a little sloppy in the best possible way.
You can use nearly any type of fruit in a cobbler, but tangy rhubarb works particularly well, its vivid acidity contrasting with all the fluffy, buttery biscuits covering it. (And yes, rhubarb is botanically a vegetable, but it’s so often cooked like a fruit.)
Whether made from fruit, or, in this case, a vegetable, most cobblers call for some kind of starch — cornstarch, tapioca or flour — to be mixed into the filling so it thickens as it bubbles and bakes.
This one is different. Instead of using starch to thicken the juices, I roast slices of rhubarb with sugar before the rounds of biscuit dough are added to the pan. This extra step allows the juices to condense into a sweet-tart syrup without any of the stodgy flavors and cloudiness you’d get from a starch.
I also like to add some vanilla bean and orange zest to the filling to help mellow the rhubarb’s strident nature. You can leave these ingredients out or substitute other aromatics. Grated fresh ginger, spices (like a broken-up cinnamon stick or a few cardamom pods) or a dash of orange liqueur are excellent substitutes. Use them in any combination.
For the prettiest, pinkest cobbler, try to find scarlet stalks of rhubarb, though green ones will still work even if they’re not as striking. Or, you can throw a handful of raspberries into the pan to redden things up. Add them after the rhubarb is roasted and before nestling the biscuit dough on top.
All cobblers — biscuit-topped, pastry-crusted or cakelike — are best served on the day they are baked, preferably warm from the oven and smothered in heavy cream or ice cream. And this gorgeous rhubarb version — exceptional is so many other ways — is no exception.
Recipe: Vanilla-Rhubarb Cobbler