"The only real stumbling block is the fear of failure. In cooking, you have got to have a what-the-hell attitude." ~ Julia Child


by Julie Tilsner on April 27, 2007

in Sugar and Spite, Sweet!

As often happens, this so-called bright idea started with Audge.

Last time I was at my kitchen Goddess friend Audrey Smith’s house, she had just a few bites of a blackberry cobbler left on her counter top. She’s the kind of woman who whips up things like fruit cobblers for her family. And on weeknights. If my family gets desert at all, it’s usually several squares of Ritter Sport chocolate and biscuit, and more often than not, it’s usually stolen from the refrigerator by my nits without my knowledge.

She gifted me with a bite. It was, not surprisingly, delicious.

It was also, she said, “obscenely easy to make.”

“For someone like you,” I muttered. This is my standard refrain whenever Audge tells me how easy something is to make.

“No, no,” she said. “It even says it here.” She pulled out a copy of Cuisine at Home, Aug. 2005. There, on page 49, was the recipe for Summer Blackberry Cobbler with Coconut and Pecan topping. And in the intro, plain as the nose on my face, were the words, “…plus, it’s obscenely easy to make.”

In journalism we call the final paragraph or sentence of a piece the “kicker.” You can see why here.

Call me naive. Call me gullible. Call me impressionable. But I am easily convinced, and yes, I could probably be the one convinced to buy that bridge in Brooklyn. I re-read these final words, and I looked at the picture, and I ruminated on the taste of that cobbler, seeds still in my teeth, and I thought, “This is obscenely easy to make. I can make it for my BBQ next week.”

Gentle readers, I can almost hear your hand slapping your forehead. Silly girl, you’re saying. Don’t waste your time. Buy a pie if you must. Better yet, buy half a dozen Dove bars and call that dessert. And in any case, you’re all going to be eating steaks and potatoes and drinking beer and wine and really, who’s going to remember anything about any desert? And you’d be right.


Here’s the recipe:

8 cups blackberries, fresh or frozen,thawed slightly if frozen. (I bought three bags of frozen.)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup instant tapioca (good luck finding this item. I had to borrow Audrey’s)
Juice of 1/2 lime
Pinch of salt

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed (1 stick)
1 egg

Preheat oven to 375 degree F.

Toss berries with sugar, tapioca, lime juice, and salt in a bowl.  Spoon into a 2-quart baking dish.

flour, coconut, sugar, pecans, baking powder, and salt in a second
bowl. Using your fingertips, knead in the butter until incorporated.
Mixture should look like coarse sand. (this was fun, and made me feel like I knew what I was doing)

Blend in the egg. It will get very sticky, like wet Play-Do. Do your best to arrange this over the berries.

cobbler for 45-50 minutes, or until topping is golden and crisp, and
filling is thick and bubbly. Cool on a rack for at least 1 hour before
serving. Dang. Will your kitchen smell great.

Serve with creme anglaise or ice cream. (Yeah, righto.)

A couple of problems. First, I had no lime juice, having thrown away one, withering lime about a week ago. I did have lemons, though, so I used half of that. Was this a bad idea? Probably. But isn’t citrus citrus?

Secondly, I inexplicably ran out of sugar after the first cup. Since it was 11 p.m., I had no choice but to call Tamlin, the only close neighbor I knew who was still likely to be up, and beg a cup of sugar off her. Luckily, she had it. She had a good laugh at my expense, too.

By midnight I was finished. And there was no way in heck I was going to attempt no stinking creme anglaise.

I would not describe this as obscenely easy to make. If it is for you, don’t mention it to me.

Thirdly. We did indeed drink and eat meat and potatoes at the BBQ the next night. And I also forgot all about the cobbler. Two days later, I pulled it out and served a chunk to my kids, who ate part of it with interest, but then said it was too cold. I ate the rest of their portion. Not bad. I could taste the coconut, which I didn’t entirely care for.  I put it back into the refrigerator…and forgot about it until now. I’d throw it out tonight but for the daunting task of having to wash the dish.

Sigh. It all seems a tremendous waste. I might try this again later in the summer, with fresh blackberries. And I’ll halve the recipe. And use a pie tin instead of a deep dish. Oh, and I’ll have a lime. And enough sugar. Maybe at that point it will have become, if not obscenely easy to make, then at least perhaps not too hard.

Audrey, meanwhile, asked for the recipe back, (hope she doesn’t mind all the smudges), and has since made it again. Her husband and kids have already eaten it.

Eliza, who writes Notes from my food diary, makes a beautiful version of this. Please note that mine did not turn out this beautiful, hence the generic picture of blackberries.

Look at that cobbler. Can you blame me for trying?

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

eliza April 27, 2007 at 7:09 pm

hi Julie!
awww…I want to see your version too even though it’s bad according to you. don’t work too hard on cobbler, you’re supposed to enjoy making them 😀
I can’t wait for summer too because Oregon is so bountiful with berries!


BaddAss MisterJ April 27, 2007 at 10:28 pm

Here’s a tip. . .
Make it the night before already assembled in the pan, so all you do is stick it in the oven or on the grill to bake.
And to make it all come together, a really great French Vanilla Bean Ice Cream from a good place like FOSSELMAN’S Ice Cream in Alhambra, CA http://www.fosselmans.com they sell half gallon tubs w/ a wide variety.
Well at least you had people eating the meat & potatoes, and drinking the wines & beers. Maybe next time you’ll serve dessert first w/ the ice cream! With the upcoming hot weather, it should be a hit!


Christy April 28, 2007 at 12:05 pm

When I was doing Design work down at Long Beach Memorial…I was in the coffee shop taking measurements….behind the cash register was a sign that read something like this….”When cutting pie, if the piece falls apart….plate it anyway and call it cobbler and charge 50 cents less!” It has always been a running joke in my household, when trying to get the first piece of pie out!…anybody want cobbler!!!!!


AT May 2, 2007 at 10:31 am

Hey BHC, in which ‘vessel’ or container did you bake this in?


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: