Serious Eats: Sweets
Mixed Review: Ad Hoc Cobbler Mix
July is the peak season for luscious berry and stone fruit desserts. And while a picture-perfect lattice-top pie is sure to be a showstopper, crisps and cobblers are a whole lot easier to make—you don't have to worry about finicky crusts or slices that fall apart. Williams-Sonoma sells a mix based on the cobbler served at Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc restaurant. Since TK was involved, I had a hunch the cobbler would be delicious. But would it be easier than making cobbler from scratch? And would it be worth the $10 price tag?
I didn't inspect the mix too carefully while I was at Williams-Sonoma. Basically I just saw "Ad Hoc" and "cobbler mix" and thought, "yes, please." When I got home, I opened up the box to find three pouches—all for the cobbler topping. One had nothing but plain sugar, and another had only a mix of cinnamon and sugar. (Seriously. Here is how the ingredient list reads: "Cinnamon sugar ingredients: Granulated sugar, Korintje cinnamon. Sugar: Granulated sugar.") The third pouch consisted of little more than flour and baking powder. While I was disappointed, I still had hope. Sometimes a good baking mix is less about the ingredients and more about the precise ratios.
Unfortunately, the list of additional ingredients was rather long. For the filling, in addition to fresh berries (I used a mix of blueberries and peaches) I had to add 7 tablespoons of flour, 2/3 cup of sugar, and lemon zest. Of course I knew I would have to buy and add the fruit, but for a $10 mix, you'd think they could include a packet of "filling mix" with some flour, sugar, and dried lemon zest. And the additions didn't stop there: the cobbler topping required butter, eggs, and buttermilk.
But despite my issues with this mix, I must admit the resulting dessert was a brilliant example of summer fruit cobbler at its finest. In the oven the heaping spoonfuls of cobbler topping spread out and baked evenly over the blueberries and peaches. It covered the fruit almost—but not quite—entirely, leaving little peepholes through which you could see the bubbling, juicy berries and chunks of ripe peaches. Both the taste and texture of the cobbler topping were near perfect. The flavor was sweet and cinamonny with a nice buttermilk tang, and the texture was sturdy yet cakey. The top was nicely browned and the underside absorbed all the delicious fruit juices. I would have liked it perhaps a bit more crumbly and a tad less sweet, but this is entirely a matter of personal preference.
While this mix yields a sumptuous, homey, and fruit filled dessert, in the end the ingredients included in the package just weren't worth the cost.