Did I tell you guys I started working in a restaurant? I touched on it very briefly in this post, and it’s just for July, which is almost over(!), but I feel like sharing a bit more about it and finally have a little time and head space to elaborate some more.
I’m the new baker at Basil, a dairy restaurant in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. I believe the official term is pastry chef, but I am somewhat wary of using the word “chef” in conjunction with my untrained, eighteen year old self, and also, doesn’t baker sound so much friendlier? And…less pompous? So. That’s what I’m going with.
Every morning, before most of the city has started their day, I brush scones with sugar and send them into the oven, waiting for them to emerge flaky and ready for the masses. I fill muffins with fresh strawberries and top them liberally with streusel, knowing that soon, harried morning patrons will enjoy their jammy treats with piping hot coffee. For the few more adventurous souls, I fill galettes with nutty frangipane and whatever fruit we have in abundance that day- sometimes rhubarb, sometimes stone fruit. Once the mad dash to get morning pastries out is over, I get to work replenishing the disks of pie dough, the racks of scones and the enormous containers of streusel. When I’m finished, I help out in whatever ways I can: prepping vegetables, working the salad station during lunch rush hour, and plating desserts, a prep cook/baker of sorts.
What’s it like? It’s hard to say. On the one hand, I love it. I really, really do. It’s invigorating, it’s fast-paced, and I’m learning so much. The crew is funny and lively and every day feels completely different from the last, which I appreciate, since I’m someone who gets easily bored.
On the other hand, I came to this job with zero experience working in a professional kitchen. Straight outta high school, if you will. Everyone else in the kitchen has years of experience and has their routines down pat. Coming into that environment of managed chaos and needing help, slowing other people down, and inevitably screwing up in front of people whose respect I want to earn has been hard, to say the least. More than once, I find myself thinking do I really belong here? I’m just a nuisance, getting in everyone’s way. I’m a fraud. I shouldn’t be doing this. Anyone can do this. How hard is it to make a scone anyway? Yes, I’m learning a lot, and gaining experience which is invaluable, but the flip side of that is that I’m also realizing how little I know. I think the term for how I’m feeling is impostor syndrome, and let me tell you, that’s exactly what I feel like. An impostor.
However, I may be an impostor, but I am not a quitter. I didn’t quit after the first two days, which were particularly trying and involved multiple screw-ups. And I didn’t quit my shift two days ago, when I got a third degree burn on my foot because I’m a total klutz and managed to spill boiling hot cream. In hindsight, that was pretty stupid, since the longer you go without treating a burn, the more damage it does, but hey, at least I’m not a quitter, right?
I’m home now, having had to take the rest of the week off, but I can’t wait to return to work next week for my last, final week.
Now, on to the cobbler! Cobblers (and crumbles) are my go to desserts as of late, the things I turn to when I come home from Brooklyn for the weekends and am too tired to make anything complicated. In addition to their ease, I love their taste: topped with a batter that straddles the line between flaky biscuit and fluffy cake, filled with perfectly sweetened seasonal fruit and served with little puffs of whipped cream, it’s like a homey, family-friendly version of individual shortcakes.
My favorite fruit for cobbler is strawberries and rhubarb, which I used here. Strawberry season is still in full swing, and although rhubarb season is slowing down, I still find little bundles of those beautiful stalks at the market, and suspect you won’t have trouble finding them either. My family also loves this with peaches, so I’ve provided the recipe for that down below, by variations.
Any way you choose to make this, you’ll love the ease, adaptability and taste of this classic cobbler. Happy cobbling!
Yields: one 9″ cobbler, serving approx. 6
Why I love this recipe: my favorite thing about this cobbler is how adaptable it is- here, late season rhubarb and strawberries are flavored with a little lemon juice and vanilla and tossed in a bit of sugar for juiciness, and it’s a formula that would work just as well with an equal amount of another berry or stone fruit. The easy drop biscuits, made with buttermilk, transform from wet and clumpy scoops into golden, fluffy and cakey biscuits in the oven. Serve with whipped cream for the ultimate summer dessert.
Variation: to make a peach cobbler, substitute 8 or 9 medium ripe peaches, sliced, for the rhubarb and strawberries, halve the sugar and cornstarch, and spice with a little cinnamon and nutmeg.
For the fruit:
- 3/4 lb. fresh rhubarb, washed and diced
- 1 lb. fresh strawberries, tops removed, washed and sliced
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons tapioca starch
- juice of 1/2 a lemon
- pinch salt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the cobbler biscuits:
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 stick cold butter, diced
- 1/2 cup cold buttermilk
- Preheat oven to 400°F and set rack to middle position. In a large bowl, combine the fruit with sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch, vanilla extract and salt. Stir well to combine.
- Scrape fruit and juices into a 9″ pie dish and set on a baking paper lined, rimmed baking sheet.
- Now, make the biscuits. In a large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients, Add butter and quickly toss to coat with flour.
- Using your fingers, cut butter into dry ingredients until it resembles coarse meal. Using a fork, stir in milk until mixture just comes together into a slightly sticky and wet dough; don’t over mix, or the biscuits will be tough.
- Using an ice cream scoop, drop scoops of biscuit dough all over the peaches. You will get six or seven scoops, which will spread and puff up in the oven.
- Bake until browned on top and biscuit is fully cooked through, about 35-40 minutes. Let rest at least 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream or whipped cream on the side.