By Leah Eskin
Self-rising flour is scarce: bottom shelf, dim cupboard, cracked cookbook. News in 1845, it now counts as quaint. And yet, it models a modern mindset. Self-rising flour must study self-actualization, meditation, levitation. How else does it propel its purpose-driven life?
Through baking powder. The chemical leavening agent is salted — along with salt — into each sack. Once, the self-sufficient cook scoffed at self-rising. She measured one cup all-purpose flour, one teaspoon baking powder and one pinch of salt: self-made self-rising flour.
Which, she learns, is wrong. Self-rising flour, at least the sort prized in the South, is milled from soft red winter wheat. The low-protein product makes quick work of quick bread and lifts biscuits to lofty heights. Lofty goals.
As cobbler season warms up, she cobbles together a substitute from cake flour and all-purpose flour. Her biscuits bake up light and lovely. Affording her one hot second of purpose, driven home.
Prep: 20 minutes | Bake: 40 minutes
Makes: One 10-inch cobbler, serves 8
6 cups (1 1/2 pounds) fresh blackberries
2 cups (1/2 pound) fresh raspberries
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1 cup cake flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut up
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup heavy cream
Toss: For the bottom, heap all the ingredients in a large bowl. Fold gently with a flexible spatula. Let rest.
Cut: For top, whisk together both types of flour, plus the sugar, baking powder and salt. Using a pastry blender, work in butter until largest lumps are pea-size. Pour in cream, tossing dough with a fork, until dough clumps (you may not need all the cream). Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, knead once or twice. Pat dough into a circle about 3/4-inch thick. Punch out biscuits in a variety of sizes, patting scraps together once.
Build: Melt butter in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet (at least 2 inches deep). Scrape in berries and their juices. Polka-dot the fruit with biscuits, leaving fruit exposed here and there. Brush dots with a little remaining cream. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar.
Bake: Set skillet on a rimmed baking sheet; slide into a 375-degree oven, and bake until biscuits are golden and fruit bubbles thickly, even at the center, about 40 minutes. Let cool 20 minutes.
Serve: Scoop warm cobbler into bowls. Pour on some cream. Enjoy.