Three favorite desserts

To find out what makes each of them so unique, sometimes you have to get your hands dirty uncovering the secret to three of the Hound's favorite desserts.

Three of my favorite, late-summer desserts include cobblers, crisps and crumbles. Yet I rarely make them at home. Seeking expert advice, I turn to Shelley Young, the owner of The Chopping Block - a cooking-focused store with locations in Lincoln Square and the Merchandise Mart.

"The fruit is beautiful and ripe, who wants to really have the oven on in the kitchen for a long time, so I think that's one reason that they're really popular. They're also quick to make," Young said.

They all start the same way - with fruit. Late August means peaches, and Young keeps the skin on.

"It adds a beautiful ruby color to the filling," she said.

She adds some flour, sugar and a little cinnamon to the cut fruit, which we fold in to coat everything. Then the toppings: for a cobbler, it's just flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a bowl along with heavy cream and a little melted butter.

"This is basically the same recipe we use for a biscuit, it's got a little bit more moisture in it, so it's a little looser," Young said.

The dough is scooped out and placed onto the fruit. Baked for 30-40 minutes, it results in a thick top layer - perfect for soaking up all of the juices. A crumble begins with flour, sugar and lots of cold butter that is cut into small pieces.

"And I've actually cut it in little pieces and I'm just kind of squishing it in my finger," Young said.

Half-and-half or heavy cream is added, and the mixture is squeezed in a fist, then generously crumbled over the top. Baked for about 40 minutes, the top layer is sweet with just the right amount of texture. Her crisp has a bit more sugar than the other two desserts.

"There's equal amount of sugar to the flour, so a lot more sugar than in a crumble, and more butter also, than a crumble," Young said.

The combination of brown and white sugar allows for a crispier topping. She spreads the mixture evenly over the top, not worrying about the size of the pieces.

"Then I get those big, yummy pieces that everybody fights over," Young said.

After a half hour, the crisp is ready to serve. Young says flour and cornstarch don't thicken until they come to a boil. She said the best way to make sure they're done is "you just want to make sure the center is piping hot."

The Chopping Block
4747 N. Lincoln Ave.

Merchandise Mart
Suite 107


Peach Cobbler

For the biscuits:
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1 3/4 cups heavy cream
Melted butter for brushing the tops of the biscuits

For the topping, combine all dry ingredients and then stir in the cream. You may not need all of it. It should make a stiff dough.

For the filling:
6 cups peaches, peeled if desired and cut into wedges
1/4 cup flour
1/2 - 1 1/2 cups sugar
Juice of half lemon
Pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 350º.
For the filling, combine all ingredients and place in a generously buttered baking dish. Form the biscuit dough into small balls or roll out into a sheet and place on top of fruit and generously brush with melted butter.
Bake until filling is really bubby and top is golden, about 25-35minutes. Serve warm or room temperature.

Peach Crisp

For the filling:
6 cups peaches, cut into wedges
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup tapioca starch
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Mix together the peaches, sugar, tapioca starch, cinnamon, allspice, salt and lemon juice. Mix well and pour into a buttered pie dish.

For the crisp:
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into small pieces
1 cup nuts, chopped (optional)
Vanilla ice cream

Preheat the oven to 375º.
Combine flour, sugars, spices and salt in a food processor or large mixing bowl. Add butter and process until crumbly. Add nuts if using and combine briefly. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Sprinkle topping evenly over fruit. Bake until filling is bubbly and top is brown, about 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream. Yum!

Peach Crumble

For the filling:
6 cups peaches, cut into wedges
3/4-1 cup sugar
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

In a large bowl, gently mix together the peaches, sugar, tapioca flour, ginger and cloves. Pour the mixture into a pie dish.

For the crumble:
2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 stick cold unsalted butter, diced
2/3cup heavy cream

In a food processor, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and butter pulse until mixture is crumbly. Fold the cream in by hand gently and crumble the mixture over the filling. Place in the oven and bake for 40 minutes, or until the crumb topping is golden brown and the filling is bubbly. Remove from the oven and cool before serving.

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