Thursday, August 30, 2012

Gluten-Free, Vegan Peach Cobbler with Raspberries & Basil

Paula Deen is such a hoot.  When I was in both undergrad and grad school, I used to watch her show whenever I was feeling stressed, homesick, or just needed a distraction from the drudgery to make me smile and laugh.  Her personality is truly off the charts, and her talent for incorporating butter into all her recipes may only be rivaled by the ease with which she makes one-syllable words multi-syllabic with her honeyed Southern twang.  My favorites were "dip" [pronounced 'dee-yip-uh'] and "smoked" [pronounced 'smo-ked-id'].   I rarely had any desire to make any of her recipes, but I certainly appreciated the joy she infused into her cooking and baking and the way she made it all seem like such fun.

So one summer day when I was home visiting the family in Michigan, we scored a huge box of fresh peaches for nearly nothing.  A lot of the peaches were beautiful, but many had already crossed that line into "don't-eat-or-touch-me" overripeness.  So when we got them home, we knew we had to act fast.  As we sorted them at the kitchen table, my sister and I started brainstorming what we would do with them.  This was when I was just learning to bake, and could neither classify myself as creative nor adventurous in the kitchen, so when my sister mentioned cobbler, I thought, "Why not?"  It's a popular, common dessert that a lot of people enjoy.  And who else, besides my sister, did I think could help me make my first peach cobbler a sweet success?  Of course.

I love peaches with basil.  I just do.

We searched "Paula Deen peach cobbler," and one of the very first results that turned up was from the Food Network.  It was labeled, "Easy," and we had all the ingredients it called for, so I printed it out and went to work.  Reading it over, it didn't make sense at first.  Put the batter in first and then put the fruit on top, and somewhere along the way, they would switch places?  I just had to have faith that Paula wasn't leading me astray.  And sure enough, she wasn't.  It was a picture perfect "proud papa" moment, and that night my whole family got to enjoy delicious peach cobbler a la mode.  I was so proud, in fact, that I typed it up and kept it on my computer, for the next time I would ever be called upon to make cobbler or deal with a box of peaches hurtling towards fruitfly fare. 
And that time would be a couple of weeks ago, close to 13 years later, when I found myself once again with a surplus of delicious organic peaches teetering on the edge.  And again, I found myself the "proud papa" of a beautiful, and this time creative, gluten-free and vegan peach cobbler.

Insider view via Instagram

Peach Cobbler with Raspberries & Basil

Active Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: none
Baking Time: 40-50 minutes
Yield: roughly (8) 2"x4" pieces

approx. 4 c (~20 oz) peaches, peeled & sliced
1/4 c (2 oz) fresh orange juice
1/4 c (2 oz) water
scant 1 c (~6 oz) Madhava blonde coconut sugar

1 1/4 c (10 oz) unsweetened So Delicious coconut milk beverage
1 teaspoon whole psyllium husks

1 c (5 oz) Bob's Red Mill all-purpose GF flour
1/2 c (2 oz) almond meal/flour
2 1/2 teaspoons GF baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1-2 tablespoons fresh basil, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons orange zest

6 tablespoons (3 oz) Earth Balance coconut vegan butter

1-2 handfuls raspberries, to garnish

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare a 2 quart baking dish/pan (I used a 8x11.5x2 glass baking dish).
2.   Combine peaches, orange juice, water, and coconut sugar in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for about 10 minutes.  If using frozen peaches, I would suggest either decreasing or subtracting the 1/4 cup of water.
3.  While the peaches are simmering, combine coconut milk with psyllium husks and set aside for 3-5 minutes to allow psyllium to hydrate.
4.  Combine dry ingredients plus chopped basil and orange zest in a mixing bowl.  Whisk thoroughly.
5.  When oven has reached temp, add vegan butter to the baking dish and place in the middle rack of the oven.  Allow it to melt completely.
6.  Add coconut milk/psyllium mixture to dry ingredients and mix to combine.  Remove baking dish from oven and carefully pour batter into hot butter.  It will react by puffing up and you will notice the displaced hot butter move up the sides and ooze over the top of the batter.
7.  Carefully spoon the peaches over the batter and then slowly pour the remainder of the syrup in as well.  Finish by sprinkling raspberries over the top of the batter.
8.  Return to the oven and allow to bake for 40-50 minutes.  As it bakes, the batter will continue to rise and envelope most of the peaches.  You are looking for a light golden brown color on top and a crust that is firm to the touch.

Love at first sight.

Ready for the oven.

Smells heart-breakingly good.

The corner piece is where it's at.

If you've looked at Paula's original recipe, you'll notice that my recipe cuts the sugar in half and also reduces the amount of butter.  I meant to reduce the fat, but I did not originally mean to reduce the sugar.  It was a busy day in the kitchen, and amidst the multi-tasking and stirring of several pots (literally), I neglected to add the sugar to the batter.  By the time I realized it, the batter had already been poured, the fruit was already in, and I was about to put it in the oven.  [hand smacking forehead]  Oh well, I would just have to cut my losses and eat it all myself or figure out ways to con my friends into eating it.  

But, as fate would have it, there would be absolutely no conning needed.  It was sweet without being sugary - truly highlighting the peaches and their happy dance with the basil and orange flavors.  And the biscuity flavor of the cake made for a wonderful balance that did it for the savory-sweet sucker that I am.  And when I made it again for a party and witnessed it voraciously wolfed down with requests for seconds and thirds, I knew that no adjustments would be needed to make this "public sweet."  Everything happened for a reason.
The play of textures and flavors is deliciously mind-boggling.

This is such a simple and accessible way to make cobbler.  It's comfort food that should be easy to enjoy and savor; so why shouldn't the baking of it be the same?  

As we come to the final days of August, which also happens to be National Peach Month, may this recipe give you a wonderful excuse to go buy a pound or two of delicious peaches to help you celebrate the gifts of summer.  

Laugh, Relax, Love, and Share.


  1. Ah yes, back in the day when Paula Deen was honest... I have issues with her these days, but c'est la vie. The bargain box of peaches was a chore, but it lead to deliciousness in the end. I had some grilled peaches the other day and they were sooooo good =) Imagine doing a batch of this with grilled peaches.... mmmmmmm *head explodes* I think we should making this when we're in the Islands. They will love it =)

    1. How times have changed, right? Grilled peaches does sounds amazing [makes mental note]. We can definitely make this when we're in the Islands. Maybe with pineapple and fresh jackfruit? Mmmmm... I think Lola would love that. :)


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