Sigh. Mammoth. I've been hearing about the wonders of this little tucked away part of California for probably 10 years. And for the past 6 years I've had an annual invitation to join a group of friends on their yearly trek to The Cabins. But for this reason or that, I've never managed to make it out there. Well this year, I was told. I must go. Seriously, Kim, you just have to make the time. So I did.
The Cabins, which are cozy and rustic, have no electricity or running water, but they do have two ovens with stoves run off propane. The night we arrived my friend Andrew excitedly described the delicious veggie lasagne he was preparing, and as the time drew near for the lasagne to bake, we found out the hard way that both ovens were, indeed, out of order. Always determined, especially when it comes to eating, we had a brilliant brainstorm and decided to transform the bbq firepit into a makeshift oven.
The firepit is built in a sort of U-shape out of cinder blocks and even has a stovepipe. It has multiple levels for a variety of grills and grates (lest you think this is fancy, one of the "grills" is a former metal refrigerator shelf), and there happened to be two large heavy pieces of metal nearby that fit perfectly over the top and in the front. So into the oven the lasagne went, and after a bit of trial and error, and at least 1 or 2 hours and many bottles of wine later, we had a gorgeous and delicious lasagne.
This got us to thinking. What else could we bake in our little wood-fire oven? We'd all been gorging on fruit, and all it took was the mention of cobbler, and I was on it. Our next to last night in Mammoth we managed to find a bag full of local, organic apricots, and, after scavenging through everyone's coolers, I came up with about 8 cups of mixed fruit. The recipe for the cobbler biscuits was another story. I had no internet access or cookbooks available, so I went on instinct and tried to vaguely remember a biscuit recipe and the ratios of flour to butter to baking soda/powder to buttermilk.
What I came up with was the recipe below. And it was delicious. The fruit was bubbling hot and caramelized on the bottom and edges from the heat of the fire, the cobbler biscuit was fluffy and tender.
There are certainly other campfire cobbler recipes out there, and most of them have you put it over coals or a campfire and place some of the coals on the top of the Dutch oven. Whatever you do, just be sure you you use a heavy cast-iron Dutch oven, which is what I call for in the recipe.
About 6 to 8 cups mixed fruit (we used sliced apricots, sliced white nectarines, and blueberries)
About 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar, depending upon the sweetness of the fruit
For the cobbler biscuits:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
12 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 cups buttermilk
1. Have ready a heavy, cast-iron 5-quart Dutch oven. Cut up the fruit into chunks and add it to the Dutch oven along with the sugar. Toss well.
2. Get your fire ready. You want to have some nice steady coals and be pretty hot but not blazing. Set up a grill about 4 inches above the fire.
3. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt. Sprinkle the butter pieces over the flour, and using 2 table knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until the butter is the size of small peas.
4. Stir the buttermilk into the flour mixture just until it comes together. Don't overmix!
5. Cover the top of the fruit with an even layer of the cobbler dough.
6. Cover the Dutch oven and put the cobbler on the grill. Cook until the cobbler biscuits are cooked all the way through, about 30 to 45 minutes. We uncovered the cobbler for the last 5 minutes or so of cooking to see if we could brown the top a bit.
7. Serve the cobbler on its own or with cream or yogurt or whatever you might have in your cooler.