When Recipes Go Wrong

Faced with a surfeit of nearly over-ripe summer peaches and no energy to make a pie (if I'm going to make a pie, I'm making that entire sucker from scratch), I decided to use them up in a cobbler this weekend before they went bad. The great thing about cobbler isn't just how wonderful it tastes with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, but how easy it is to make.

At least, that's how I remembered it. In all honestly, I haven't made a cobbler probably since high school. Let's not even discuss how long ago that was.

So I dug up a Paula Deen recipe on Saturday night and whipped up a cobbler along with all the other food I was preparing for dinner. It was easy -- slice up the peaches, then put them aside while I tended to some roasting vegetables, then back to the peaches while they simmered on the stove, then back to boiling some shrimp. And who knows cobbler better than Paula Deen, the quintessential Southern belle? I figured this was a failsafe recipe, and paid barely any attention at all as I mindlessly followed the steps.

That turned out to be a mistake.

After letting the peaches, sugar and a bit of water come to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes -- per the recipe -- I noticed that they'd released a lot of syrup. The pan was nearly half and half: half peaches, half syrup. It seemed like far too much, but instead of listening to my instincts and draining some of the syrup off, I continued following the recipe.

I followed it right down to the step that said, "Spoon fruit on top, gently pouring on syrup." I spooned the peaches on top of the batter and poured all of the syrup -- all half of the pan -- on top. I stared at the unbaked cobbler, covered in a flood of simple peach syrup, and immediately regretted my decision. There was no going back now, though, so I stuck it in the oven and moved on.

An hour later -- 30 minutes more than what the recipe had called for -- the cobbler still wasn't done. The peaches on top were wilted and beginning to curl. The batter underneath had never risen over the fruit. It was soggy and awful, looking for all the world like uncooked dumpling dough covered in nearly ruined peaches.

I took it out of the oven and set it on the counter to cool. My last hope was that maybe the batter would set up a little bit and become edible. It didn't contain eggs, after all; undercooked cobbler batter won't kill you. I sliced away two pieces after it cooled and topped them with ice cream.

The bad news: The cobbler was nearly inedible, thanks to the soggy batter and almost burned peaches. The good news: The Blue Bell ice cream was as reliably delicious as ever. The better news: I got yet another valuable lesson in always following your gut, instead of the recipe. Even if Paula Deen wrote it.

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