For an easy, rustic dessert, you really can't beat a cobbler. With a fleet of tender biscuits floating on a sea of sweet fruit, a good cobbler can hold its own against any fancy cake or pastry.
For our cast-iron skillet cherry cobbler, we looked to jarred, pitted cherries in syrup to deliver maximum cherry flavor with the least amount of prep work. We used a portion of the syrup, thickened with cornstarch and seasoned with allspice, nutmeg, and vanilla, to enrich our fruit filling.
For the topping, we wanted fluffy but sturdy biscuits that didn't need to be baked separately from the cherries. To accomplish this, we incorporated a combination of baking powder and baking soda into the biscuit dough.
Baking powder encourages baked goods to rise and is activated by heat, so we spaced our biscuits 1/2 inch apart to give them room to grow in the oven. Baking soda, on the other hand, contributes tenderness and is activated by an acidic ingredient, so we added buttermilk, which also lent our biscuits great flavor.
The cast-iron skillet went right from the stovetop to the oven for maximum convenience. We prefer the crunchy texture of turbinado sugar sprinkled on the biscuits before baking, but regular granulated sugar can be substituted. For best results, serve within 15 minutes and transfer any leftovers to an airtight container.
For the filling:
6 cups jarred sour cherries in light syrup, drained with 2 cups syrup reserved
1/2 cup (31/2 ounces) granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
Pinch ground nutmeg
For the topping:
11/2 cups (71/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons (21/4 ounces) granulated sugar
11/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 F. Whisk cherry syrup, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla, allspice, nutmeg, and salt in bowl until well combined. Transfer mixture to 12-inch cast-iron skillet and bring to simmer over medium-high heat. Cook, whisking frequently, until slightly thickened, 5 to 7 minutes. Off heat, stir in cherries.
Whisk flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in medium bowl. Stir in buttermilk and melted butter until just combined. Using spoon, scoop out and drop 1-inch pieces of dough onto filling, spaced about 1/2 inch apart. Sprinkle biscuits with turbinado sugar.
Transfer skillet to oven and bake until biscuits are golden brown and filling is thick and glossy, 30 to 35 minutes, rotating skillet halfway through baking. Serve. Makes 6 to 8 servings.