“Your heart is my piñata.”Chuck Palahniuk
I'll be the first to tell you that I'm no romantic. Not that I'm opposed to being wined, dined, pampered and adored by people whom I adore in return. No, in fact I've had more than my fair share of being spoiled rotten, so why the heck do I find it hard to return the favor? Maybe it's because I'm way too practical and analytical for my own good that I uhh... never really initiate anything special for Valentine's Day. Well, not wholeheartedly, anyway. :-)
But Valentine's next week, and I feel like I have to at least show the people around me how much they're loved and appreciated, and since I don't say that often enough, I'm hoping that this heart-pumping cobbler would speak volumes. There's an abundance of plums right now, so I've used both Black Amber Plums (purple) and Fortune Plums (red) and topped them with heart-shaped sweet cream biscuits to make this non-traditional cobbler. Try presenting this dish to someone and see if it doesn't make their heart melt. (If it doesn't, then may I suggest that perhaps that person doesn't have any business being inside your emotional space, hmm?).
I have this family of heart cookie-cutters that were still in their packaging, even though it's been a year since I'd bought them. I'm not sure why I'd even gotten them actually... to use in case of emergencies, I suppose. Or for Diva D for when she makes her lovely cookies. Or maybe I was hoping to get soppier with increasing age. In any case, I reckoned all passionate bakers should have at least one heart-shaped cookie cutter in their arsenal of baking tools.
So no, I haven't suddenly gotten all mushy in the run-up for Valentine's when I baked this. What I have become with age (and a big dose of hindsight) though, is appreciative. So you could say that I wanted to show my appreciation to my loved ones by presenting them with my very own version of Cupid's Plum Cobbler.
Now, plum is not the first fruit you would normally think of when you're hoping for some sweet loving. Neither would you think of a cobbler being the food of romance, it just dawned upon me. Grapes or strawberries dipped in chocolate would be what I imagine you'd order from room service to get you through an evening of passion. But wait, you don't know this cobbler like I know it!
Apart from the creamy biscuit topping, the plums are flavored with orange, and served with rose-scented cream that contains....wait for it... soaked basil seeds! Seeds of several basil varieties become gelatinous when soaked in water, and here in Asia, we frequently use them in drinks and desserts. In my home, a favourite use of basil seeds is to add them to pink rose syrup, called air bandung. It gives the drink a bit of a crunch and basil seeds also help the body cool down on a hot day. On their own, they don't actually taste of anything.
I think of frog spawn whenever I see this... but don't let that statement put you off!
Audacious? Yes, quietly so. Hopeful? Oh yes, definitely so! Now..... where is that honey of mine?
Clandestine basil seeds
Plum Cobbler with Rose-Basil Seed Cream
10 ripe plums, pitted and sliced into wedges
1/3 cup caster sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
Pinch of salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
125g cold butter, cubed
1/2 cup thickened cream
1/2 cup milk
Extra milk, for brushing
2 teaspoons caster sugar
Rose-Basil Seed Cream
300ml thickened cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons rosewater
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon basil seeds, soaked for 5 minutes
1. Preheat oven to 200C. Prepare filling by combining plums, sugar, flour, orange juice and zest, and salt. Pour the mixture into a 22cm round baking dish and bake for 15 minutes until the fruit is softened.
2. Meanwhile, prepare the cream biscuits topping. Mix the flour, baking powder in a bowl with a fork. Add the butter and rub the flour into the butter with your fingertips. Work quickly until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Make a well in the centre and radually add the cream and milk. Stir briefly until the dough just comes together (it'll still be a bit soft and sticky).
3. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead quickly 8-10 times until smooth, but don't overwork the mixture. Gently flatten to with a rolling pin to about 1.5 cm thick. Flour a heart cookie cutter and cut enough shaped doughs to cover the top of the cobbler.
4. Remove the dish from the oven and reduce the heat to 180C. Top the fruit with the biscuits, brush with extra milk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 30-40 minutes until biscuits are golden and the fruit is bubbling.
5. For the rose cream, combine cream, vanilla, rosewater and sugar. Whisk to soft peaks before stirring in the drained basil seeds. Cover and chill until needed. Serve the cobbler warm with rose cream.