Fresh Cherry Cobbler with Sour Milk Biscuit Topping
July 30, 2020
Fresh sour cherries are elusive and magical. Their season is only a few weeks long, and only in a few specific places. Luckily, Upstate New York is one of those, and we are able to get a lovely bunch of these precious fruits each year. The best way to enjoy them is baking them into a fun treat, like this fresh cherry cobbler with sour milk biscuit topping.
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For this recipe, I really wanted to lean into the characteristic that makes sour cherries so special — their tartness. I decided to pair a traditional style filling with sour milk drop biscuits, to make a rustic-looking, but completely delicious fruit bake. A true cobbler has a biscuit topping, so this tasty dessert definitely qualifies. Learn more about different types of fruit bakes.
What You Need to Get Started
You can easily find all of the ingredients for this fresh cherry cobbler at your grocery store. If you want to use curbside pick-up or home delivery, check out Instacart to shop online from your favorite local grocery store.
- Produce: Sour cherries
- Pantry: Cornstarch, Granulated sugar, All purpose flour, Baking soda
- Fridge: Lemon juice, Milk, Butter
- Spice Cabinet: Vanilla extract, Almond extract, Salt, Cream of tartar
- Required Equipment: Mixing bowls, 9-inch round casserole or non-stick cake pan, Measuring cups, Pastry blender
- Recommended Equipment: Cherry pitter
Let’s Make Fresh Cherry Cobbler Filling
A cobbler is such a simple dessert made up of just a fruit filling and a biscuit topping. With only two components, it’s designed to really highlight the fruit, so starting with high-quality local produce can make a huge difference. Sour cherries can be elusive, but if you can get your hands on a bunch, it’s worth it.
Before you mix up the filling, you’ll need to prep the cherries. If you will be working with fresh ones, I suggest investing in a cherry pitter. They are inexpensive, and I keep mine tucked away in a high cabinet, except when these delicious fruits are in season.
If you don’t have one, you can use a paring knife cut out the pits. However you pit them, it’s best to double check that you really removed them all. And then triple check. They are very sneaky. After that, preheat your oven to 425F.
Once checked, toss them in a big bowl and sprinkle with cornstarch. Then toss them up carefully to distribute throughout. Cornstarch is really important, since it’s the ingredient that really helps thicken up the filling and give it that gooey, glossy texture.
Add in lemon juice for moisture, sugar to balance some of the tartness of the cherries, and both vanilla and almond extract for flavor. I love pairing almond with cherry, because they are so complementary. The two plants are related, and contain similar chemical flavors.
Stir everything together, and then pour the mixture into a baking pan. For this cobbler, I like using a 9-inch round ceramic casserole dish. If you don’t have one of those, you can use a non-stick cake pan, or pie pan if the sides aren’t too sloped. You can also use an 8×8 square pan.
How to Make Sour Milk Biscuit Topping
Set the pan with the cherries aside, and begin making the dough for the biscuit topping. Start by making sour milk. You can use buttermilk in this recipe, but I actually like the flavor of the soured milk, specifically.
Add lemon juice into a measuring cup, and then top with milk until you reach half a cup of total liquid. Set the extra milk aside (for brushing the biscuit tops later) and stir the sour milk, before letting it rest for a few minutes while you prepare the rest.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients together: flour, salt, baking soda, and cream of tartar. You can use a combination of baking powder and baking soda if you don’t have cream of tartar. See the note in the recipe for details.
Whisk until everything is combined, and then add in cold butter cubes. Using cold butter helps the biscuits be flaky and fluffier. In the oven, the melting butter will create steam, which makes air pockets in the dough. Use a pastry blender to combine the butter and flour, until the texture resembles wet sand.
Then, make a well in the middle of the flour, and pour the sour milk into it. Use your hands to knock the flour from the sides into the milk, and then keep using them to form the dough. It can get messy, but it’s easier than mixing with a spoon.
Use a large spoon or your hands to place scoops of the biscuit dough on top of the cherry filling. They don’t need to be nice looking or uniform. In fact, it looks a bit more fun and rustic when the biscuits are more free form.
You will want to cover most of the filling, but not entirely. The biscuits will spread somewhat in the oven, so feel free to leave gaps in between. In the end, you will want about 80% of the dish covered, leaving some holes for venting.
Now remember that milk you set aside earlier? Grab a pastry brush, and give the biscuits a milk wash. This will help them get that really lovely golden brown color when they bake. And if a little bit of milk drips into the filling, that’s okay too. A cobbler is an art, not a science.
Bake the cobbler for about 30-35 minutes. When it’s ready, the biscuits will be fluffy and lightly browned on the top, and the filling will be bubbling throughout. It’s important the filling bubbles, because that means it’s hot enough to activate the cornstarch to thicken.
If your biscuits look done before the filling, loosely cover the pan with foil and continue baking. If the filling looks done first, keep baking uncovered, so the biscuits can brown up a bit more.
Let the cobbler cool at least 10-15 minutes before serving. It’s the best tasting when it’s fresh and warm. But you can cover it tightly and store at room temperature for 1-2 days. Microwave individual portions to warm them up.
A classic cherry cobbler is the perfect breakfast or dessert in sour cherry season!
How to Serve
Fresh cherry cobbler makes an excellent dessert, or works well as part of a breakfast or brunch spread. Scoop individual portions into bowls while warm, and top with fresh homemade whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
For a midnight snack, serve alongside an amaretto old fashioned. The cherry and almond flavors will nicely complement your cobbler.
Use Up Leftover Ingredients
- If you have any extra sour cherries, pair them with sweet ones in cherry chocolate chip cookies.
- Add leftover almond extract to mini skillet cookies, or fill easy cream puffs with almond-coconut whipped cream.
- Use additional cream of tartar in apple cider caramel stuffed snickerdoodles.
Fresh Cherry Cobbler With Sour Milk Biscuit Topping
- 6 Cups Sour Cherries washed, stemmed, and pitted
- 1 Tbsp Cornstarch
- 1/2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
- 1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 1/2 tsp Almond Extract
Sour Milk Biscuits
- 1/2 Cup Milk
- 2 tsp Lemon Juice
- 1 1/2 Cups Flour
- 3/4 tsp Salt
- 1 tsp Baking Soda
- 1/2 tsp Cream of Tartar
- 6 Tbsp Unsalted Butter cold and cut into 1/2" cubes
- Preheat the oven to 425°F, with a rack in the center.
- Sour Cherry Filling: Sprinkle the cherries with the cornstarch, and then toss to combine. Add the lemon juice, sugar, and extract, and stir until combined. Pour into an 8-inch casserole or non-stick cake pan and set aside.
- Add the lemon juice to a measuring cup, and then add enough milk to total 1/2 cup liquid. Stir, and let sit at least five minutes. Set aside the remaining milk.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and cream of tartar until throughly combined.
- Add the butter into the bowl with the flour, and use a pastry blender to combine. The butter should be mostly incorporated, and the flour should have a texture similar to wet sand.
- Make a well in the flour, and pour in the sour milk. Push the flour on the sides into the milk, and then use your hands or a spoon to combine into a dough, with no dry spots.
- Drop scoops or small handfuls of the dough on top of the cherry mixture. The size doesn't matter much here, but try to cover about 80% of the cherries, total.
- Brush the extra milk you set aside before on top of the biscuits.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the biscuits are golden brown and the filling is bubbling throughout, not just on the edges.
- Let cool for at least 10 minutes. Serve scoops of cobbler warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream if desired.
- Substitution: If you don't have cream of tartar, you can replace it and the baking soda with 1 tsp baking powder, and 1/2 tsp baking soda.
- Make ahead tip: This cobbler comes together quickly, and taste the best the day it's baked. However, you can prep the cherry filling in advance and store in the fridge for 1-2 days. You can also save leftovers tightly covered at room temperature for up to 2 days.