FEATURED RECIPE

Kate’s Peach Berry Sonker

Kate’s Peach Berry Sonker
📷
Andrew Scrivani

From the western counties of Surry and Wilkes in North Carolina, a sonker uses dough that is more like a biscuit, then rolled out, cut in strips, and placed along the sides of the baking pan. A fruit filling is added and some dough strips are laid over the fruit in a quasi-lattice. The filling is very juicy, and it is served with a sweet sauce called a dip. One July weekend, pastry chef and good friend Jenni Field followed the North Carolina Surry County Sonker Trail with her husband.

I eagerly followed the updates and pictures she posted on social media. The day after she returned, and while her sonker experience was still fresh in her senses, we chatted about the finer points of sweetness, texture, and temperature. Each of us then set out to create our own versions of this regional dessert. The filling is very adaptable, and you can use whatever is available. Try peaches, berries, or cherries mixed together, or a single fruit filling. One filling I made used a combination of green gooseberries, white currants, red currants, peaches, and a few tart cherries. It was spectacular.

INGREDIENTS

DOUGH

  • 1 cup (224 g) butter, cold and cut into tablespoon-size pieces, plus more to butter the baking dish
  • 2½ cups (363 g) flour
  • 1 tablespoon aluminum-free baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (236 ml) milk

FILLING

  • 2½ tablespoons flour
  • 1¼ cups plus 2 tablespoons (275 g) granulated sugar, divided
  • 4 to 5 cups (1 very generous qt, 1 L) peaches
  • 3 cups (about 700 ml) blackberries
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons sparkling sugar or demerara sugar
  • ½ cup (118 g) Milk Dip (recipe follows)

EGG WASH

  • 1 egg white plus 2 teaspoons water, fork beaten (or other wash of your choice; see Washes for the Top, Pie Camp page 90)

Directions

TO MAKE THE DOUGH

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
  2. Grease the sides of a 9-by-13-inch (23 by 33 cm) baking dish with butter.
  3. In a medium bowl, place the flour, baking powder, salt, and pieces of cold butter. With a pastry cutter, knives, mezzaluna, or your fingers, cut and smoosh the butter into the dry ingredients until it is roughly mixed.
  4. Add the milk and mix until the dough is tacky.
  5. Place half the dough on a floured board. Pat the dough out a bit, roll it out to about ⅜ inch (1 cm) thick, and cut into long 2½-inch (6 cm) wide strips.
  6. Lift a strip and tuck it around the sides of the pan. Repeat with the other strips until the pan is encircled with the wide strips. It’s okay if you have to piece them together. The bottom of the pan will be doughless.

TO MAKE THE FILLING

  1. Place the flour and 1¼ cups (250 g) sugar in the baking dish and mix around a bit with your fingers or a fork to combine.
  2. In a medium bowl, place the peaches, blackberries, and vanilla, and gently mix together. Turn the filling onto the top of the flour and sugar in the baking dish.
  3. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over the top of the fruit.
  4. Break up the butter into small pieces and place over the top of the fruit evenly.

TO MAKE THE TOP

  1. Roll out the remaining dough to ⅜ inch (1 cm) thick and cut into long 2½-inch- (6 cm) wide strips. Lay the strips over the top of the filling to form a rough lattice. An offset spatula is a great help in getting the rolled out strips onto the top of the filling.
  2. In a small bowl, mix the egg and water together with a fork and brush some on top of the lattice strips. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of sparkling sugar.
  3. Place the sonker in the oven and bake for the first 30 minutes of the bake. The total time will be 60 minutes. While the sonker is baking, make the Milk Dip (recipe follows).
  4. After the sonker has baked for 30 minutes, carefully remove it from the oven, set on a flat surface, and close the oven door. Pour ½ cup (118 g) of the hot Milk Dip over the top.
  5. Return the sonker to the oven and bake for an additional 30 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling around the edges and up through the crust. The crust should be a beautiful golden brown when finished. If it is browning too quickly, place a piece of foil loosely over the top and continue to cook.
  6. Let cool for 20 to 30 minutes and serve warm or at room temperature. Pass a pitcher of additional warm Milk Dip to pour over the servings.

Milk Dip

Makes about 1½ cups (354 ml)

Some of this will be poured into the sonker halfway through the bake. Pour the rest in a pretty pitcher and pass at the table. Milk dip should be served warm or at room temperature.

  • 2½ teaspoons cornstarch
  • ¼ cup (50 g) plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1½ cups (354 ml) milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. In a medium saucepan, mix together the cornstarch, sugar, and salt with a whisk.
  2. Whisk in the milk.
  3. Turn the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil while whisking constantly. Cook for 2 minutes more while whisking. Remove from the heat.
  4. Stir in the vanilla and set aside to cool. Extra milk dip can be refrigerated.
VARIATION

Peach Currant Gooseberry Sonker

Use a combination of sliced peaches, white and red currants, and green gooseberries to total 7 to 8 cups (about 2 qts, 1.8 L) fruit.

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