20 The Inspired Cook

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Exploring uncovers a sweet surprise

Two summers ago, my sister Beckie’s coworkers had been raving about a tea room in our birthplace of Athens. Wanting to see what all the hoopla was about, she and I set out one Saturday afternoon to find this mysterious place called The Geranium House Tea Room.

Despite our growing up only 12 miles away in Eustace, neither of us knew that this place even existed. To our surprise, we discovered it just a few blocks off State Highway 31, which cuts through the heart of downtown.

We found it quietly nestled among trees and with open fields behind it. The old home stands majestically on the corner of Wood Street and Old Highway 31.

Ah ha! We didn’t realize that there is an Old Highway 31. That’s why we didn’t know where it is.

                In addition to the tea room/bistro, The Geranium House also features a bed and breakfast. While staying there, its guests can relax in the quiet nostalgic atmosphere of a by-gone era even though many restaurants, a cinema, and shopping are only minutes away.

                Its proprietor Nancy Andree graciously greeted us at the door. Andree ushered us through the house, showing us various antiques along the way. Then, she seated us in the tea room and gave us menus to ponder.

                Since chicken salad is our favorite, it was imperative that we order it. Served on a Victorian-styled, chintz-patterned plate, the walnut- and grape-studded chicken salad was mounded into a pillowy, flaky croissant. Crispy potato chips, dill pickle slices, and a miniature cinnamon-flavored sour-cream muffin accompanied our sandwiches.

                While I prefer water with my meals, Beckie chose one of the menu's many flavors of iced tea.
For dessert, we selected peach cobbler, served on a pale pink-colored, Depression-glass dessert plate. (See photo.)

                Dessert also brought a sweet surprise. The peach cobbler looked and tasted just like our great-aunt Clara’s. We couldn’t wait to reveal our discovery to Andree. Upon telling her, she surprised us again with unexpected news.

                Andree said that she obtained the recipe from her husband’s aunt, Verlie Graham. We knew her! She and her husband had been friends of our parents, Homer and Johnnie Kirkwood, and had lived in Eustace, our hometown.

Beckie and I really enjoyed our lovely leisurely lunch. Our entire dining experience was so delightful that I’ve returned many times since then. It’s one of my favorite places to dine.

While Beckie has made this delicious peach-cobbler recipe several times, I have not. Our love of this dessert has inspired me to share it with you today with the hope that you’ll love it as much as we do.

While the cobbler recipe is not one that I created, here’s one for a cherry cobbler that I formulated a few years ago inspired by one of my favorite chef, Wolfgang Puck.

The Geranium House Tea Room’s Peach Cobbler

Crust Ingredients:

                1 c.                         Flour

                1 t.                         Baking powder

                1 t.                         Salt

                1/3 c.                     Shortening

                1/2 c.                     Milk

Filling Ingredients:

                6-8                         Peaches, peeled and sliced

                1/2 c.                     Margarine

                1 1/2 c.                                 Sugar

                1 1/2 c.                                 Water

                Cinnamon

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix flour, baking powder, and salt. Blend shortening with pastry blender or fork until crumbly. Add milk. Stir until ball forms. Roll out into a 12- by 12-inch square.

                Place peaches at one end of dough and roll like a jelly roll. Slice into 1-inch pieces. Melt margarine and pour into a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Arrange slices in dish.

Boil sugar and water for 5 minutes and pour over slices. Sprinkle with cinnamon to taste. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 40-50 minutes until browned and center dough is cooked through.

Cherry Cobbler

Ingredients:

                2 (21-oz.) cans   Cherry pie filling

                6 T.                         Butter, chilled

                1/3 c.                     Sugar plus 2 T., divided

                1/2 t. ea.              Finely ground sea salt and cinnamon

                2 1/4 t.                 Baking powder

                2 c.                         Cake flour

                3/4 c.                     Half and half milk plus 2 T., divided

                Dash ground cardamom

Directions:

                Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cut butter into half-inch cubes and return to refrigerator. Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Coat an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray; set aside.

Into a prep bowl, stir together 2 T. of sugar with the cardamom; set aside. Empty both cans of pie filling into a medium-sized bowl and add cinnamon, stirring well to combine; set aside.

                To make the crust topping, place the sugar, flour, salt, and baking powder into the bowl of a food processor. You may also use a handheld mixer or a pastry blender. Using the stainless-steel blade, pulse 2 to 3 times to blend. Add the chilled butter and pulse until it is the size of green peas.

While the processor is running, add 3/4 c. of half and half milk, pouring it through the feed tube. As soon as the dough starts to form a ball, turn off the processor. Remove the dough and place it onto a lightly-floured board or mat.

                Flour a rolling pin and roll the dough into an 8-inch square. Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut off the ragged edges to form neat straight edges. Then, cut into 8 equal pieces, placing them onto the parchment paper-lined baking sheet and refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes.

                Into the greased baking pan, pour in the pie filling. Top it with the chilled pieces of crust. With a pastry brush, lightly coat the top with the reserved 2 T. of half and half. Sprinkle top with the cardamom-sugar mixture.

                Bake for about 35 minutes or until the topping is golden brown around the edges and the cherry filling is bubbly. Remove pan to a rack and allow it to cool for 15 minutes at least before serving or serve it at room temperature.

                If desired, serve cobbler with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar and/or a scoop of your favorite vanilla ice cream.

                Note: Cobbler is best when eaten the first day.

Yield: 8 servings