Anatomy of a Classic

Nectarine and Berry Cobbler

Yield: 10-12 servings

Extra juicy and with a secret layer of buttery dough, chef Maya Lovelace’s cobbler is a link to home

Photo: Johnny Autry

“I feel like I’m a cultural ambassador,” says Maya Lovelace, a Beaufort, North Carolina–born chef who moved to Oregon six years ago after working with Sean Brock at Husk in Charleston, South Carolina. In Portland, she runs Mae, a pop-up that celebrates Southern Appalachian cooking, serving dishes that dress up classics like banana pudding with bourbon-barrel-smoked cacao nibs or rice grits with green-garlic butter. This summer, she’ll move Mae into a permanent location and open Yonder, a meat-and-three.

Lovelace takes the education of Northwesterners seriously, patiently explaining that Southern cuisine is a mix of cultures with a deep and sometimes messy history. “They get to learn that Southern food is a big, complex pot of stuff, and it’s not all Cracker Barrel and canned green beans.” Cobbler, however, seems to translate perfectly—especially in a place that embraces its local stone fruit and berries as much as Southerners do. Hers marries gorgeous nectarines and huckleberries (wild Western kin to blueberries).

Johnny Autry

“My dad’s cobbler was always the highlight of my summer,” Lovelace says. He learned to make it from his mother, Lillie Mae Abernethy Lovelace, who lived in Hickory, North Carolina. She was Lovelace’s most influential teacher. “I had the stereotypical on-a-stepstool how-to-make-biscuits education from her,” Lovelace says. “She was always in the kitchen wearing a muumuu and house shoes.”

The cobblers Lovelace grew up eating weren’t like most other families’, though. They were more like sonkers, desserts with a long history in Mount Airy, North Carolina. The dishes are siblings, but sonkers are deeper and wetter, with a thick layer of dough. The most striking difference is the dip, a sweet condensed-milk gravy served alongside. Lovelace had heard of sonkers growing up but only recently realized that what her grandmother called a cobbler would have been called a sonker if she had lived ninety miles north. The Lovelaces’ version has a layer of pastry sandwiched inside the fruit filling—it becomes like a sweet dumpling. Her grandmother called it “the goody.”

Johnny Autry

Like most chefs, Lovelace couldn’t help but up the ante. She fortifies the dough with finely ground white cornmeal and uses vodka to keep crust-toughening gluten at bay. She adds to the fruit ginger and cardamom, which marry with sugar she infuses with thyme.

Still, her approach to putting it all together is decidedly practical. For a baking dish, she advises cooks to “find your trustiest nine-by-thirteen Pyrex.” Use whatever fruit is freshest. And when the cobbler comes out of the oven, follow one rule. “Set a timer for thirty minutes and leave the kitchen,” Lovelace says. “The cobbler absolutely has to cool, or the whole thing will be a big juicy mess.” But it’ll stay warm enough to melt a scoop of vanilla ice cream into a rich, milky dip.


  • For the Dough

    • 2 cups all-purpose flour

    • 2⁄3 cup finely stone-ground white cornmeal

    • 1 1⁄2 tsp. kosher salt

    • 2 tsp. sugar

    • 1 cup butter, cut into small dice and chilled

    • 1⁄4 cup ice-cold vodka

    • 1⁄4 cup ice water

  • For the Filling

    • 2 lb. nectarines, or other stone fruit

    • 2 lb. blueberries, or other berries

    • 3⁄4 cup sugar plus 1⁄2 cup thyme sugar (sugar pulsed in a food processor with 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves)

    • 1⁄2 tsp. kosher salt

    • 1⁄4 tsp. ground ginger

    • 1⁄4 tsp. ground cardamom 1⁄4 cup flour

    • 4 tbsp. butter, thinly sliced


  1. For the dough, place flour, cornmeal, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add chilled butter, and pulse to cut butter into flour. With the processor running, pour in vodka, then drizzle in ice water just until the dough starts to clump.

  2. Transfer the dough into a mixing bowl. Gently press into a ball. Cut the dough in half, wrap each piece in plastic wrap and pat into a disk. Refrigerate at least half an hour or overnight.

  3. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

  4. Slice nectarines and place in a mixing bowl with the berries. Sprinkle with sugar, thyme sugar, salt, ginger, cardamom, and flour. Gently toss.

  5. Place half of the fruit filling in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. On a floured surface, roll one disk of the dough out to about 1⁄8 inch thick. Cut the dough into strips roughly 2⁄3 inch wide. Lay the strips diagonally over the layer of filling in the dish, leaving small gaps. (You’ll use about two-thirds of the dough.) Lay half of the butter slices on the pastry.

  6. Add the second half of the fruit mixture, making sure to cover the pastry and butter. Lay the remaining strips from the first disk of dough in a diagonal manner similar to the first layer, but with an inch of space between them.

  7. Roll out the second disk of dough to the same thickness, and cut strips the same width as the first ones. Fill out the top layer of pastry, then begin adding a second layer across the first layer to create a lattice. Lay remaining slices of butter on top.

  8. Place the baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any overflow, and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbly and thickened. If the top starts to brown too much, cover with foil.

  9. Remove from oven and set aside for 30 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Meet the Chef: Maya Lovelace

Hometown: Beaufort, North Carolina
Kitchen tool she loves the most: Her grandmother’s vintage white KitchenAid stand mixer (though her grandmother’s pastry mat and rolling pin are a close second).
Favorite music to play during service: Alabama Shakes, Dolly Parton, and Outkast. “They’re everything I love about the South.”