PHOTO: Rachael Brugger
Cooks turn to the multi-functional cast iron skillet to create a variety of main dishes, from fried chicken to braised beef. But your skillet also becomes a useful tool when preparing happy endings to meals. Cast iron, an adept heat-conductor, excels at forming golden crusts, crunchy toppings and moisture-rich cakes. Try some of these customizable recipes for a wonderful one-skillet dessert.
1. The Bubbling Cobbler
A classic skillet cobbler is a dessert you can start on the stove then transfer to the oven to achieve a crunchy, crispy topping. It’s a simple, timely recipe that’s easy to adapt to include ingredients already in your refrigerator or pantry. Start with a dollop of butter in your skillet over medium heat, and add your desired fruit. (A variety of fruits provides a more dynamic dish.) Sprinkle with a topping, throw it in the oven, and you’ve got a decadent dessert in no time.
Recipe: Easy Pear and Apple Skillet Cobbler
- 3-5 apples and pears, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup plus 2 T. butter, divided
- 2-3 tsp. apple butter
- 1½tsp. cinnamon, divided
- 1 tsp. sugar
- dash of nutmeg
- 1 tsp. cornstarch
- 1¼ cup of AP flour
- 1/2 cup of brown sugar
- dash salt
- Optional: For a crunchy twist, consider adding cooked bacon bits or chopped nuts to your cobbler topping.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and arrange rack at top third of oven.
In cast iron skillet over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add apples and apple butter, and simmer for 15 minutes, until just tender. Mix in 1 teaspoon, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar and cornstarch, and let dissolve with heat.Pat down fruit pieces so level.
Dice up 1/2 cup cold butter (1 stick). With fingers, crumble the pieces of cold butter, flour, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon (and bacon or nuts if using) in a small bowl, until pieces are pebble-sized. Sprinkle mixture on top of partially cooked apples and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until apples and pears bubble and topping turns deep brown.
2. The Golden Skillet Cookie
Take advantage of cast iron’s efficiency conducting heat by baking a crispy-edged mega cookie—an easy-to-make favorite for children and adults alike. Unlike other baking dishes, the cast iron skillet will facilitate a crumbly golden-brown crust, allowing for the perfect juxtaposition of a soft, chewy center. Of course, you can never go wrong with a classic chocolate chip cookie, but an oversized oatmeal cookie sprinkled with almonds, dried cranberries and nutmeg or a gingery molasses cookie embedded with caramel chips are also fun variations to the skillet cookie.
Recipe: Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie
- 1 cup softened butter
- 1 cup dark-brown sugar
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. salt, plus more for sprinkling (sea salt recommended for sprinkling)
- 1/2 tsp. nutmeg (fresh is preferred)
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla or almond extract
- 2 eggs
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup chocolate chunks/pieces of your choice
Cream butter and the sugars. Add baking soda, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and vanilla. Beat in eggs one at a time, then add in flour, taking care not to overmix. Fold in chocolate pieces.Roll batter into log shape, cover with wax paper, and chill in refrigerator overnight.
When ready to bake, heat a liberally buttered cast iron skillet in a 375-degree-F oven. Press in cold batter, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. Serve like pieces of pie in triangles, with whipped cream, homemade caramel sauce or ice cream on top.
This chocolate-chip cookie recipe is adapted from one posted by Stella Parks of Brave Tart. Here are a few skillet cookie secrets I picked up from this pastry extraordinaire:
- Ditch chocolate chips for a variety of broken chocolate pieces or even chocolate candies. This surprising divergence gives your cookie an extra kick of creativity.
- Salt is essential for cookies—sprinkle just a little on top to enhance the flavors.
- Replace vanilla extract with almond extract.
- Chill your dough overnight.
3. The Cornbread Cake
The traditional pairing of cornbread and cast iron is often expected during the main course, but cornbread’s sweetness makes it well-suited for the dessert category, too. Adjust a simple cornbread recipe by replacing kernels of corn with a cup of cooked fruit, a cup of cooked winter squash or warming spices, like cinnamon, nutmeg or cardamom. You might also consider supplementing some of the grainy cornmeal mix with soft baking flour.
Serve your cornbread cake with sweet fig jam and top with whipped cream for a delightful holiday dessert. Better yet, whip up a glaze of powdered sugar and milk to pour over the finished cake. Here’s one possible recipe, but your with your imagination, the possibilities are limitless.
Recipe: Pumpkin Cornbread Cake with Cinnamon Glaze
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1/2 cup cake flour or all-purpose flour
- 1 T. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- salt to taste
- 1 cup of fresh pumpkin purée
- 3 T. butter, softened
- 1 T. brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup plus 2 T. milk, divided
- additional butter for preparing skillet
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2 T. milk
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F, and heat heavily buttered cast iron skillet. Meanwhile, mix cornmeal flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In separate bowl, beat pumpkin purée, softened butter and brown sugar, then add eggs one at a time. Fold dry ingredients into wet ingredients, alternating batches with 1 cup milk. Do not overmix or whisk.
Remove hot skillet from oven and spread on additional butter. Carefully pour batter into skillet, and immediately return it to oven. Bake for 20 minutes, and allow to cool.
For the glaze, whisk together all ingredients and pour over cooled cake.
4. The Breakfast-Inspired Dessert
An unorthodox approach to dessert, a fancy version of pancakes or French toast can placate a sweet tooth any time of day. Your cast iron pan is ideal for the medium-high high heat required to cook both of these breakfast staples, with its naturally seasoned surface that allows for easy release when flipping with a spatula. Layer the results with some peach preserves from the summertime or baked apples.
Recipe: Peach-Ginger Pancakes
- 2 cups flour
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 2 T. melted butter
- 2 eggs
- 1½ cups of milk
- 2 cups chopped peaches (ideally preserved from summertime)
- 1 cup water
- 1 T. sugar
- 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
Make your pancake batter by mixing all dry ingredients, then beating in eggs and melted butter. Finish by whisking in milk, but don’t overmix—keep clumps in batter.
Meanwhile, bring your water, peaches and sugar to a boil, then lower to a simmer, allowing the juices to thicken. Stir in ginger and keep warm.
Heat skillet on medium-high with just a slather of butter to discourage sticking. Use half-cup measuring cup to spoon the batter onto hot skillet. When all ends of pancake are producing bubbles, flip. Keep finished pancakes warm in the oven until ready to serve. Layer pancakes with peach preserves to finish.
To learn more about cast iron, see Hobby Farms stories including 8 Foods That Taste Better in Cast Iron, 3 Recipes that Flaunt Cast Iron’s Versatility, and 4 Cast Iron Kitchen Accessories.