'Pie queen’ Nicole Rucker’s loving ode to baking with fruit

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In 2012, pastry chef Nicole Rucker dazzled KCRW’s Pie Contest judges, taking home first place in the best fruit, crust, and savory categories, plus “Best in Show.” 

These days, Nicole Rucker is known to some as LA’s Pie Queen. Angelenos rave about how she uses seasonal fruit to marvelous effect in her pies and baked goods at Fiona on Fairfax, her all-day cafe with chef Shawn Pham. Now she’s written her first cookbook Dappled,” all about baking with fruit. 

She tells Good Food that you want fruit to be as ripe as possible when it comes to baking: "You want the most aroma and the most flavor. And ripe fruit has a lot of aroma, so that's what's really giving you the pleasurable experience, especially with something like nectarines, peaches, and strawberries."

The cover of "Dappled: Baking Recipes for Fruit Lovers." Photo courtesy of Penguin Random House

Peach And Ricotta Biscuit Cobbler
Serves 8

Peach And Ricotta Biscuit Cobbler. Photo courtesy of Penguin Random House. 
Reprinted from "Dappled." Copyright © 2019, Nicole Rucker

Because I love biscuits, I have always preferred true cobblers over crisps and crumbles. A cobbler delivers that doughy-dumpling texture where the biscuits meet the fruit juices and braises. I find that on most dessert menus there is a cobbler listed and that it is almost always a crisp. You can look at page 127 for a description of a crisp and see why the distinction is necessary. But both desserts make great use of a bounty of fruit and can be served at pretty much any meal. In terms of cobblers, for me peach cobbler is the only cobbler, but of course you can use any fruit you like in equal measure.


  • 2 pounds (908g) ripe peaches, skinned, pitted, and cut into ¾-inch pieces (about 6 cups)
  • 1½ cups (300g) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • A pinch of kosher salt
  • ½ recipe Ricotta Biscuits dough (see below), cut into 2-inch squares
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream, for brushing


  1. Position a rack in the center of your oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Place a parchment-lined baking sheet on the lower rack of the oven to catch any drips.
  2. Combine the peaches, sugar, lemon juice, flour, cinnamon, and salt in a 2-quart baking dish. Arrange the biscuits on top of the filling and brush the surface with the heavy cream.
  3. Bake the cobbler until the biscuits are browned and baked through and the juices bubble vigorously around the edges of the dish, about 45 minutes. Serve the cobbler warm. Any leftovers will keep well at room temperature overnight, but it’s really best eaten the same day. 

Ricotta Biscuits
Makes 16 biscuits


  • 5 cups (500g) cake flour, plus more for rolling
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 sticks (226g) unsalted butter, cold and cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 2 cups (472ml) cold buttermilk, plus more for brushing
  • 1½ cups (372g) cold whole-milk ricotta cheese, drained for at least 1 hour in a fine-mesh strainer lined with two layers of cheesecloth


  1. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large mixing bowl. Place the bowl in the freezer to chill for 20 minutes.
  2. Add the butter to the dry ingredients and toss to combine. Pinch and smear the pieces of butter between your fingers. Processing the butter like this creates small leaves of butter that layer in the dough, resulting in flakes later. Once all the butter chunks have been pinched, grab small handfuls of flour and butter and rub the two together between the palms of your hands until the mixture resembles uneven pebbles on a sandy beach.
  3. Create a well in the center of the mixture and add 1 cup of the buttermilk. Using a fork, toss the flour and butter from around the edge of the well into the center. Fluff the buttermilk and flour mixture with the fork five or six times, until shaggy looking.
  4. Crumble the ricotta cheese into tablespoon-size chunks over the dough, making sure not to break up the cheese too much. Using your hands with your fingers spread wide open, loosely incorporate the cheese into the dough with a lift-and-gently-squeeze motion. Drizzle the remaining 1 cup of buttermilk over the dough while using the fork to bring the mixture together into a loose and shaggy mass.
  5. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and use your hands to shape the dough into a 10 x 7-inch rectangle. Fold the rectangle in thirds like a letter and then rotate 90 degrees. Using a rolling pin, flatten the dough back into a 10 x 7-inch rectangle. Repeat the folding, rotating, and rolling process two more times, ending with the dough shaped into a 10 x 7-inch rectangle of about 1-inch thickness. Wrap the dough with plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  6. Position two racks in the center zone of your oven and preheat the oven to 400°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  7. Return the dough to the work surface and roll it out into a 12 x 10-inch rectangle of about ¾-inch thickness. Using a sharp knife, trim and discard ¼ inch from all sides of the dough. Cut the rectangle into 4 evenly spaced vertical strips, and then into 4 horizontal strips to get 16 biscuits. Place 8 biscuits about 1½ inches apart on each prepared baking sheet. Generously brush the tops of the biscuits with buttermilk.
  8. Bake until the biscuits are golden brown and have expanded upwards to reveal fluffy layers on the sides, 18 to 20 minutes. Cool for as long as you can stand it, or risk a burned mouth and go for it.
Nicole Rucker. Photo courtesy of Penguin Random House



Evan Kleiman