Blackberry Sonker

Ashley English is one of a new classification of friends that entered my life a few years: Internet Friends. People who I know through their blogs and correspondence but have not yet met in person. Often these relationships become real-life friendships, but it hasn’t happened yet with Ashley, we live in different parts of the country. Someday!

What you all should know about Ashley is that she’s awesome. I love following her life and creative output on her blog, and I love reading her books to learn how to do more things myself.

Her newest book, A Year of Pies: A Seasonal Tour of Home Baked Pies, is now available, but I’ve been lucky enough to have a preview copy for a couple of weeks. I can say that is a real beaut filled with a delicious recipes that I am looking forward to trying as the seasons progress. In addition to all of her own great recipes, Ashley included recipes from fellow writers and cooks (including me), making it a very special and diverse collection.

The first recipe to catch my eye was this Blackberry Sonker with Dip. I was only familiar with two of the four words in that recipe title. Turns out a sonker is like a cobbler, with a goofier name. And dip is a custard sauce made with milk and cornstarch that Bryan ate by the spoonful even after the sonker was gone. The recipe is delicious and works perfectly, so the book is off to a great start. When I went to make this, my blackberries had developed some mold (the curse of berries!)so I was only able to salvage enough to make a mini-sonker, which is what you see pictured here. While this was perfect warm from the oven, I also loved it for breakfast the next morning.

Thanks to Ashley for including me in her book, and for continuing to be so inspiring.

Blackberry Sonker with “Dip” (from A Year of Pies by Ashley English)


  • 4 1/2 half-pints blackberries
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup arrowroot powder or cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder or cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Butter a 10-inch skillet or a 9-inch pie pan and set aside.

Prepare the filling:

Combine all the ingredients for the filling in a medium-size bowl. Stir until the dry ingredients are thoroughly mixed and the berries are well-coated. Cover bowl with a kitchen cloth and set aside for 15 minutes.

Prepare the biscuit topping:

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium-sized bowl.

Using a pastry blender or fork, cut in the butter cubes until the mixture is crumbly and the size of peas or smaller.

Create a well in the center of the mixture. Pour in the buttermilk, and using a large spoon, gently incorporate just until all of the dry ingredients are moistened. The mixture will look quite wet at this point, but that’s fine.

Prepare the dip:

Heat the milk in a medium-seized saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil.

Whisk the sugar and starch in a small bowl to mix well, then add to the milk along with the vanilla extract, stirring until thoroughly blended and smooth.

Reduce the heat under the saucepan to a gentle simmer and cook, uncovered, 15 to 20 minutes until the mixture is reduced by half.

Remove from the heat and transfer to a pourable container. Cover and set aside while the sonker bakes.

Assemble the sonker:

Place the blackberry mixture in the prepared skillet.

Using a large spoon,dollop the surface of the blackberries with the biscuit topping, aiming for mounds of about 3 tablespoons of batter. You needn’t be terribly specific on the biscuit amounts; as long as the surface is dotted with reasonably similar biscuit mounds, you’re in good shape.

Pour the melted butter over the biscuit topping and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and continue baking an additional 30 minutes.

Cool at least 30 minutes, then, just before serving, drizzle each portion with several tablespoons of dip.

26 comments to “Blackberry Sonker”

  1. That is a pretty sexy… sonker? New vocabulary, yay.

    For the mold, have you tried that thing where you soak the berries in a 1 part white vinegar to 10 parts water solution right when you get them home? It’s supposed to kill mold spores. I’ve tried it with strawberries and raspberries, and they do seem to last about two times as long.

  2. Hey Diane, Well, these had just gotten home from the farmers market, so there was no helping them (but plenty of annoyance at my farmer). I haven’t tried the vinegar thing, I usually just use berries on the day I buy them. This summer heat is ruining everything! ; )

  3. Sonker looks mouthwatering…and I’m with you, I would love to wake up tomorrow and have it for breakfast! Oh, and thanks for the heads up about this book and blog.
    P.S. Enjoy reading your blog, you have a way with words that’s most enjoyable…FYI-I listed you on my blog’s “Tasty Food Sites”.

  4. Cobbler is probably my favorite dessert, and this looks so yummy! I can’t wait to try this!

  5. Now that is what we are talking about! This recipe screams of homemade deliciousness that we would love to to replicate ourselves at home. Ms. English, you just got yourself another buyer of your book! Thanks for sharing Tim. Great photos as usual!

  6. beautiful sonker!!

  7. We made this last night, but we used raspberries instead of blackberries because the store was out. It was delicious! Especially the dip.

  8. Looks so delicious! I had thought that a sonker was a regional deep-dish pie, sort of like a cobbler made with pastry dough instead of biscuits. I need a primer on the difference between all that stuff. Pandowdy, sonker, slump, buckle…whatever they are, I love to eat them!

  9. This was exceptional.
    Thanks for the recipe – will check out the book!

  10. This looks incredible.

  11. GourmetMale says:

    August 7th, 2012 at 2:19 am

    This looks incredibly tasty. I made something similar last year with cherries but it was called a cobbler. Looks I need to pick up Ashley’s book and have a go at some her recipes!

    Really enjoying the blog, BTW. Just found it recently…

  12. Those blackberries look beautiful and how can something called a “sonker” be anything but delicious?!

    Definitely going to have to pick up a copy of Ashley’s book, especially if you are in it!

  13. That book sounds like a must-have. Which recipe did you contribute? The sonker looks superb; I’m always happy to learn of new fruit desserts, and I’m a sucker for anything baked in a skillet! Gorgeous. : )

  14. Katherine says:

    August 8th, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    Made this tonight, ate this tonight, will be gone by morning. So delicious and just perfect for a summer evening.

  15. Now that’s a fine-looking dessert, no matter what it’s called. Thanks for highlighting Ashley’s blog — the latest recipe there, a gazpacho, looks like exactly what I want to eat these days.

    What type of pie do you have in the cookbook?

  16. Tim! I came to your blog today looking for a recipe for blackberries, since I just went out in the backyard and picked about a pound of perfectly huge and ripe and sweet ones from the neighbor’s bushes. (If you live in the Northwest, you never pay for blackberries!) Lo and behold, your top recipe is for blackberries!

    THEN… as I perused the comments, I read the comment that mentioned the newest recipe on Ashley’s blog, gazpacho. WHAT DO YOU KNOW, I bought 4 lbs of tomatoes today at the market to make gazpacho tonight. You just took care of my evening menu. Thanks, Tim!!

  17. Gorgeous! Love the name too. I love finding new blogs, so I’m excited to check out Ashleys.

  18. This looks amazing- I’ve put it in my files for blackberry season!

  19. I am beginner in the baking world, but this pie seems so delicious that I will take a risk!

  20. I’ve never heard of a “sonker,” either, but I’m glad I know what one is now… this looks delicious! It reminds me a lot of the chicken and dumplings my aunt made for me when I was younger, only a sweet version!

  21. This looks delicious!!!

  22. This is what I’m after! Virginian living in the UK where we have nothing even resembling something this nice. Americans are the only ones who know how to put the dough in fruit.

  23. LOVE! You are an incredible internet friend. Someday I will be back to documenting…in the mean time I’ll follow you–love everything you’ve been doing!

  24. Elizabeth! Always good to see your name. Looking forward to your return to documenting. Hope you and family are well. xoxoxo

  25. currently inhaling my own mini blackberry sonker, and wow. thank you so much for sharing the recipe – i am definitely ordering this book!

  26. Can you use frozen berries?

    Wonderful blog!!!!!

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