Blackberry Marsala Cobbler with Buttermilk Ice Cream and Candied Fennel
For cobbler batter:
In an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar together until they are fluffy and lemon yellow in color. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add eggs, one at a time, on low speed, scraping between each additional egg. Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg together in a medium bowl. Gradually add half of the flour mixture to batter, alternating with the warm milk. Continue to scrape sides of bowl between each addition. Refrigerate and reserve batter.
For blackberry Marsala filling:
Gently combine blackberries, sugar, vanilla and Marsala in a large mixing bowl. Whisk together cornstarch and water in a small bowl. Pour cornstarch and water mixture over berries and gently fold, careful not to break the blackberries. Reserve.
For buttermilk ice cream:
In an electric mixer combine vanilla seeds, sugar and egg yolks. Mix until light and fluffy. In a medium saucepan, scald sour cream and milk. Slowly add hot milk mixture to yolk mixture on low speed and combine thoroughly. Allow to cool and add buttermilk and heavy cream. Refrigerate overnight and then strain through a fine mesh sieve. Freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.
For candied fennel:
In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine water and sugar and bring to a rolling boil. While syrup is heating, slice fennel bulb, widthwise, into paper-thin slices. When syrup comes to a boil, add fennel and boil until it turns translucent, about 25 minutes. Strain syrup and place fennel slices on a cooling rack to dry. Fennel slices may turn slightly opaque. Reserve for garnish.
Preheat oven to 325°F. Divide blackberry Marsala filling equally among eight (6-ounce) ramekins, leaving about an inch at the top for cobbler batter. Top off with cobbler batter leaving about a ¼-inch of room at top for batter to rise. Place cobblers on a cookie sheet and bake until firm and golden brown, about 15 minutes. When done, a toothpick inserted into the dough should come out clean. Let stand for a few minutes before serving.
Place individual cobbler onto serving dish fitted with a small doily. Place a scoop of buttermilk ice cream on top, and drizzle with honey or dust with powdered sugar. Garnish with two or three pieces of candied fennel and add a sprig of mint. Serve immediately.