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Ultimate Guide to Fruit Desserts: Crisps, Cobblers, and More

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Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes, one ingredient at a time.

ultimate-guide-to-fruit-desserts-crisps-cobblers-and-more

Funny Names for Seriously Good Desserts

The world of British and American baked fruit desserts is full of funny names—there are bettys, buckles, crisps, cobblers, dowdies, and slumps. Though each has its own identity, they all hold this in common—they are born of a mix of necessity, ingenuity, and improvisation. Let’s explore each one and discover some great recipes along the way.

Brown Betty

The brown betty is perhaps the easiest of all of the baked fruits desserts and the most frugal. Unlike a crisp (which we'll discuss soon), there are no oats or nuts. Roughly torn bread crumbs or stale bits of cake sit atop a bubbling baking dish of spiced fruit; those crumbs brown in the oven. (Don't ask me about the "betty" part; I've explored all of my usual sources and the food historians are clueless.)

Blueberry brown betty

Blueberry brown betty

Blueberry Brown Betty

Tieghan shares with us her interpretation of a recipe she found in Bread Toast Crumbs by Alexandra Stafford. With just six ingredients you can create this beautiful homage to summertime, a blueberry brown betty.

Buckles

Next on the list is the buckle—a cake-like batter is poured into a hot pan, fruit (often berries) is swirled in, and then it's all covered with a crumble topping. This dessert is called a "buckle" because of its buckled appearance (think of a formerly smooth-paved road that has bent or heaved from storms and the passage of time).

Strawberry buckle

Strawberry buckle

Strawberry Buckle

In my little corner of the world, the strawberry season has come and gone. Perhaps you are luckier than I and can grab a pint or two of these heavenly red orbs at your local farmers' market.

Danelle baked her strawberry buckle in individual cast iron pans, but you could certainly prepare this recipe in one large skillet; just be sure to increase the baking time a bit. Everything else is simple ingredients that you should already have waiting in your pantry. In less than an hour (and most of that time is merely baking time) you can prepare this dessert for your family. (May I suggest the addition of a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top?)

Cobbler

Although most people can agree that a cobbler is a fruit dessert topped with biscuit dough, the origin of the name has been lost in time. I had assumed that “cobble” referred to the resemblance of the baked topping to cobblestones, but The Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology provides this tidbit:

"A kind of pie baked in a deep dish, 1859, American English, but perhaps ultimately related to, or even developed from unrecorded use of cobeler, n. 1385, a kind of wooden bowl or dish."

So perhaps as the Moroccan tagine and the Spanish paella are named for the vessel in which they are prepared, the cobbler is a nod to the bowl in which it was mixed.

Easy cherry cobbler

Easy cherry cobbler

Easy Cherry Cobbler

Although fresh is best, Terri knows that the peak season for cherries is short, so she has developed a recipe for easy cherry cobbler that used frozen cherries. There's even a video to inspire you.

Crisp

This crisp is the sister of the brown betty, the prettier mom-liked-you-best sister. In this dessert, the best part of coffee cake (the streusel crumbs) sits atop a bubbling dish of fruit. Most people think of "apple" when they hear the word crisp, but truly any fruit will do.

Ultimate apple crisp

Ultimate apple crisp

Ultimate Apple Crisp

In the Carb Diva house, apple crisp is at the top of the list of favorite desserts. First (obviously) it's made with apple and spice, not a bad combination in anyone's book. And since we live in "apple country" this is an obvious choice for us.

Next is the fact that this dessert has all the wonderful flavors of apple pie without all of the fuss. There's no worry about creating the perfect flaky pie crust (oh my, it can be so fussy). There's no rolling of dough, gently placing it in the pie dish (don't stretch it or it might shrink).

This recipe for the ultimate apple crisp bakes in a nine-inch pan. In most cases that would be nine servings. In my house, I will make two—one for my daughter, and one for the rest of us.

Pandowdy

If the crisp is the pretty sister, the pandowdy is the ugly stepsister. But you know what they say about beauty being only skin-deep? This dessert might be "dowdy" on the outside but it's uniquely sweet and flavorful with molasses used as the sweetener.

Apple pandowdy

Apple pandowdy

Apple Pandowdy

Yes, I realize that many of these recipes feature apples. Perhaps it's because the apple is so "available." This native of Central Asia grows well in North and South America, Europe, Asia, and even in the northern and southern regions of Africa.

Though there are many recipes on the internet for a pandowdy, few of them are made like the original, sweetened with molasses. This apple pandowdy is true to the history of the dish. Another important step in the making of this dessert is that the top crust is broken with a spoon before the baking is done. This allows some of the bubbling syrup to rise to the surface and some of the partly baked topping to sink into the fruit. Flavors and textures blend and meld.

Allow it to cool for 10 minutes or so after you remove it from the oven, and then serve with cream.

Slump

One look at an apple slump and you’ll understand the meaning of the name—this sweet dessert of apples and soft dumpling dough does not stand tall and proud; it is decidedly misshapen and slumps on the plate. Louisa May Alcott, most notably the author of Little Women, named her home in Massachusetts “Apple Slump.” This recipe from her files was found in the Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink:

Ingredients

  • 6 apples, cored and sliced
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup milk

Instructions

  1. Prepare the apples and combine with sugar, cinnamon, and water in a saucepan. Heat to boiling.
  2. Meanwhile, sift together the dry ingredients. Add milk and stir to make a soft dough.
  3. Drop pieces of the dough from a tablespoon onto the apple mixture.
  4. Cover and cook over low heat for 30 minutes. Serve with cream.
Peach slump with maple caramel sauce

Peach slump with maple caramel sauce

Peach Slump with Maple Caramel Sauce

This peach slump with caramel sauce does indeed "slump" in the pan. Of course, the addition of a scoop of cold vanilla ice cream on top of the warm fruit and dumpling-like dough does give gravity a bit of an assist.

© 2020 Linda Lum

Comments

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on November 17, 2020:

Adrienne, that's exactly why I posted this recipe now. All of us are in need of some warm comfort food, and fruit desserts certainly fit the bill. Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment.

Adrienne Farricelli on November 17, 2020:

I have never heard about these desserts before, other than the cobbler. I love peach cobbler, by the way. Thanks for posting all these great recipes. With the fall weather, anything apple sounds wonderful.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on November 16, 2020:

Denise, what a delightful memory of your dad. That's definitely a new "old timey" dish I had never heard of. I'm glad you've been able to find the work-around, but perhaps we shouldn't crow too loudly about that. I don't want the HP folks to think they're off the hook. They promised that comments would be restored, and I'm gonna hold them to it.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on November 16, 2020:

I find I can still comment using the "feed" even now after several weeks. That's not bad.

I honestly never heard of a pandowdy or a slump. What an education. Certainly, the apple is a versatile fruit you can do a lot of things with. My dad used to make what he called "poor man's pie." He would take a slice of white bread and push it down into a bowl. He would top that with a bunch of fresh-picked blackberries and sprinkle sugar on top of that. Then he put another slice of white bread on top and poured milk over the whole thing. He could eat bowls full of "poor man's pie" without stopping. I used to take pity on him and go bake him a pie before he ate all the fruit I picked. Haha.

Blessings,

Denise

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on November 05, 2020:

MizB, I hope you're still watching this article. I have found a brown betty recipe that uses graham crackers. I'll post it next Monday in my Carb Diva Q&A column.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on November 05, 2020:

Brenda, I'm happy to see you here again. Yes, I think all of us are in need of (and certainly deserve) a big comforting bowl of dessert. It's apple for me (Washington is apple country).

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on November 04, 2020:

You have definitely made my sweet tooth want something to eat right now.

Everything sounds so yummy.

The season here for fresh strawberries is over in my corner of the world also but I would love some.

The cobblers have my eye...and so does the apple thing.

Thanks for sharing...too bad it's almost time for bed and the stores here are now closed for the night.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on November 03, 2020:

MizB you've made me so happy. Imgkad this article brought back good memories for you. Yes, use your gluten free flour--Larry won't detect the difference

Have a great week my dear. See you next Monday.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on November 03, 2020:

Mmm, mmm, did you ever hit the nail on the head this week, Linda. They all sound so delicious. I'm going to have to confess my ignorance here. I went to the most fortunate elementary school in the world. The two lunchroom cooks were big members of the county Home Demonstration Club, and could they cook! One of my favorite desserts was their Apple Brown Betty, or at least that's what they called it. They used graham cracker crumbs. After I grew up and wanted to make one of my own, I simply couldn't find their recipe. LOL I've never made one using bread or cake crumbs. I just don't think bread crumbs could hold a candle to their graham cracker crumbs. The blueberry brown Betty sounds like sheer heaven to me, too, but so do the other recipes you list.

I remember a song about an Apple Pan Dowdy, and I never knew what one was. The molasses sounds so Southern and rich to me.

I think I can disguise my gluten-free baking into some of these recipes so that Larry won't know the difference. He already likes my peach cobblers made with GF baking mix. Thanks for a wonderful article today, my friend!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on November 03, 2020:

Pamela, a warm fruit dessert sounds so good and comforting right now. Here in western Washington, it's cold and gray and raining HARD. Time for soups and stews, and cobbler. Thanks for your kind words and always being such a supportive friend.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on November 03, 2020:

Each of these recipes looks delicious. I love apple crisp. I don't think I have ever heard of the slump before, but the recipe sounds easy to make with a delicious result. This is a great dessert article, Linda. I think any dessert with fruit is almost always delicious.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on November 03, 2020:

Oh Bill, I love you! Yes, cheese please and while we're at it put some aged Irish Cheddar on that apple crisp. Seriously, apples and cheese were meant for each other, like salt and pepper, peanut butter and jelly, and Sonny and Cher (well, OK I guess that last one didn't work out so well).

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on November 03, 2020:

I love a good apple crisp. Remember that, please, if you are wondering what to get me for Christmas. :) I'm not one to experiment very much regarding tastes, but you can't go wrong with apple anything in my humble opinion.

Stay dry! I'm not a big fan of constant rain like this, and I'm dreading taking the dogs for a walk later this morning. Whine, whine, and more whine! Got any cheese to go with it???

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on November 03, 2020:

Kalpana, thank you for your kind words and for stopping by.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on November 03, 2020:

Peggy, a peach cobbler sounds divine. Peaches and nectarines are my favorite fruits. We can't grow them where I live--how lucky that you have them so very close.

Kalpana Iyer from India on November 03, 2020:

Everything looks divine! Perfectly presented and explained.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on November 03, 2020:

These recipes all look good. I made several peach cobblers this summer when we were able to harvest an abundance of peaches from a neighbor's tree after they had moved away. They gave us permission to do so, rather than have them go to waste.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on November 03, 2020:

Hi Sis, that's exactly why I published this when I did. With Fall/Winter weather we need to switch our desserts from ice cream cones to warm comfort stuff in a bowl.

I have to admit that my favorite of all of these is apple crisp. My older daughter likes it so much that when I do bake, I have to make 2--one for her and one for the rest of us.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on November 03, 2020:

Linda, out of all these desserts with funny names, I've only had cobblers and crisps. I love apple or peach cobbler. I like them warm, by themselves - no ice cream.

The slump seems very much like a cobbler. The only difference is one is baked and one is made stovetop. I would do without the sauce tho. I love sauces on savory dishes, but to me, the delicious rendered juices from cooked apples and spices is sauce enough.

They all look yummy. Just in time for the holidays!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on November 03, 2020:

Well, Eric now I have the start to next Monday's Q&A. Thank you for that (including vegetable cobbler).

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on November 03, 2020:

Thank you Nyesha. Please let me know if you happen to try one of these recipes.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on November 03, 2020:

Hmm. This may be an odd question that popped into my head. How do you keep bread from molding rather than just going stale.

I just cannot see one of these as something we cannot do. Now I get crisp and cobbler. I tend toward those instead of pies. How come there are not vegetable cobblers?

Nyesha Pagnou MPH from USA on November 03, 2020:

Thanks for this interesting and informative article about the various fruit desserts.