A succulent crisp with sugary streusel on top. Or maybe a buttery Brown Betty. Perhaps a combination moist, crispy buckle is in order. But of course, a juicy cobbler with a soft blanket of dough would be nice. The options for creating a delicious fruit dessert are abound this time of year, when farmer’s markets and roadside fruit stands opening their doors. Soon enough, bins will be overflowing with summer fruit, making April the perfect month to make a fresh fruit pie or berry cobbler. Or a galette, buckle, crisp, crumble, slump, grunt, pandowdy, or dumpling.
With short preparation and cooking times, fruit desserts are the perfect addition to light spring dinners, backyard cookouts, or family picnics during the peak of fresh produce season. Whatever they lack in sophisticated names and fancy appearance is soon forgotten after the first hot spoonful of one of these succulent berry desserts is sampled.
Golden brown fruit-filled wonders hearken back to colonial America. Back then, times were hard and leftover fruits were recycled into thrifty, yet satisfying, desserts for the family table. Besides homegrown and wild fruits and berries growing freely on the farm, most cooks had the three basic ingredients of butter, sugar, and flour in their pantries.
Fast forward a century or two and these fruit-based baked desserts are still favorites today. Despite additions of modern ingredients and alterations to olden-day recipes, they remain some of America’s favorites.
While most people are familiar with a berry cobbler, there is often confusion about the differences in the other fruit-filled dishes. The answer exists in the toppings and layering of each one.
A crisp has a crumbly, streusel topping, while a crumble is similar, except that it has a crumbly, pastry topping. A grunt, sometimes called a slump, is filled with sugary fruit and topped with dumplings, which a galette is a rustic fruit tart with a thin crust. A buckle has a streusel topping that when cooked, makes the top look buckled. This thick, cakey dessert is also sometimes called a crumble.
And we’re not finished yet. A pan dowdy consists of fruit, brown sugar or molasses, and is most closely related to a regular pie. An old-fashioned Brown Betty is a spiced fruit dessert topped with buttered bread or cake crumbs that turn golden brown during cooking.
Finally, to one of the south’s favorite desserts. A cobbler is a deep-dish fruit dessert with a sweet, biscuit-like topping. Some drop the dough in pieces on top while others roll out a smooth pastry covering. Either way, there’s really no way to mess up a cobbler. Even if you do, nobody can tell. Cobblers are free-form dishes that look and taste good no matter what you do to them.
So relax and enjoy spring, knowing fresh fruit transformed into light cobblers, crispy, galettes and bumpy buckles will keep you and your guests well-fed and most of all, happy.
Layered Buttery Berry Cobbler
2 cups of blueberries or your favorite fruit (if using fresh berries, place them in a bowl with a little water and sprinkle of sugar and refrigerate for one hour)
2 cups of self-rising flour
2 cups of sugar, plus two tablespoons, divided
1 cup milk
2 sticks of butter, room temperature
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place butter in large ovenproof dish and heat in oven until melted and bubbling.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, mix berries with two tablespoons of sugar and bring to boil. In a separate mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar and milk. Pour batter evenly across baking dish of bubbling butter, then pour berries and juice evenly on top of batter; do not stir.
Bake 15-20 minutes or until top is golden brown. Let cool slightly and serve warm.