The Difference Between Crisps, Crumbles, Buckles, and Slumps
Any way you slice (or spoon) it, a fruit dessert is your go-to option for a sweet and easy treat. You could say these desserts are members of the same family - while they all look a little different and some even have funny names, there are more similarities than differences and, with relatively few ingredients, these cobbler-type desserts allow the sweet natural flavors of seasonal fruit to shine through.
This Ginger-Plum Slump is the stovetop version of a cobbler and the only thing you'll want to make when it's too hot to turn on your oven. Made in a large cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven, slumps are also a popular dessert to make on the campfire or grill. The fruit is cooked down in the skillet until sweet and syrupy, then topped with mounds of soft dough, and covered. As the fruit bubbles away, the dumplings bake and "slump" down, giving the dessert its name.
More like a crumb cake than a syrupy crisp or crumble, a buckle is still all about the fruit. These streusel-topped cakes are usually baked one of two ways. You can pour the cake batter on the bottom of the pan and spoon the fruit over it or stir the fruit into the batter. We created a third method for this Peach-Raspberry Buckle where half of the fruit is folded into the batter, which is then poured into the pan, and then the remaining fruit is arranged on top of the batter. As the cake bakes, the batter puffs up, then collapses, or "buckles," around jam-like pockets of fruit.
In its purest form, a brown betty is simply gussied-up baked apples. There are many variations, but most recipes are similar in that they call for halved or sliced apples, sprinkled with sugar, spices (usually with cinnamon or nutmeg), and soft, fresh breadcrumbs, topped with butter, then baked until the fruit is soft and the topping lightly toasted. This is the perfect recipe to use up that odd piece of bread or leftover biscuits.
Crisps and Crumbles
There is often some confusion between crisps and crumbles - they are a lot alike and, once baked, their textures are very similar. Both start out with fruit topped with a mixture of flour, sugar, and butter. But here is the main difference: while both have a topping of flour, sugar, and butter, crisps, such as this Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp with Granola, historically added whole oats to the topping (which "crisped" when they baked) and crumbles only used flour. The lines have blurred over the years and what was once called a crisp is called a crumble and a crumble is now called a crisp. Regardless of the name, it is still bound to be delicious.
This Blueberry-Lemon Crunch Bar may look like a bar cookie, but you'll need a fork to eat it. Similar to a crisp or crumble with baked fruit and a crumbly topping, a crunch goes one step further and sandwiches a fruit filling between two buttery layers. While other fruit desserts are on the syrupy side, this fruit is cooked down into a thick preserve. The bottom layer should be firm enough not to crumble when a piece is cut from the pan, so you can eat it as a cobbler or cut it into bars. The top layer can duplicate the bottom, or it can be a simple streusel topping made with flour, sugar, and butter.
Flawless pastry crusts are expected when you are making a lattice-top or double-crust pie, but if you're in need of a more forgiving fruit dessert, try this Cherry-Nectarine Pandowdy. Popular in the 1800s and early 1900s, it is essentially cooked fruit under a pastry crust. When making a pandowdy, the cook uses a fork to break, or "dowdy" the crust. As the dish cools, the broken crust absorbs the sweet juices from the cooked fruit, creating a deliciously messy dessert.
These desserts are popular in a very particular part of the South—Surry County, North Carolina, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, to be exact. Those who know the dessert agree that it must be baked in a large, deep pan and topped with a creamy vanilla sauce called "dip." Make this Triple Berry Sonker with Dip this weekend and you will wonder why this dessert has been kept such a regional secret for so long. This is where the agreements end, however. Opinions vary as to how it is made: some declare it has to have a bottom crust; others argue it only needs a top crust, and the rest insist that a true sonker is made only with sweet potatoes.