Bake a fruity dessert for any season

Buckle, grunt, cobbler, Betty, crumble and crisp. What sounds like a ragtag cast of characters from a comic book are actually the shining stars of the summer’s dessert scene. Quick, adaptable and simple to make, these are recipes that every home cook should have in his back pocket. All are baked desserts, often in a 9x13 inch casserole dish, though really almost any bakeware will do. All feature fruit of some kind, be it spring strawberries, summer peaches or autumn apples. All are a humble homage to a time when meals were built around a limited seasonal pantry and frugality was king. But what are they exactly? And what are the differences between them?

Cobblers consist of a bottom layer of fruit filling topped with a thick biscuit crust, so named because the finished dish can sometimes resemble the rough texture of a cobblestone street. For a savory take hearty enough to serve as a main course, swap out the sugar and fruit for sweet corn and tomatoes with a cheddar-rich biscuit topping.

A grunt (also known as a  slump) is similar to a cobbler in that it features biscuit dough, but this traditional Acadian preparation is cooked on the stovetop, covered with a lid rather than being baked in the oven. The balls of biscuit dough sink into the fruit filling as it cooks, yielding sweet, tender dumplings.

A crumble has a fruit base similar to cobblers, but is topped with a crumbly, streusel topping that may or may not contain nuts. When rolled oats are added to the streusel topping, the dish is then classified a crisp. 

A buckle consists of succulent summer fruit suspended in cake batter and showered with streusel before going into the oven. The fruit creates a ‘buckled’ surface on the top of the cake as it sinks into the batter while cooking.  It is often made with blueberries but can feature any mixture of fruit.

A Brown Betty is a dish that harkens back to a different, more frugal era. Often made in the autumn from windfall apples, it makes good use of stale bread and puts a satisfying, homey dessert on the table with minimal effort or expense. A sort of amalgam between a bread pudding and a crumble, a Brown Betty consists of  sliced fruit  layered with sugary, buttered breadcrumbs.

Tomato and sweet corn cobbler

For the filling:
1 onion
1 tablespoon butter
6 cups cherry tomatoes
6 ears corn
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
¼ cup chopped basil
Salt and pepper to taste
4 ounces grated cheddar or Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons cornstarch

For the biscuit topping:
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup stone ground cornmeal
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Red pepper flakes, to taste
4 ounces grated cheddar or Parmesan cheese
¼ cup minced green onions
1 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Slice the onion and sauté it in the butter over medium heat until softened. Add to a mixing bowl.

Halve the cherry tomatoes if they are large, or leave them whole if they are small and add to the onion in the mixing bowl.

Cut the corn off the cob and add it to the mixing bowl along with the minced garlic, mustard, basil and grated cheese. Mix well to combine and season with salt and pepper. Add the cornstarch and mix well.

Grease a 9x13 baking dish and add the tomato and corn mixture. In the now empty mixing bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix in the grated cheese, then add the cream and green onions. Mix gently until just combined. You should have a shaggy dough.

Drop tablespoonfuls of dough evenly over the top of  the tomato mixture in the baking dish. Sprinkle with additional cheese if desired.

Put the baking dish into the preheated 425-degree oven, then immediately turn the heat down to 350. Bake for 60-75 minutes, until the filling is bubbling vigorously. You may want to lightly cover with foil halfway through if the biscuit top starts to get to brown.

Berry buckle

For the streusel:
1/3 cup brown sugar
½ cup flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup melted butter

For the cake:
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 egg, room temperature
½ cup milk at room temperature
2 cups berries

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch round or square baking pan.

To make the streusel, combine the brown sugar, flour, salt and cinnamon and mix well. Add the melted butter and mix with a fork or your fingers until crumbly. Set aside.

To make the cake batter, first combine the flours, baking powder and salt in a bowl and whisk together. In a separate bowl, cream the butter, sugar, egg and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the milk and flour alternatively to the creamed butter mixture. Leave about a tablespoon of the flour mixture behind.

Add the berries to the bowl with the remaining tablespoon of flour and toss to coat before adding them to the cake batter. Gently fold in the berries by hand so as not to crush them.  Transfer the batter to the buttered baking dish then evenly sprinkle the streusel mixture over the top.

Bake in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Serve warm with coffee for breakfast, or with ice cream for a satisfying dessert.  

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