Bakers' Dozens: All the Baked Fruit Desserts
Throughout our culinary history, people have baked fruit in one form of vessel or another. Lots of versions, many contestants and several commonalities: fresh or frozen fruit; some sort of sugar, whether it’s light brown, dark brown, muscovado sugar or molasses, or even honey. Add butter plus some sort of flour and there you have it.
Start with the most common of all baked desserts, the classic cobbler. Many say the cobbler is simply a pie without the crust. Well, that is partially correct. A true cobbler is topped off with individually dropped biscuits. The biscuits are made with heavy cream, adding a real rich flavor and tenderness to the biscuit. Did you know the baked biscuits on top of the cobblers were said to look similar to the cobblestone streets of Boston or Philadelphia? Philly girl here, don’t forget.
Now for the variations:
Grunts and Slumps
When the English made their way to the colonies, baking traditional pies proved to be a difficult task. The colonies were very primitive and proper brick ovens were not the norm. Cooking and baking over an open flame was standard operating procedure. Pies were reinvented to conform to this new form of baking. Grunts and slumps were born from the earliest attempt to make a proper British dessert (steamed pudding) with the inferior cooking equipment. In these versions, the fruit is traditionally cooked on top of the stove, then placed in a dish with a dumpling-like biscuit similar to a cobbler.
Crisps and Crumbles
Crisps and crumbles are interchangeable. A crisp’s streusel consists of flour, butter, sugar and even cookie or graham cracker crumbs, but not rolled oats. Crumbles are almost exactly the same as crisps, but a crumble’s streusel contains rolled oats.
Buckles are a little different — their first layer is a cakey layer. While the dish bakes, the cake pops up the sides and the fruit buckles inward, hence the name. BTW: By far, my favorite buckle is blueberry!
Pandowdy is another deepish-dish dessert. Apple, sweetened with molasses, is the most-common version. While the pandowdy bakes in the oven, the flaky pie crust topping is broken up and then the crust is pushed down into the apples. This allows the fruit syrup to bubble up. The name may come from its not-so-pretty appearance.
Brown Betty is similar to a cobbler or a crisp, with a bonus of rich pastry cream topped with a buttery nut crumble. Start with the best fruit of the season (traditionally apples and pears). I chose blackberries for their slight tartness. As the tender fruit bakes, the pastry cream captures all the delicate juices that are released. This is a win-win dessert that is guaranteed to please a hungry crowd for a backyard BBQ or a holiday dinner.
Get the Recipe: Blackberry Brown Betty with Pecan Crumble
Pastry chef and cookbook author Hedy Goldsmith is a James Beard Award finalist for the nationally contested Outstanding Pastry Chef category. Her creations grace the menus of The Genuine Hospitality Group of restaurants, including flagship Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in Miami. Her first cookbook, Baking Out Loud, was published by Clarkson Potter in 2012. Hedy has been featured in multiple national media outlets, including NBC’s Today show, The New York Times and People magazine.