Cobblers, Crisps, Crumbles, Buckle, Pandowdy's, Brown Betty's, Grunt, Slumps and Sonkers

In the United States varieties of cobbler include the Brown Betty, the Grunt, the Slump, the Buckle, and the Sonker. The Crisp or Crumble differ from the cobbler in that the cobbler's top layer is more biscuit-like. Grunts and Slumps are a New England variety of cobbler, typically cooked on the stove-top or cooked in an iron skillet or pan with the dough on top in the shape of dumplings. Grunts take their name from the grunting sound they make while cooking. A Buckle is made with yellow batter (like cake batter), with the filling mixed in with the batter. The Sonker is unique to North Carolina: it is a deep-dish version of the American cobbler.

All varieties typically consist of a layer of fruit baked with a layer of dough either under or on top of them. The names of these desserts arrived from their appearance or a sound they make when baked. They are made with a variety of fruits, such as apples, peaches, pears, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, rhubarb, cherries, pineapples, nectarines, and plums.

When searching for these different types of desserts you will find many recipes that are very similar but may have different names. Because of the similarities, some recipes may not be named properly according to their characteristics, and sometimes because of the variations in recipes, it is hard to make a distinction from one type to another. Some common characteristics are that they are delicious, easy to make and provide a great way to enjoy the summer and fall harvest of fruits.


The cobbler is a traditional dish in both the United States and the United Kingdom, although the meaning of the term is quite different in each country.

In the United States the cobbler is a deep-dish fruit dessert with a fruit filling poured over a batter that rises when baked. The batter forms as a dumpling within the cobbler as well as a crust for the top. The cobbler is somewhat similar to a pie with the exception that the crust is thicker and the crust is traditionally placed only on top. However, over the years, cobbler recipes have evolved with the crust either on the bottom or on top. The cobbler is typically served warm with whipped cream or ice cream.

In the United States, peach, blueberry and cherry cobblers are among the most popular varieties. In the United Kingdom lamb is the most popular.

In the United Kingdom cobblers are typically filled with meat and vegetables and served as a main course. The British cobbler is typically a meat, usually lamb, casserole covered with a savoury scone-like topping with each scone (or biscuit) forming a separable cobbler. Fruit-based versions are also increasingly popular in the United Kingdom, although they still retain the separate cobbler (or biscuit) topping of the meat version. Savoury or meat versions are not unknown in the United States.


The crisp is a sweet dessert made with baked fruit as the bottom layer, with a streusel-like topping made from a combination of flour, brown sugar, oatmeal, nuts, spices and butter that is crumbly and looks like coarse meal that is spread over the baked fruit. The crisp is commonly referred to as a "fruit crisp" or as a crisp described by the name of the fruit in the dessert.

Crisps do not have a bottom crust and the topping, when baked, becomes crisp and crunchy. Although it can be served cold, it is most often served as a warm dessert with softly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

One of the most popular crisp is the Apple Crisp, especially in the fall when apples are in season, but other fruits and berries, such as peaches, pears, blueberries, cranberries and rhubarb are also used to make delicious crisps.


A crumble is a dessert with a crumb topping made from flour, sugar, and butter combined into a mixture that is sprinkled over sliced fruit and then baked. The topping is basically made with pastry ingredients except it doesn't contain any liquid. When the crumble bakes the butter melts and mixes with the flour and sugar to create a crunchy, crumbly topping. A crumble is very similar to a crisp except that the topping for a crisp generally contains oats and often nuts, giving it a coarser texture that the crumbles toppings.

The traditional crumble topping contains flour, sugar, and butter but may also include oats, nuts, and spices. As more of these ingredients are added, the crumble becomes even more similar to a crisp. A crumble also resembles a cobbler, which has a fruit filling with a top crust and no bottom crust. The difference being that top crust of the cobbler contains a leavening agent such as baking powder which gives it more of a smooth bread type texture rather than crumbly.

One of the most common crumble desserts is Apple Crumble, but it is also common to use blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, peaches, pears, rhubarb, and plums.


A Buckle is a sweet dessert made from a yellow batter, resembling cake batter, with the filling mixed in with the batter. Typically a berry filling is placed on top of the batter, then topped with a streusel type topping. The batter rises up as it bakes and the berries and streusel topping sink at uneven intervals, forming a buckled affect in the cake.

Originally, the buckle was made as a single layer cake topped with blueberries. However, over the years a variety of berries, fruits and toppings have been added to make different varieties of this cake-like dessert.

In some buckle recipes, the berries are folded into the batter and in some the berries are spread on top. It is often made with blueberries and another fruit combined into the cake and topped with the streusel coating.


A pandowdy is a sweet dessert with a fruit base made from one or several fruits and covered with a pastry or bread dough topping. Apple Pandowdy is the most common version of this dessert. When prepared, the dough is rolled out into a thin circular or square shape matching the shape of the deep baking dish containing the fruit. Nuts, such as sliced almonds, are often added to the Pandowdy dough.

There are two methods that can be used to bake the dough for the pandowdy. The dough may be baked separately from the fruit and then added during the baking time or it can be baked with the fruit. When baked with the fruit, the pandowdy is taken out of the oven after a brief baking period, then the dough is scored, and pressed into the fruit. The pandowdy is then placed back in the oven to finish baking.

If the dough is baked separately from the fruit, the fruit is mixed with brown sugar or molasses, cornstarch, and spices and then baked until tender and juicy. The baked dough topping is placed on top of the partially baked fruit mixture, pressed down slightly into the mixture and baked with the fruit until the dough is golden brown and the fruit is thick and bubbling. The dough becomes crisp and crumbly, adding a texture that enhances the fruit mixture. Very similar to a cobbler, grunt or slump, the deep-dished pandowdy can be served as a dessert or snack that is typically warm and topped with whipped cream or ice cream.

Brown Betty

Brown Betty dates back to colonial times. They are made with bread crumbs (or bread pieces, or graham cracker crumbs), and fruit, usually diced apples, in alternating layers; then baked covered. A Brown Betty has the consistency of bread pudding.

Today there are numerous variations of this dessert using many different types of fruit, but the most well known is Apple Brown Betty or simply Brown Betty. A combination of tart apples, are cut into slices and mixed with sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and lemon juice. Pieces of bread are torn and baked or browned on the stovetop in butter, basically creating breadcrumbs to be used as a layer or filling. The sweetened and seasoned fruit is then layered with the breadcrumbs which becomes a baked fruit and crispy breadcrumb pudding. The Brown Betty is typically served warm and topped with whipped cream or ice cream.


A grunt is a dessert, traditionally served on America's east coast that is a combination of a pie and a cobbler. It consists of fruit, most often berries, which are cooked beneath a crust of biscuit or dumpling type dough. The Grunt was named for the echo of sounds coming from the bubbling fruit under the dough as it cooks. A Grunt is similar in preparation to the Slump with the exception that the Grunt is steam cooked and the Slump is baked.


The slump, a New England variety of a cobbler, is a dessert that is basically the same as a grunt as far as ingredients and construction. It consists of fruit, berries, or a mixture of fruit and berries, which are cooked beneath a crust of biscuit or dumpling type dough. The difference between the grunt and the slump is that the slump is baked uncovered instead of steamed. Some recipes call for it to be cooked on the stovetop and others use the oven. The slump was given its name because when served on a plate it has a tendency to slump.


The Sonker is unique to North Carolina: it is a deep-dish version of the American cobbler. A sonker's flavors including strawberry, peach, sweet potato, and cherry. Some are made with biscuit dough, some with pie pastry, and they can be filled with peaches, wild blackberries, plums or even sweet potatoes--a local favorite. Despite their differences, however, almost all sonkers are made on a grand scale, usually in a lasagna or roasting pan.

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