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Thursday
May212009

Pity The Fool...and the Grunt, Buckle, Slump and Cobbler: An Examination of Fruit Desserts

Jumping into fruit desserts
Betty, Buckle, Slump, Grunt, Fool. Sounds kind of like a string of words that might describe the before-and-after of a bar fight  or seedy rendez-vous, but really, it's a suite of sweet fruit desserts. But what exactly are they?

For those of you who have ever woken up in a cold sweat, plagued by the mystery of what's up with these desserts and their funny names (it's not just me, right?), here's a little primer on some of the different types including defining characteristics and a recipe link:

Betty (or Brown Betty)

What is it? It all starts with buttered bread crumbs, which are then topped with a fruit-and-spice mixture and baked, often with a brown sugar crumb topping. While apple is probably the most popular fruit filling, it can be made with berries, peaches, or really just about any fruit that you'd like. Choice recipe: Epicurious has an interesting take on this sweet dessert with their Apple Betty Squares.
What's with the name? Alas, as much as I looked, I could not discover the history of its name. I did, however, learn that it's got the best cultural reference of all of the desserts, having been mentioned (if not in a flattering light) in The Catcher in the Rye.
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Birds' Nest Pudding

What is it? Per What's Cooking America, this one is "A pudding containing apples whose cores have been replaced by sugar. The apples placed in a bowl and a crust/batter is poured around it and then baked. It is also called Crow's Nest Pudding." Choice recipe: Why not party like it's 1894 with this recipe?
What's with the name? It's the look of it: the apples are like little eggs to the crust's bird-nest. Sweet.
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Buckle

What is it? According to this article on about.com,
Buckles are baked and are usually made in one or two ways. The first way is that bottom layer is cake-like with the berries mixed in. Then the top layer is crumb-like. The second way is where the cake layer is on the bottom of the pan, the berries are the next layer and the top is the crumble mixture. 
The writeup also mentions that the most popular version of the buckle is blueberry. Choice recipe: Rachel of Coconut  & Lime has never led me astray, so why not try her Blueberry Buckle?
What's with the name? I wasn't able to discover the true meaning, but I like to think it might have something to do with the cakelike bottom buckling under the weight of all the sweet, ripe fruit.
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Charlotte

What is it? The Charlotte seems to be similar to the Betty, but Frenchier: according to Encyclopedia Britannica,
For a fruit charlotte the mold is lined with well-buttered bread, filled with a thick puree of apples, apricots, or other fruit, topped with additional slices of bread, and baked. It is served warm, often with a sauce.
Of course, this is not to be mixed up with Cold Charlotte or Charlotte Malakoff, which you can read about here. Choice recipe: Go to the NY Times for an Apricot and Apple version of the Charlotte.
What's with the name? Some say it takes its name for Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.
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Clafouti

What is it? According to Wikipedia, it is
a custard-like baked French dessert that is typically made by baking fresh fruit (traditionally cherries) and a batter, somewhat similar to pancake batter, in a baking dish.
Of course, the article does go on to say that 
When other kinds of fruit, such as plums, prunes, apples, cranberries or blackberries are used instead of cherries, the dish is called a "flognarde" (sometimes spelled "flaugnarde"). 
Choice Recipe: Joy of Baking always does a great job--here's their cherry clafouti recipe.
What's with the name? Originally from Limousin, the dish's name comes from Occitan clafotís, from the verb clafir, meaning "to fill up" (implied: "the batter with cherries"). Clafoutis apparently spread throughout France during the 19th century.
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Cobbler

What is it? This one is a dessert for biscuit lovers: a thick, biscuity crust, topped with fruit and then another biscuit layer on top--often these top bits are dropped onto the fruit so that they bake in a "cobbled" sort of way. Choice recipe: Paula Deen's peach cobbler, which will probably make you fat.
What's with the name? The definition says it all: those top bits of biscuits form a cobbled little top on the finished dessert, from which it takes its name.
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Crisp

What is it? By most accounts, it seems that the crisp is the same dish as a crumble, separated only by language; though some say that the crumble is more likely to have oats on the topping. See Crumble, below. Choice Recipe: Gosh, this one--with mixed berries and almonds-- looks good.
What's with the name? "Crisp" refers to the lightly crunchy topping once it has been taken out of the oven.
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Crumble

What is it? According to Cookthink, A crumble is a fruit-based dessert with a crumbly topping called a streusel that's a mixture of flour, butter and sugar -- plus optional flavorings like cinnamon, vanilla extract, lemon zest or nuts -- that is baked until crisp. The flour, butter and sugar are combined until they form crumbs; some people like to add oats or nuts to the mixture. Choice Recipe: See above, under Crisp.
What's with the name? "Crumble" refers to the topping on so many levels: it's a crumbly streusel which is then crumbled on top to form perfect crumbles. Crumbly deliciousness.
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Fool

What is it? Per the Epicurious food dictionary, England is the home of this old-fashioned but delicious dessert made of cooked, pureed fruit that is strained, chilled and folded into whipped cream. The fruit mixture may be sweetened or not. Fool is traditionally made from gooseberries, though today any fruit may be substituted. Choice recipe: Papaya lime fool gives an old time-y dessert a modern twist.
What's with the name? Per Wikipedia, it is said to be derived from the French verb fouler meaning “to crush” or “to press” (in the context of pressing grapes for wine), though there is some argument about whether this is true or not.

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Grunt

What is it? Similar to a cobbler or slump, the grunt "piles biscuit dough atop stewed fruit"--it is defined by the fact that it is steamed rather than baked. Choice Recipe: A nectarine-cherry grunt sounds awfully good.
What's with the name? Though the fish of the same name is called such because of the grunting sound it makes, no information was to be easily had on the sweet treat's name. Perhaps it's so delicious that piggie-like grunting takes over before it is served? Sounds good to me.
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Pandowdy

What is it? With a pandowdy, the fruit is topped with a rolled piecrust, which is then broken up a bit and this allows the juices from the fruit to bubble through. Choice Recipe: This rhubarb version sounds tantalizing.
What's with the name? As learned in Nancy Rommelmann's wonderful book Everything You Pretend to Know About Food And Are Afraid Someone Will Ask, the process of breaking up the pie crust to let the fruit bubble through is called "dowdying"; bet you can guess where the rest of the name comes from.
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Pavlova

What is it? Per What's Cooking America, The Pavlova consists a base made of a meringue crust topped with whipped cream and fresh fruits such as kiwis, strawberries, etc. It is considered a fresh fruit pie with a meringue crust. Choice Recipe: This one looks beautiful and delicious.
What's with the name? This light dessert is named after Russian prima ballerina Anna Pavlova was considered the greatest ballerina of her time--and of whom it was said "She does not dance; she soars as though on wings." Oh, and now this dessert is also immortalized on stamps!
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Slump

What is it? Though very similar in composition to a grunt, the difference is that a slump is sometimes baked (often upside-down), though steamed variations are out there too. It is sometimes made with pie crust, sometimes biscuit dough. Choice Recipe: How 'bout a blackberry slump?
What's with the name? It seems to refer to the homely look of the dessert; it even gets a nice little pop-culture shout-out, as it seems that Louisa May Alcott lovingly referred to her house as "Apple Slump".
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Sonker

CakeSpy Note: I found this one on What's Cooking America and though it seems little-known, I couldn't resist including it! Here's the WCA Definition:

A sonker is a deep-dish pie or cobbler served in many flavors including strawberry, peach, sweet potato, and cherry. I’ve also read this same dish is called zonker (or sonker) in Surry County, North Carolina. It seems to be a dish unique to North Carolina. The community of Lowgap at the Edwards-Franklin House, hold an annual Sonker Festival. Choice Recipe: Find it on Hallmark's website, along with a more in-depth explanation of this charming dessert.

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