The Difference Between Buckles, Cobblers, Crisps, Grunts, and Slumps, and More!

Finally, summer fruits are here! The beginning of the warm weather season, signaling a good time to inventory and restock your pantry with fresh spices and your favorite extracts to complement fresh fruit at peak flavor. After locked down for the past year, we all need a little bit of the outdoors. I love to enjoy seasonal hand fruit, but I also long for those bubbling, baked sweet syrupy fruit-packed baked goods with crunchy tops. 

Let’s get into it. Which to make? Buckles, Crisps, Cobblers, Grunts, or Slump? And, without confusing you even further, there is also a Sonker, a Betty, and a Pandowdy. Oh, and one more thing, these are all interchangeable with the seasons. 

So, what are they, and what are their differences? 

They all feature all the charisma of pie, minus the hurdles that come with constructing one. Rather than crossing your fingers with a pie crust, you place everything in a dependable casserole dish. I like to think of all of them as deconstructed pies. 

The Buckle’s claim to fame has been said to bridge the gap between crumbles and coffeecakes. Buckles are very moist cake batters made with fruit mixed and poked in and then generously topped with streusel. (A delicious crumbly topping of flour, butter, and sugar.) Some modern recipes add spices and chopped nutmeats to their streusel. Yum! Buckles get their name from their topping’s buckled appearance. Sometimes they’re called crisps, which is crazy, and it adds to the blur. 

GruntsAKA slumps, are baked or sometimes stewed fruits topped with a rolled biscuit dough. Like cobblers, the technique for completing a grunt is much more systematic than dropping or spooning it over fruit, like a pie crust topping. Honestly, it’s just a bit more informally arranged with biscuit dough and clarifying; it’s a topping made with a rolled-out slab of biscuit dough, not pie crust. 

Crisps and cobblers are the most notable members of the baked fruit family. They also can have a variety of filling combinations. Both envelope baked fruit with some sort of wild, free-form carb topping. Their names differ based on what type of topping is applied and the apparent visual composition of the dish. 

Crisps get an oat, or flour, butter, sugar, and optional nut meat-type mixture sprinkled on, then baked. My quick and dirty dessert if I need one. The fruit cooks into a delicious underlying compote during oven time, and its syrup bubbles up like a slow drizzling volcano through a few areas in the crumble topping. Topped with cold Vanilla Ice Cream, it’s almost better than an entire night’s sleep.

The Cobbler’s name comes from its sometimes cobbled-looking texture, developing from the spooning or dropping the biscuit or batter atop the fruit filling rather than spreading or rolled out dough topping. A good indicator of a Cobbler is the visual structure-Just look for notable gaps between the crust.

And to confuse you a little further, I’m just gonna throw in a Sonkers. Ha! Don’t worry, it’s typically geographical. This delectable hails from Surry County, North Carolina, and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Produces more of a syrupy texture—than a conventional cobbler. The Sonker is typically paired with a vanilla cream sauce locals call “dip,” and it is generously coated over the finished dish.

Did I mention there’s also a Slump? Yep, this sweetened fruit-cooked dessert is usually topped with dollops of dough and cooked on the stovetop, not the oven. The individual serving sort of slumps on the plate in a not-too-recognizable design, consequently the name and served with heavy cream. 

Oh, and don’t forget about a Betty! A baked pudding, so to speak. Betties are succulent: alternating layers of sugar, spiced fruit, and buttered bread crumbs with a bit of fruit juice to moisten the whole shebang. I’m drooling typing this – then Betty is baked until brown and crispy on top. I like to throw a little booze in my Betties.

All of these should not be confused with a Pandowdy, but they often are. A Pandowdy is sliced apples or other fruits tossed with cinnamon, nutmeg, a little clove, dotted with and butter, sweetened with molasses or brown sugar. The topping is a biscuit-like dough, rolled out and placed on top like a payer of pie crust and baked. The difference is, halfway through the baking time, the oven is opened, and the crust is cracked! Yes, you hear me right. The baker proceeds to press the half-baked biscuit dough into the melange of bubbling sweet syrup. This technique is called “dowdying.” Pandowdies are served straight from the oven drizzled with warm with heavy cream. Perfect for date night. Wink… wink…

I just can’t, I can’t go on. I’m going to pass out from the thoughts of these desserts. Stay close by, I’ll be posting a few of my favorite cobbler and crisps recipes soon, just like the one below.

Oh, and make sure to try them, and let me know which is your pick! I have a feeling the upcoming summer will be abundant in all good things! 




Published by Chef Gigi Gaggero, Host of Silicon Valley's LIVE Food Talk Radio on KSCU 103.3 FM

Professional Chef, Two Time Award-Winning Book Author, Former Academic Director from Le Cordon Bleu, and Host of Silicon Valley's LIVE Food Talk Radio on KSCU 103.3 FM

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