“How-To” Baking – Fruit Desserts

Crumbles, crisps, and buckles………Oh my!! There are so many different ways to bake fresh fruit into a delectable dessert that it can be confusing and overwhelming. So let’s break it down one dessert at a time!

Crumble – A crumble is a baked dessert consisting of fresh fruit that is topped with an oat based streusel.

Crisp – A crisp is very similar to a crumble except the streusel topping is made from flour, not oats.

Brown Betty – A brown betty is very similar to a crisp. In fact, some recipes call for only fresh fruit with a streusel topping just like in a crisp. However, a layer of streusel can also be layered on the bottom as well. Other recipes call for the fruit to be layered between stale, buttered cubes of bread.

Cobbler – A cobbler is topped with individual dropped biscuits that create the look of a cobblestone street, hence the name “cobbler“.

Buckle – A buckle has a cake like batter underneath the fruit and is topped with crumbs. As it bakes the cake rises up while the fruit and crumbs weigh it down which causes a buckling effect. The most common type of buckle is blueberry but it can be made with other types of fruit.

Grunt/Slump – A grunt or a slump is similar to a cobbler however, instead of being baked in the oven it is cooked in a covered pan on a stovetop or over a campfire. The biscuits are steamed rather than baked like in a cobbler.

The term “grunt” was coined because of the noise that the hot, bubbly fruit makes as it cooks. The term “slump” was coined because when the dessert is placed on a serving dish it doesn’t hold its form and it “slumps” on the dish.

Clafouti – A clafouti is topped with either cake or pudding.

Pandowdy – A pandowdy is a deep dish fruit dessert that is topped with brittle biscuits. As the pandowdy bakes, the biscuit topping is broken up and pounded into the fruit so that the juices from the fruit can rise up to the top.

Crostata/Galette – A crostata or galette is made with a rolled out piece of dough that’s piled with fruit. The edges of the dough are folded in to create a crust and then it gets an egg wash and a dusting of coarse sugar on top. This dessert is freeform in shape and it’s baked on a flat sheet.

These two desserts are identical except in name. A crostata is an Italian term and a galette is French but they can be used interchangeably as they are both referring to the same thing.

 

Apple Brown Betty

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Apple pie is the quintessential fall dessert. It evokes memories of jumping in the leaves, cuddling up in a cozy sweater, and stuffing your face at Thanksgiving dinner. Making a delicious homemade apple pie isn’t all that difficult but it can be a little time consuming Instead, when a craving for apple pie hits try making an Apple Brown Betty! It has all of the same delicious flavor as an apple pie minus the hassle.

An Apple Brown Betty is very similar to a crumble or crisp. It’s a traditional American dessert made from apples that are topped with delicious sweetened crumbs. It is unclear of the exact origin of this dessert however, it was first mentioned in a cookbook dating all the way back to 1864! Just like its apple pie counterpart, it pairs really well with a nice, cold scoop of vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream.

The recipe that I used came from one of my most favorite cookbooks, The New England Orchard Cookbook: Harvesting Dishes & Desserts from the Region’s Bounty . If you love farm fresh fruit such as apples, berries, and peaches this would be a fabulous addition to your cookbook library. It features information on local farms all around the New England region (CT, MA, RI, VT, and NH) as well as a bounty of wonderful and delicious recipes like Streusel Spiced Cider Muffins, Orchard Cake, Apple Stuffing and more!

For this recipe I made a few, very slight changes. In place of the maple syrup that was called for I used pure apple syrup, I prefer the flavor over maple. The instructions said to use cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg to taste but I instead tossed the apples with a cinnamon sugar blend and apple pie spice which is a mix of all the flavors that are called for. I also substituted Granny Smith apples for McIntosh. In general you can substitute one baking apple for another in most apple recipes. The top apples for baking are: Granny Smith, Jonagold, Braeburn, Cortland, and Honeycrisp.  

Ingredients

  • 8 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into chunks
  • 1/4 maple syrup
  • Cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg, to taste
  • 1 full sleeve of graham crackers
  • 1 stick (1/4 lb) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • Vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream (optional)

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. In a large bowl, combine the apples with the syrup and spices. Toss to coat. Place in a medium casserole dish and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the graham crackers, melted butter, and brown sugar. Using your hands, crumble up the crackers and mix everything together.

Pat the crumb mixture all over the top of the apples. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the apples up bubbling up through the topping and the crust is golden brown.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream.

**Tip** – You can also use a food processor to turn the graham crackers into crumbs.

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