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Crisps, crumbles, and cobblers. October 19, 2010

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, recipes, Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Every Saturday, our little local library has a book sale, offering an assortment of fiction and nonfiction books and videos for can’t-be-beat prices of free to $2.00. So if our friend Ben and I are running errands in town on a Saturday, as we often are, I’ll suggest that we stop by the library so I can run in and check out the cookbooks.This week, I came upon a great little find called Crumbles & Cobblers

Being Southern, I grew up with fruit crisps and cobblers instead of pies. Not that we didn’t have pies: pecan pie, chess pie, mince pie, chocolate icebox pie, rum pie, lemon meringue pie, banana cream pie. But with the exception of bananas, our fruit desserts were crisps and cobblers: apple crisp, peach crisp, peach cobbler, cherry cobbler, blackberry cobbler. When I moved to Pennsylvania, I was amazed at the assortment of fruit pies, and dismayed by the lack of cobblers and crisps.

Short of fresh fruit and baked apples, both of which are favorites here at Hawk’s Haven, crisps are about the easiest fruit dessert there is. You cut up your fruit and put it in an 8-inch buttered round or square glass pie or cake pan, adding just a teensy bit of water to the buttered pan before fitting in the fruit. Our favorite is peach-blueberry crisp, but we also love plain peach, peach-cherry, peach-raspberry, peach-cranberry, apple, apple-apricot, apple-cranberry, apple-apricot-cranberry, pear, and pear-cranberry. And no, I never peel the fruit before adding it to a crisp or cobbler. It’s so delicious peel and all!

Once the fruit is in the pan, dot butter over it and add a sprinkling of sugar or brown sugar and cinnamon, if you like. (Ground cardamom makes an interesting variation for a peach crisp.) But fruit isn’t what makes a crisp a crisp. You need the crumbled topping, which, I assume, is why those Brits call it a crumble instead of a crisp.

To make the topping, combine 2/3 cup unbleached flour, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/4 cup butter, working the butter in with your fingers to make panko-like crumbs. Then work in 1/2 to 2/3 cup rolled oats and spread the whole shebang over the fruit in your glass pan. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 1 hour, or until the fruit is cooked and bubbly and the topping is crisp. I usually put a piece of aluminum foil over the dish for the first half-hour, then remove it for the final half-hour to make sure the topping doesn’t get too brown.

Cobblers are pretty much identical, with two important exceptions: You use a deeper dish for them, and you top them with piecrust dough, either in a single sheet or cut into a lattice. Cobblers are traditionally baked in square or rectangular pans, never round, and are often berry-based, such as a blackberry or cherry cobbler, though peach and even apple cobbler are also popular. The fruit in a cobbler is typically dredged or tossed in a little flour and a lot of sugar before being dotted with butter and sprinkled with lemon juice, then topped with the crust.

So far, so good, right? Delicious fruit, perfectly cooked, covered with a crunchy, buttery topping or a pie crust, and served hot with whipped cream or ice cream. What’s not to love?

Plenty, according to Crumbles & Cobblers. The “crumbles” part looked pretty much okay, though they don’t include that all-important oatmeal in the topping. And they had some really yummy-sounding fruit combinations, such as Baked Banana Crumble with Rum & Lime, Sherried Nectarine Crumble, and Gooseberry & Pistachio Crumble.

But the cobblers! Blasphemy, that’s what it is. First, they top their cobblers with scones—basically sweet biscuits—rather than piecrust. This reminds me of Northerners serving up so-called “strawberry shortcake” on biscuits rather than sponge cake. Gack!!! What are they (the Australian authors of Crumbles & Cobblers) thinking?!! Worse still, they make savory cobblers, the equivalent of Northern pot pies: Golden Chicken Cobbler, Mixed Fish Cobbler with Dill, Winter Vegetable Cobbler, Beef Cobbler with Chile. Sure enough, the photos showed dishes we’d call casseroles topped with biscuits. Say it ain’t so!!!

Biscuits are biscuits, folks, delectable breakfast food made fresh and served hot with plenty of butter and maybe some jam or marmalade to counter the salt, pepper, butter, and/or cheese on grits, fried eggs, or omelettes, often with a side of home fries or hash browns and a heaping helping of bacon, sausage, or ham. Biscuits can sop up redeye gravy or be drowned under thick biscuit gravy if you’re a fan of heart-stopping diner cuisine. But biscuits are not, are never, some kind of topping for fruit or a baked vegetable or meat-based casserole. Please don’t make something like that and say it’s a cobbler! Otherwise, innocents like me might think you’re actually serving cobbler and take a bite before realizing our mistake. 

             ‘Til next time,




1. Benjamin - October 19, 2010

My address is…. mail me some cobblers and crumbles.

Ha! I’d love to, Benjamin! But the thing about crisps and cobblers, like real biscuits and cornbread, is that they have to be eaten at the meal they’re made for. Unlike pies, they don’t keep. but tell you what, next time you’re heading to our part of scenic PA, let us know and I’ll make a crisp (and dinner) just for you!

2. FOOD CENTRE POINT » Rustic Fruit Desserts: Crumbles, Buckles, Cobblers, Pandowdies, and More - October 20, 2010

[…] Crisps, crumbles, and cobblers. « Poor Richard's Almanac […]

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