Thursday, September 18, 2008

Cobbler, Crisp, or Crumble

Today where I volunteer, I was eating the last of the peach cobbler. Soon I was present with a question: what's the difference between a cobbler, a crisp, and a crumble?

Though I tried to formulate an intelligent-sounding answer, at the moment I had no idea what the truth was.

Once home, I decided did some research. Of course, Google was my first stop, but in the end I turned to The Joy of Cooking. As one of my favorite go-to sources, I trust the book as the final word about traditional American cooking. The answer was found in a chapter entitled, "American Fruit Desserts."

In addition to cobblers and crisps, the authors discussed pandowdies, brown betties, crunches, slumps, grunts, and buckles. Though they have little to do with the post, I loved all of those names and really wanted to include them.

Here are the definitions that I've "cobbled" together:

  • Cobbler: Deep dish, single layer fruit desserts. The fruit is most frequently cooked on the bottom, with a pastry or biscuit crust on top. No one knows for sure where the term cobbler comes from, but the authors of the Joy suggests that it is because the cook has to "cobble something together."
  • Crisp: Sweetened fruit that is lightly thickened and cooked under a crumbly topping of flour, butter, and sugar. The topping can include oats, cookie, or cake, and is mixed together like pie dough, with the liquid being added at the end of the process.
  • Crumble: Very similar to a crisp, but less rich, with lower amounts of butter and flour. Generally, crumbles are topped with streusel. Made from different proportions of butter, flour, and sugar streusel is also commonly found on coffee cakes and muffins. (Ironically enough, streusel is the German word for sprinkle.)
All this research made me discover one thing: I really make fruit crisps way more often then I make fruit cobblers! Who knew?

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