Baking & Desserts

What's the difference between a cobbler and a crisp?

By: Rheanna Kish, food specialist, The Canadian Living Test Kitchen

Gluten-Free Strawberry Crumble<br>Photography by Jeff Coulson Author: Canadian Living Credits: Gluten-Free Strawberry Crumble<br>Photography by Jeff Coulson

Baking & Desserts

What's the difference between a cobbler and a crisp?

By: Rheanna Kish, food specialist, The Canadian Living Test Kitchen
There are few desserts that are so simple, yet evoke such controversy among makers and eaters alike.

The humble baked fruit desserts, including cobblers, crisps, bettys and pandowdies, among others, have been around as long as people had access to fruit, flour, sugar and butter. Quicker to prepare than pie, and boasting equally delicious results, these baked desserts have the ability to arouse confusion and spark debate from region to region across the country – or even the continent.

What's with the names?

The names of these desserts, which are all variations on a theme (think pie), often describe how they look while baking or while serving - "slump" comes to mind. And though the ingredients may be few, these unpretentious desserts make the most of fresh, ripe fruit bursting with flavour.

They even stand up to sophisticated flavour profiles such as vanilla, ginger and hazelnut. Enjoyed warm or at room temperature, with ice cream or without, all of these desserts serve up deep satisfaction.

How these desserts differ

However, we often wonder what makes a cobbler a cobbler? And how does a crisp differ from a crumble? With countless variations and subtle similarities and differences between these treats, the line between which is which gets even fuzzier.

While the answer may be different depending on who you ask and where you are, we’ve done our best to clearly define each. No more long-winded debates around the table during dessert.

Simply call it what you will, sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labour.

Cobbler: A cobbler is a deep-dish baked fruit dessert with a thick dropped-biscuit or pie dough topping. Traditionally the rich fruit stew is the base for the topping, but variations can include the biscuits on the bottom, similar to a deep-dish pie. The common belief is that the name came from the biscuit topping’s resemblance to cobblestones.

Canadian Living cobbler recipes:
Blueberry Raspberry Cobbler
Raspberry Pear Cobbler
Warm Apricot Cobbler
Apple Cranberry Cobbler
Rhubarb Strawberry Macaroon Cobbler

Crisp: A crisp is a baked fruit dessert topped with a crisp and crunchy layer of ingredients. The topping may include a proportion of sugar, butter, oats, nuts, flour and a spice such as cinnamon, tossed together to gain a somewhat granular look. The dessert is baked just until the topping is crisp and golden.

Canadian Living crisp recipes:
Maple Apple and Blueberry Crisp
Gingersnap Berry Pear Crisp
Pear and Banana Crisp
Almond-Cherry Fruit Crisp

Crumble: Similar to a crisp, a crumble is a baked fruit dessert with a layer of topping. A crumble topping rarely includes oats or nuts, and is instead usually a streusel-like combination of flour, sugar and butter. However some variations may include oats or nuts. The topping is generally more clumpy than a crisp topping, but not as clumpy as a cobbler topping.

Canadian Living crumble recipes:
Peach Blueberry Crumble Pie
Spiced Ontario Peach and Plum Crumble
Apple Crumble Cake
Plum Hazelnut Crumble

Pandowdy: A pandowdy is a deep-dish baked fruit dessert with a flaky pie or biscuit topping. The main difference between a pandowdy and a cobbler is that the topping is rolled out to the shape of the baking dish, placed on top of the fruit mixture and partially baked. The dish is then removed from the oven and the topping broken up with a spoon. It returns to the oven to be baked until golden and tender. Breaking up the topping allows the juices to bubble up through the broken edges for a crisp and crumbly texture.

Canadian Living pandowdy recipes:
Apple Raisin Pandowdy
Gooseberry Pandowdy

Betty: A betty is a baked pudding dessert whose name dates as far back as the 1600s. The dessert consists of fruit layered with buttery breadcrumbs or cubes baked until the top has a crisp and golden layer. The breadcrumbs absorb the juices as the betty bakes, so the texture is more like a pudding rather than fruit stew or pie filling.

Canadian Living betty recipes:
Peach Betty
Easy Apple Brown Betty

Grunt: Unlike all the others, a grunt is cooked on the stovetop in a shallow Dutch oven rather than baked. For a grunt, the fruit is stewed then topped with a biscuit or dumpling type dough The dish is then covered and simmered longer until the topping is cooked through. The name is said to come from the sound the dish makes while simmering.

Canadian Living grunt recipes:
Plum Berry Grunt
Apricot Grunt

Similar to a grunt, a slump consists of a fruit stew with a biscuit- or dumpling-like topping. However, a slump is baked uncovered in the oven rather than steamed on the stovetop. The name is thought to come from the way it “slumps” on the plate when served.
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Baking & Desserts

What's the difference between a cobbler and a crisp?