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Cooking
Volume 38 Issue 17, August 21 - 27, 2008
now in our 38th season

Berry, Berry Good

by Maryjane Mojer
Executive Chef, Bartlett's Ocean View Farm

I am not one to say “no” to chocolate in any form. Chips, kisses, nibs, chunks, bars with ginger, berries, cayenne pepper, milk or dark; it’s all good from where I stand. The fairly recent discovery that dark chocolate is actually good for you (yes, I know that it has been disputed, but I’m firmly planted in denial if it suits me, thank you) was enough to release any guilt I may have felt. I now believe that it is my duty, to myself and for the sake of my health to consume a bit of chocolate every day. One does what one must.

While I do love chocolate, I am not a big fan of chocolate desserts. Yes, they have their place, and I do like to hear about them; I just tend not to gravitate towards them. For desserts I am very much a fruit kind of gal. Oh, not your basic peach or bowl of strawberries. Yes, those are quite nice and have their place, but if I am going to splurge and really, really enjoy a dessert, it will be an actual dessert and not an after dinner snack.

I love pies and cobblers, a good slump and grunt, a crisp, buckle or betty. A pan dowdy is not something I would refuse either. But what are all of these things? Are they all the same with different names? Not from what I understand. They all have similarities, as in they are all made with fruit and are all cooked. Oh, and they are all quite wonderful.

Here are, from my understanding and experience, the definitions:

Pie: an easy one. A pastry shell filled with a mixture of fruit that has been slightly sweetened and seasoned, perhaps with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and so on. Pies may have one crust or two, or a bottom crust with a crisp topping, leading us to:

Crisp: Fruit baked in a deep buttered dish with a topping containing butter, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg crumbled on top.

Cobbler: For a cobbler, the fruit is again baked in a deep buttered dish, but topped with a biscuit dough.

Slump and Grunt: For slump and grunt, or slump or grunt (used either together or separately) the fruit is usually cooked on top of the stove with a dumpling dough added to the boiling fruit and finished on the stove.

Buckle: A buckle is also baked, but the cooked fruit is poured on top of an already cooked cake base, then topped with a crisp like mixture and finished in the oven.

Betty: I’ve only ever had an apple brown betty, but would like to use other fruits as well. The fruit is tossed with brown sugar and topped with buttered bread crumbs, and baked.

Pan Dowdy: Similar to a cobbler and always reminds me of TV dinners.

Right now there are bins and tables at the markets filled with gorgeous, very ripe, fresh fruit. Any combination of fruit is fine by me, but there are a few favorites. Blueberries and peaches seem to enjoy each others company. Heck, all of the berries seem to get along quite well with any other fruit. Fresh fruit is great to use, but frozen fruit works quite well.

For the crisp and the cobbler, the beginning preparation is the same:

For a 9 x 12 x 2 casserole, plan on about four cups of fruit. Toss your fruit with sugar and spices, and pour it into a well buttered casserole.

CRISP TOPPING:

This mixture will keep in your refrigerator for up to two months, so if you or your family are crisp lovers it may be worth making a larger batch.

Mix the following ingredients together. A food processor is fine, but keep it a quick mix. If you process too far, you’ll make a lovely, cinnamony flavored cement. (Says the voice of experience!)

  • 3 cups brown sugar
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • One half teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • One half pound cold butter, cut into pieces

After placing your fruit in the buttered casserole, top it generously with the crisp topping. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until bubbly and browned.

Some have been known to replace one cup of flour with one cup of oatmeal. I won’t name names, Debbie, but I don’t think this is the place to make nutritive value a priority. Although, when I have added oatmeal, it does make me feel a bit better about eating any leftovers for breakfast. Kind of makes the ice cream on the crisp for breakfast seem more acceptable.

COBBLER

I think that cobbler runs a close second to any kind of fruit pie as my favorite dessert. It combines fruit and biscuits and butter. Simply stated you can’t go wrong.

Again, butter your 9 x 12 x 2 casserole and tip your four cups of fruit into it. (Here’s where I remind you to taste your fruit before adding any sugar. A lovely lady that I work with made peach cobbler last week with peaches that were so ripe and so sweet there was no need to add any sugar. A bit of cinnamon was the only thing that went in with the fruit.)

BISCUIT TOPPING

  • 1 and one quarter cup flour
  • One quarter cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • One half teaspoon baking soda
  • One quarter teaspoon salt
  • 2 ounces butter, unsalted, melted
  • One third cup milk

Mix all ingredients together until a soft, sticky dough forms. Either pat or drop by spoonfuls’ onto your fruit. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden and bubbly. This is a very quick and easy recipe and one that most folks will have all of the ingredients on hand for. However, I do love Bisquick and use that for cobblers (and strawberry shortcakes) more often than not.

I also love the dumpling recipe on the Bisquick box and use that for my beef stew or for chicken and dumplings. Add a bit of sugar and it’s the perfect topping for slump and/or grunt.

Even though it’s summer and these desserts can be a bit richer than summer heat has us craving, I still like them all warm and I like them all with ice cream. Vanilla, if you please. And one big, hot cup of coffee to wash it down.

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