Buckle, Betty, and boy bait: learn all about cobbler-like desserts

Blueberry cream cobbler

What do grunts, slumps, pandowdys, buckles, and Bettys all have in common? They are all colorful regional names for baked fruit and dough creations, sometimes put in the category of "cobbler-like" desserts. (Not to be confused with cobblers that are drinks.) If you have a hard time telling these various treats apart, indexed blog Serious Eats offers an in-depth guide to these desserts.

While crisps, crumbles and crunches are grouped together (with a gradation of crunchiness defining the differences amongst the three), each of the others on Serious Eats' list gets its own heading. Sometimes the distinctions are slight: slumps "are essentially a regional variation of a cobbler-a baked biscuit or dumpling topped stewed fruit dish. Thrifty (and decidedly unfancy) New Englanders named them for their 'slumpy' appearance."

Often the differences are due to technique, rather than ingredients. Pandowdies, for example, take the same biscuit or pie dough as a cobbler, but instead of dropping the dough in clumps on the top of the fruit, the dough is rolled out and placed over it. Then, part of the way through cooking, "the pandowdy is removed from the oven and the topping is broken up and pushes into the filling with a spoon which allows the filling to bubble up."

Most people are familiar with shortcake (think of it as an individual cobbler), but have you ever heard of long-cake? Apparently that exists, and seems to be a sheetcake version of a buckle. How about a sonker? It's included on the list although the definition remains in dispute. Sonkers hail from a very small area in the state of North Carolina.  

Even though the guide attempts to be definitive, there is no doubt that someone's handed-down family recipe won't neatly fit into the categories defined by Serious Eats. My family's cobbler is more like a crisp according to this guide. But isn't that part of what makes those recipes cherished?

Photo of Blueberry cream cobbler courtesy indexed blog Serious Eats

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