Fall Fruits make Classic Desserts


These are great old fashioned American desserts, especially perfect for late summer and early fall when the “soft fruits” are abundant, berries, peaches, plums, apricots and cherries. Admittedly, few of them are grown here in the Northland, but they do become available, often by the case.  Supermarket ads feature them, and we love eating them fresh, out of hand, and baked into our favorite desserts.

Because the different kinds of desserts hail from different parts of the country they can be totally confusing! Everybody understands the idea of “pies” but we are unfamiliar with some of the other traditional American desserts.

To try to define the difference between a cobbler, clafouti, a crisp and a crumble, you can have a lot of fun! Well, in a knock-down, drag-out argument we might as well discuss the whole category and it kind of breaks down to fruit that is baked with a topping.

A “Cobbler” is a spoon pie, more like a fruit stew topped with dumplings on top. The dish got its name because lumps of cooked dough resemble cobblestones. The topping usually has the consistency of baking powder biscuit dough which might be a soft dropped onto the fruit by the spoonful or a stiff dough that rolled out and cut into shapes, placed on top of the fruit before baking .

A “Clafouti” is a French cobbler, originally from the Limousin region of  France, and is made with fruit (usually cherries) on the bottom, a custard, and a soft batter-crust baked on top.

A “Crisp” is fruit placed into a deep dish and topped with a sweetened, butter-rich crumb or streusel topping before baking.

A “Crumble” is a British dessert in which raw fruit is topped with a crumbly pastry, sometimes made with bread or cake crumbs and baked.  A crumble may not be as rich as a crisp.

To add to the confusion, there is a “Betty” which is a baked pudding made of layers of spiced and sugared fruit, topped with buttered bread crumbs, while a “Grunt”  is a spoon pie, with biscuit dough on top of stewed fruit, that is steamed, not baked. “Pandowdy” is a one-crusted pie, with fruit on the bottom and a rolled crust on top, which after baking is broken up (or “dowdied”) to allow the juices to come through. A “Slump” is a spoon pie, including cooked or uncooked fruit topped with biscuit dough or piecrust, which can be either baked or steamed, and turned upside down before serving.

What all of these desserts have in common is that they start with the fresh fruits of late summer and are baked or steamed with a topping. They are all usually served with whipped cream or ice cream.

So here, I will offer a basic recipe that you can make into a Cobbler, Clafouti, Crisp or a Crumble by following the variations. I’ve tried to simplify the procedure as much as possible so that you can use any combination of fruits you desire as long as they are the “soft fruits of late summer.”


Basic Fruit mixture:

3 cups peeled sliced fresh peaches or nectarines

1 cup blueberries

1 tablespoon butter

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1. Mix the peaches and blueberries together. Melt the butter in a 1 to 1 1/2 quart casserole dish. Mix the sugar an flour and sprinkle over the fruit.

2. Add the topping (see below) of your choice and bake according to the directions.


For Peach and Blueberry Cobbler:

Basic Fruit Mixture, see above

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 cup butter

1/4  cup milk

1. Mix the basic fruit mixture as given above and set aside. Preheat oven to 350*F. Combine the flour, sugar and baking powder. Add the butter and blend until a crumbly mixture results. Stir in the milk until a stiff dough results.

2. Turn out onto a work surface and sprinkle with flour.  Pat or roll out to about 1/2 inch thickness. Using a round biscuit cutter, cookie cutter, or a straight edged knife, cut the dough into biscuits.  Place on the fruit mixture.

3.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until fruit is bubbly and biscuits are lightly browned.


For Peach and Blueberry Clafouti:

Basic Fruit Mixture, see above

1/4 cup sugar (reserve 1 Tbsp. to dust baking dish)

3/4 cup milk

1/4 cup heavy cream

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch of salt

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1. Mix the basic fruit mixture as given above and set aside.  Preheat the oven to 350*F. In a blender, combine the sugar, milk, cream, eggs, vanilla and salt. Blend until smooth and add the flour. Blend again, scraping the sides until the flour is all mixed in.

2. Butter a 9-inch pie pan or 1-1/2-quart casserole and dust with the reserved 1 tablespoon sugar. Pour in half the batter and arrange the fruit mixture on top. Pour the remaining batter over the top.

3. Bake until the top puffs and starts to turn golden-brown, about 45 minutes.


For a Peach and Blueberry Crisp

Basic Fruit Mixture, see above

1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed

3 tablespoons soft butter

1. Mix the basic fruit mixture as given above and spread into a buttered 1 1/2 quart casserole. Preheat the oven to 350*F.

2.  In a bowl, combine the oats, cinnamon, brown sugar, an butter.  Sprinkle over the fruit mixture.  Bake for 25 minutes or until the mixture is bubbling and fruit I fork tender.


For a Peach and Blueberry Crumble

Basic Fruit Mixture, see above

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

6 tablespoons cold butter, cut up

1. Mix the basic fruit mixture a given above and spread mixture into a buttered 1 1/2 quart casserole or pie pan. Sprinkle with the grated lemon zest.

2. Preheat the oven to 350*F. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles large crumbles. Sprinkle evenly over the fruit. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until lightly browned, crisp, and juices are bubbly. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Facebook Comments

Beatrice Ojakangas

Food writer Beatrice Ojakangas grew up as the oldest of ten on a farm in Floodwood, Minnesota and learned to cook and bake on a woodstove. Author of 31 cookbooks, Beatrice has a degree in home economics, has been inducted into the James Beard Cookbook Hall of Fame, was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Minnesota, has written for magazines such as Bon Appetit, Gourmet, and Woman's Day, and appeared on the television shows of both Julia Child and Martha Stewart. Her specialties include baking, Finnish and Scandinavian cooking, and writing well-tested, simple recipes that use wholesome ingredients. She lives in Duluth, Minnesota.

Recent Posts