Pies, Crisps and Cobblers

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The Grunt, the Slump, the Buckle, the Sonker and the Brown Betty? They sound more like the names of dance moves than what they REALLY are:

Namely, pastries…

Pies, cobblers and crisps to be exact.

So, no doubt, you’re familiar with pies, or at least you should be.

Especially during THIS time of the year.

Pies grace our American table each holiday season and are anticipated as our “final” treat as we wade through the roasts and side dishes that precede them. In particular, apple, cherry and pumpkin pies dominate the dessert landscapes throughout the calendar season, with pecan, peach, blueberry, and other cream and custard pies close behind.

Where did pies come from?

The American pie itself is a carryover from its ancestral English and European origins, where you’d just as likely see it filled with meats, cheeses and vegetables as fruits. Even the wives of Welsh miners made a pocket-size “pie” filled with meats and potatoes for their husbands to take into the mines each day. Their “Pasty” eventually came to this country, and with little change, accompanied our Northern Michigan Copper miners to work. It lives on today as a Northern Michigan regional specialty.

Most of us, however, think of dessert when we think of pie, and our country has had such a love affair with it that it’s since become synonymous with pleasure and goodness. “As sweet as pie,” “as easy as pie,” and of course, “pie in the sky” offer the hopes of a culinary utopia that only pies seem able to offer.

Of course, strange names aside, what exactly IS the difference between a Pie, a Cobbler and a Crisp??

Pie is typically made with a firm pastry crust, which fully lines the bottom and many times covers the top to “sandwich” its delicious filling in between. Cream- and custard-type pies are usually bottom crust only and may be topped with whipped cream or meringue. Fruit pies may be either topped with a pastry crust or a crumbled mixture (called a streusel) of flour, butter, sugar, and sometimes oats and nuts. This topping is the same topping used on a crisp. What makes this pastry “technically” a pie is its bottom crust.

Cobblers and Crisps are nearly ALL filled with fruits, berries, and/or vegetables (rhubarb), sometimes with the addition of nuts. Neither have a bottom crust. The cobbler is topped with either a pastry crust, a biscuit-like dough (which looks like stone cobbles on an old street) or a batter. The crisp (sometimes referred to as a “crumble”) is instead topped with a crumbly streusel mixture. Both are then baked.

Unlike pies, cobblers and crisps are usually served with a large spoon in a shallow bowl rather than on a plate (they lack a bottom crust to encase the filling). And although it is not a prerequisite, you’ll more often find cobblers and crisps served warm and with ice cream (a la mode) than pies. However, pies are no less delicious served in the same manner.

Other cobbler-like methods include the Brown Betty, one of the first documented apple desserts in the United States and very popular during colonial times. This dessert is made by alternating layers of bread crumbs, butter, brown sugar and fruits to create a bread-pudding-like filling. The Buckle, on the other hand, is made using yellow cake batter to create the cobbler topping.

Whether cooked on the stove, in a cast-iron skillet (the Slump and Pandowdy) or in the oven, pies, cobblers and crisps are as easy as…well…pie!

Ready to get started? Here are some great recipes to try:

Our Apple Guide has our classic version of apple pie and a simple but delicious pie crust. And finally, our Rhubarb & Apple “Butter Crispin” and White Peach & Blueberry Cobbler are excellent examples of the many fruits that make these two desserts so versatile.

Whether you enjoy baking these traditional desserts at home or you choose to stop by Nino’s in-store bakery to pick up one of our own freshly baked pies, we hope you’ll enjoy a memorable pie, cobbler or crisp this holiday season.