Other than “pies” and “tarts,” what’s the difference between all those other desserts made with fruit and pastry, and some with odd-sounding names?
There are many similar fruit desserts, but what they have in common is they are simple to make, sweet, fruity, and irresistibly delicious. Most of these recipes originated as a way to use fruits at the height of their season. Add sugar and spices, butter and flour, and you have old-fashioned home-style desserts that are still being enjoyed today.
Also see: Pies vs. Tarts
Betty: Normally called Brown Betty, with Apple Brown Betty being the most common. A Betty is made with buttered bread crumbs layered with fruit. Some Betty versions use diced bread cubes made from basic white bread, brioche, challah, or baguettes.
buckle: An old-fashioned American deep-dish fruit dessert. A rich cake batter is spread over the bottom of a pan, and then topped with sweetened sliced fruit. Some buckle recipes add a streusel-like topping on the fruit. As the buckle bakes the cake rises up and surrounds the fruit slices. Buckles are normally served warm with heavy cream or ice cream. Favorite fruits to use in buckles are blueberry, nectarine, and raspberry.
cobbler: A baked deep dish fruit dessert with a thick biscuit or cookie-dough topping. The topping is traditionally dropped by spoonfuls over the fruit giving the dessert the appearance of a cobbled road. Some cobbler versions use a topping that completely covers the fruit, or the topping may be rolled and cut into rounds. Favorite fruits to use in cobblers are stone fruits, sweet cherries, apples, or berries.
clafouti: A rustic fruit dessert traditionally made with dark, sweet, unpitted cherries, but almost any fruit can be used. A thin cake batter is poured over the fruit, and as it bakes the batter puffs up around the fruit. Clafouti is dusted with confectioners’ sugar and best served warm.
compote: Fresh or dried fruit cooked in sugar syrup flavored with cinnamon, vanilla, cloves, and orange or lemon zest. Compote may be served warm with sweetened whipping cream or chilled and sprinkled with kirsch or brandy.
coulis: Coulis is a thick sauce of pureed raw or cooked fruit. Coulis is not normally served on its own, but instead is served as an accompaniment to other desserts, ice cream, or pastries.
crostata: The Italian version of a French Gallette, a rustic, free-formed open fruit tart.
crisp: A baked fruit dessert with a crispy streusel-like topping made with butter, sugar, flour, and sometimes nuts. The streusel is similar to crumbled pie dough.
crumble: A baked fruit dessert similar to a crisp with a crumbled topping made with oatmeal. A crumble is the British version of a crisp.
curd: A thick creamy cooked pastry filling made with citrus juice, such as lemon or orange, sugar, butter, and egg yolks. Curd can also be made from crushed berries. Curd is used as a filling for pies, tarts, pastries, and cakes, and as an accompaniment to scones.
dumpling: A baked dessert made with a whole fruit, normally an apple that has been peeled and cored and filled with sugar, butter, spices, and sometimes nuts. The apple is covered with pastry and baked with a rich syrup of sugar and spices. Dumplings are best served warm with heavy cream.
fool: A British dessert that layers fresh or pureed fruit with sweetened whipped cream. Using a tart fruit such as rhubarb provides a nice contrast to the sweet cream. Some fool versions feature sweetened whipped cream folded into cooked fruit compote.
fritter: Pieces of fruit, such as apples, are dipped in batter and then deep fried. Fritters are normally served hot and dusted with confectioners’ sugar.
galette: A galette is a French rustic fruit dessert made with pastry that is shaped free-form on a baking sheet. The pastry edge is folded over to cover the outside portion of the filling, leaving the middle exposed.
grunt: A baked cobbler from Colonial New England. Grunts are made with berries or other fresh fruit topped with a biscuit dough and cooked on the stovetop instead of baking in the oven. The fruit is stewed on the stovetop until it is almost cooked, then the dough is dropped on top of the fruit and the pan is covered to “steam” the biscuit dough. Original grunts were steamed in a covered kettle over an open fire. Grunts are normally served with heavy cream or vanilla ice cream. The name grunt may have come from the noise the fruit makes while cooking as it bubbles-up around the biscuit dough. Grunts are also known as Slumps because the dessert “slumps” when you put it on a plate.
pandowdy: A New England deep dish dessert made with fruit, usually apples, butter, brown sugar or molasses, and spices and topped with a biscuit like dough, and then baked. Halfway through the baking time a technique called “dowdying” is used, where the crust is broken up and pressed down into the fruit to absorb the juices and become crispy. Pandowdy is served warm with sweetened whipped cream, ice cream, or hard sauce.
slump: This dessert is the same as a grunt.
strudel: A German pastry made with thin layers of dough wrapped around a sweet fruit filling. The pastry is formed into a long rectangular shape and then sliced into smaller pieces for serving.
tarte tatin: A French upside-down caramelized tart named after the Tatin sisters from the early twentieth century. The tarte is traditionally made with apples but many other fruits may be substituted. The fruit is combined with sugar or brown sugar and spices in a cast iron or tarte tatin pan. The fruit mixture is topped with a pastry and then baked. After baking the tart is turned out of the pan and placed upside down on a serving plate.