I was recently visiting my Mom and on an absolutely perfect summer Sunday, after a long hike in the woods and a G&T on the porch swing, I decided to make a peach cobbler. Seemed the appropriate thing to do while in the country, on a farm and for a special treat after a planned evening of lightenin’ bug catchin’!
So off I went – grabbed the peaches, a peeler, a bowl, a baking dish and another round of G&Ts. Over great mother daughter chatter, I peeled the perfectly ripe peaches, sliced them into slim half moons and put them into the baking dish. Back in the kitchen and a bit buzzy by now I mixed brown sugar, oats, a bit of flour, some raisins, some chopped pecans and a stick of butter until I had a lumpy sorta crumbly “batter”. I sprinkled this over the peaches, popped it in the oven and headed out to the garden for a round of extreme croquet.
Over this highly competitive round of croquet where I was representing team orange, Mom “informed” me that I had not, in fact, made cobbler. She went on to remind me of the period in my childhood when we had cobbler every night ritually as it was cheap and always cheerful. Blackberries grew right out our door and yes, it all came rushing back those days of happiness and near poverty. But we had cobbler! Mom took the position that cobbler was a batter into which fruit was added and what I had made was called crisp. Hmmmm?
After coming in dead last in the croquet match (I blame those G&Ts), I decided to research this cobbler vs. crisp issue a bit deeper. Turns out…Mom is always right.
1839 Mrs. Lettice (for real) Bryahs writes in “The Kentucky Housewife” (also for real) about a dessert called “Cut and Come Again”. There were variations suggested on how to prepare it, some with an enclosed crust, a drop biscuit or a crumb topping. However, Mrs. Lettice wrote that she had had the most success and compliments with the following recipe:
Melt 4 Tbsp. butter in a 9″ round pan. In a bowl mix 3/4 cup flour, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 Tsp. Baking Powder, 1/4 Tsp. salt and 3/4 cup milk. Pour this batter into the buttered pan, add a pint or so of fresh berries, sprinkle with sugar an bake until fruit bubbles around 50-60 minutes.
This became known throughout the Southern US as cobbler in the years to follow. In some certain states (and I’m not naming names) it was also called Grunt or Betty. I’m just sayin’…
Then a new kid came to town declaring itself also a “cobbler” type recipe but daring to have a different name, Crisp. After a few background checks on this new character, it turns out it was a British import. Characteristically much the same, with a few subtle differences.
Crisp, aka Buckle (go figure or go ask an Englishman), became popular in England during WWII when, yet again, times were tough, money was stretched and berries were plentiful. The classic crisp was made with blueberry and had a rich cake batter base (like our friend Cobbler) but also sported a streusel topping and this is the aha moment for why its called Crisp. Buckle remains a mystery. Anybody know?
The Crisp recipes I found called for 1 1/4 cup flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp salt. Beat 1/2 cup butter with 1 egg and 1/3 cup milk and 1/2 tsp vanilla and add to dry ingredients. Pour in pan, add fruit AND THEN, add the streusel mixture on top (1/2 cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour, 1/4 cup butter and 1 tsp. cinnamon). Bake til streusel is browned.
So there you have it. Mystery revealed over Cobbler vs. Crisp and probably none to too soon as I am sure you were losing as much sleep as I over this 😉
But the real question surrounding all of this still remains…vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream?