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I've heard all these terms at different times but never really understood the differences. What distinguishes various fruit-and-topping desserts such as a cobbler, crisp, crumble, buckle, or betty -- or are they all the same dish but with different quirky names?

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You missed 'grunt' – Joe Jan 11 at 0:29
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Ha! Maybe I should make it a wiki ;) – Erica Jan 11 at 0:52
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And slumps and pandowdys! I think the general difference is that sometimes they have a crust UNDER the fruit, sometimes it's ON TOP, either crumbled over it or dropped, biscuit-like, into the fruit and baked that way. – franko Jan 11 at 1:02
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Well, there's a start... If we want to go the wiki-route, that's cool with me. – Catija Jan 11 at 1:06
    
Pandowdy? Okay, now I know you're just making up words. :) – Spike Jan 12 at 8:46

Some of the terms may be regional but they do generally describe variations on a theme.

My general understanding of the differences are as follows:

Cobbler - A cobbler is generally a thickened fruit mixture with scone or biscuit-like top crust. Cobbler crusts, notably "Texas cobblers" can also be made with thinner batters that soak into the filling more than simply sitting on top.

This is an example of a blueberry cobbler with individual biscuits as a topping.

Blueberry cobbler with biscuit topping

This is a "Texas style" blueberry cobbler, where the batter rises up through the blueberry mixture.

Texas style blueberry cobbler

Crisp - A crisp is different as it has a "crispy" topping, usually made of a simple toasted mixture of butter, flour and sugar along with cornmeal or oats. The term is often interchangeable with "crumble".

This crisp has a topping of oats and optional nuts.

Blueberry crisp

Buckle - A buckle is significantly more cake-like with large pieces of fruit (usually blueberries) are suspended within. It often has a stresuel-like topping. In some circles, a buckle is also called a crumble.

This is a blueberry buckle with a crumb topping.

Blueberry buckle

Betty - Also known as a "Brown Betty" is made with bread crumbs mixed with butter sugar and used as both a bottom and top "crust". These are very often (if not usually) made with apples.

This is an apple Brown Betty.

Apple Brown Betty

Here's a great resource for the differences in the above and several other similar dessert items.

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The Texas cobbler looks half-way to being a clafoutis, as well as delicious. I'd be interested if there was a large French settlement in, or near, Texas in the early days. – David Thomas Jan 11 at 10:43
    
@DavidThomas Nearby Louisiana has a very strong French heritage, so it's quite possible their cooking traditions migrated a bit westward :) – Erica Jan 11 at 11:18
    
When I make a cobbler, the batter goes on the bottom, then then fruit on top. The batter rises up through the fruit. Then brown with a brown sugar crumble on top. – Escoce Jan 11 at 17:21
    
@Escoce ... that's the type I've labeled as "Texas style"... but it's not the "standard" method, really. – Catija Jan 11 at 17:28

This one's tricky, as there are some differences, but because different regions prefer one over the other, it's possible that some regions might conflate concepts under their preferred term. I thought I could easy answer the question, but a little bit of online research suggests it's pretty messy:

  • Betty (aka Brown Betty) : Originally used a butter/sugar/breadcrumb mixture, but I've seen it used for other streusel-like toppings. Often have both a bottom & top bready layer (fruit in the middle).
  • Buckle : Batter on bottom. May have fruit on top, or fruit in the middle with a streusel top.
  • Cobbler : Originally topped with a crusts like a drop-biscuit, so it bakes up like a cobbled street. I've seen it used for batter and pie crust-like toppings.
  • Crisp : Streusel topping. Some say it must contain oats, others say it shouldn't.
  • Crumble : Streusel topping (whatever your oat rules say isn't a Crisp)
  • Grunt : Slow cooked on a stove top (or campfire dutch oven), covered so it makes funny noises as it cooks and the fruit bubbles up and steams the topping.
  • Slump : Some say it refers to how it behaves when you try to serve it, but others say you cook the fruit down first, then top with a biscuit dough.

Some other terms that I only heard of when looking up what other's people take on these are:

Every reference I've found says that grunts and slumps are the same thing (even though the descriptions of the dishes vary by source). Pandowdy and Betty are frequently connected to each other in a similar way.

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