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OF CRISPS AND COBBLERS

When berries and stone fruits hit high season, our thoughts turn toward luscious desserts. Pie is fine, but give us an old-fashioned blueberry buckle or a warm peach crumble any day. Don't forget the vanilla ice cream, flowing like lava through summer's sweetened bounty. - But just what is a buckle and how is it different from a crumble, or a cobbler for that matter? Where does the crisp fit in? The slump, a close relative of the grunt, wins our hearts for the curious name, but also for the ease of preparation and its comfort-food goodness. - Then there's the brown betty, most often made with apples, but occasionally with rhubarb, cherries or peaches or a combination. - What they have in common, besides fruit and sugar, is a pastry component, be it crust, cake, biscuits, dumplings or a crumbled topping. And those colorful names, sure to get the family smiling. - In case you're ever on a game show, there is a classic English dessert called a fool. We've left it off our list because it's not a baked dessert but rather layers of fruit folded with sweetened whipped cream, something like a parfait. - Here is a guide to the fruity desserts of summer.

Betty: As in Apple Brown. A baked pudding with sweetened fruit and buttered bread crumbs on the top. Similar to bread pudding, made with bread cubes. It is often associated with autumn when apples are in season but can be made with summer fruits, too.

Crisp/crumble: A baked melange of sweetened fruit on the bottom and a crumbly topping of flour, oats, sugar and butter. The topping is crunchy after baking.

Slump/grunt: An Old English dessert made on the stove. A sweetened stew of fruit is dotted with dumplings, which steam under a cover. The names probably came from the sounds the bubbling and popping dessert made as it cooked.

Cobbler: Spoonfuls of biscuit dough are scattered over a deep baking dish of sweetened fruit. The slurpy fruit peeks between golden knots of dough when baked.

Pandowdy: A deep baking dish of sweetened fruit covered with a thick layer of dough, baked to golden. Almost looks like a large, rectangular pot pie before it's cut.

Buckle: A cake laced with fresh fruit, sometimes covered with a crumbly-sweet topping. Serve with whipped cream. Usually baked in a round or rectangular baking pan about 2 inches deep.

Yours for the baking

DESSERT

Spiced Blueberry Grunt

For filling:

4 cups fresh blueberries (from four 1/2-pint containers)

1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar

1/4 cup mild-flavored (light) molasses

1/4 cup water

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

For the dumplings:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

3 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

3/4 cup whole milk

Whipped cream, chilled whipping cream or vanilla ice cream preparation

Make the filling: Mix all ingredients in 12-inch-diameter skillet. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until berries soften and mixture thickens slightly, about 10 minutes.

- Meanwhile, prepare dumplings: Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in medium bowl to blend. Add butter and rub in with fingertips until mixture resembles fine meal. Add milk; stir just until blended and sticky dough forms.

- Drop batter by tablespoonfuls onto simmering berry mixture, placing close together. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover skillet and simmer until dumplings are firm and tester inserted into dumplings comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Scoop warm dessert into bowls.

- Top with whipped cream, whipping cream or ice cream.

Source: Bon Appetit, July 2006

DESSERT

Apricot Pandowdy

1 1/2 pound fresh apricots, quartered lengthwise and pitted

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 (10-inch) refrigerated pie dough (from a 15-ounce package), unrolled

1 tablespoon milk preparation

- Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees.

- Toss apricots with cornstarch and 1/2 cup sugar until coated.

- Heat butter in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides, then stir in apricot mixture. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, then immediately transfer to a 9-inch pie plate.

- Fold pie dough into quarters and trim 1 inch from rounded edge. Unfold (trimmed round should be 8 inches in diameter) and put on top of fruit. Brush pastry with milk and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon of sugar.

- Bake until apricot filling is bubbling and crust is golden, about 20 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 6.

Note: Can substitute peaches or pluots.

Source: Gourmet, June 2005

DESSERT

Blueberry and Nectarine Buckle

For the topping:

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

For the batter:

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon double-acting baking powder

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs

2 cups blueberries, picked over and rinsed

2 nectarines, pitted and cut into 1-inch wedges

Whipped cream or ice cream as an accompaniment

- Make the topping: In a small bowl blend together the butter, sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg until the mixture resembles coarse meal and chill the topping while making the batter.

- Make the batter: In a small bowl with an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar and beat in the vanilla. In a small bowl stir together the baking powder, flour and salt; beat the flour mixture into the butter mixture alternately with the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, and fold in the blueberries and nectarines.

- Spread the batter in a well-buttered 10- by 2-inch round cake pan or 2-quart baking pan, sprinkle the topping evenly over it and bake the buckle in the middle of a preheated 350-degree oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean and the topping is crisp and golden. Serve with whipped cream.

Source: The Gourmet Cookbook edited by Ruth Reichl (Conde Nast Publications, 2004)

DESSERT

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

For filling:

2 pounds strawberries, hulled and halved (6 cups)

1 1/2 pounds rhubarb stalks, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices (4 1/2 cups)

1 to 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar, depending on sweetness of strawberries

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon salt

For topping:

1 1/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, slightly softened

- Put a rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 425.

- To make the filling, gently stir together all ingredients in a large bowl. Spoon mixture into a shallow 3-quart baking dish.

- To make the topping, stir together oats, flour, brown sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Blend in butter with your fingertips until mixture forms small clumps.

- Assemble crumble by scattering topping evenly over filling. Bake until fruit is bubbling and topping is golden, 40 to 50 minutes. Cool slightly on a rack and serve warm.

Serves 8.

Source: The Gourmet Cookbook edited by Ruth Reichl (Conde Nast Publications, 2004)

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