Crisps, crumbles and cobblers have a lot in common. For instance:
- They are all best served warm.
- All contain fruit that is mixed with sugar and often thickened with flour, cornstarch or tapioca.
- They are often served with ice cream or whipped cream on the side.
- All are popular simple summer desserts that use readily available fruit. They’re also typically great to bake on a brick on the barbecue.
- As delicious rustic desserts, they are generally served right from the baking dish or pan.
So what makes them different from one another? We have a set of working definitions we use with an Alberta kitchen in mind, though different countries and regions may use different names or recipe criteria.
Cobbler: A fruit dessert made with a top crust of pie dough or biscuit dough but no bottom crust.
Crisp/crumble: In Alberta, the terms are mostly interchangeable. Both refer to fruit desserts similar to cobbler but made with a brown sugar streusel topping sometimes containing old-fashioned rolled oats. The crisp/crumble is then baked until browned and crisp, as the name suggests.
Brown Betty: A variant on the crisp, Brown Betties are made with alternating layers of fruit with spices and buttered crumbs.
Because there are so many variations on recipes for crisps, crumbles, cobblers and Brown Betties, and because one region’s crisp is another region’s cobbler, don’t judge the recipe by name alone. If you want a biscuit-topped cobbler, look for the biscuit topping in the recipe instead of solely relying on the name.