Summer fruit desserts are my favorite part of the season. After months of snow and bare farmers’ market stalls, the wealth of fresh stone fruit and berries is overwhelming.
Once you’ve eaten your fill out of hand, what should you bake with them? Berries, peaches, and beyond are so perfect in their own right that I like to stick with unfussy, simple summer fruit desserts. There’s an entire genre of baking to fill this space, which I’ll call rustic summer fruit baking: slumps, cobblers, buckles, grunts, and crisps.
Funny-sounding names aside, what’s the difference between these summer fruit desserts? Not a whole lot. The differences are mostly regional: the same summer fruit dessert might be called a sonker in North Carolina or a cobbler in Massachusetts. A slump and a grunt are the same thing, as are a crumble and a crisp.
These recipes all share a basic formula: fruit combined with some sort of sweet batter or streusel or crumble topping. Slight variations in technique and ingredients yield different results, but they all taste better with a dollop of whipped cream!
Today we’ll step through each one to help you decide which one to try and to inspire you to explore new summer baking projects!
A cobbler is a biscuit-topped fruit dessert baked in the oven; alternatively, the fruit can be topped with cake batter. The fruit filling can be made with anything from blueberries to peaches.
Typically a cobbler is made in a deep dish, making it a perfect way to use up a lot of fruit that’s on the edge of too ripe. Start out with a classic: our Easy Fruit Cobbler. Baking gluten-free? This Almond Flour Berry Cobbler is easy to adapt using gluten-free flour, and the almond meal has a wonderful nuttiness to balance out the sweetness of the berry filling.
2. Slump or Grunt
Think of the slump (also called a grunt) as a cobbler’s more rumpled cousin: a fruit base with a sweet biscuit or dumpling topping. The difference between it and a cobbler is that a slump (or grunt) is baked in a covered skillet on the stove top. As the fruit bubbles and softens, the sweet dumpling topping “slumps” down, giving the dessert its name. Some say the fruit makes a grunting noise as it stews, hence the alternate name.
This is a perfect hot-weather recipe if you don’t want to turn on your oven. It takes a mere 15 minutes to cook, so you can have dessert ready in the time it takes to sip your summer gin and tonic.
Try our recipe for Cape Cod Blueberry Grunt: a sweet blueberry filling topped with warm buttermilk biscuits.
A buckle is a sweet, light single-layer cake with fruit baked into the batter and a streusel topping. The crumbly topping is said to look “buckled,” which is how the dessert gets its name. Blueberry buckle is one of the most classic recipes, but you can try it with any kind of fruit.
Buckle down! Our Peachberry Buckle is an easy classic to master. Layers of peaches and blueberries moisten the light cake batter and the streusel topping turns it into an instant crowd-pleaser. For a different twist, try this Buttermilk Blueberry Buckle, which has a slight tang from the dairy and a streusel spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.
One of my favorite year-round fruit recipes, a crisp consists of a fruit filling with a sweet crumb topping. The topping is often made with oats, but can use graham crackers, flour, and nuts instead. In England and other countries, you’ll see a crisp referred to as a crumble. While they’re bubbling and hot, top them with a cold scoop of vanilla ice cream. If you’re lucky enough to have leftovers, a bowl of cold berry crisp with a crunchy cinnamon-streusel topping is a superior summer breakfast idea.
I love our Summer Fruit Crisp recipe, which features a classic oat and chopped nut topping. If you have a slew of berries on hand, try this Gluten-Free Berry Crisp, which has a very simple flour/butter/sugar topping. If you have kids around who like to bake, this is an excellent recipe to make with them. It’s simple and intentionally rustic, so they can get their hands floury without worrying about finesse.
Go forth and bake!
The best part of these stunningly simple desserts? There are endless options to choose from! I’ve barely scratched the surface. We didn’t discuss the brown betty (fruit layered with buttered crumbs) or the pandowdy (a deep-dish fruit filling sweetened with molasses or brown sugar) or boy bait (a buttery version of the buckle with a truly fantastic name).
But I’d encourage you to browse these recipes and think of them as a set of building blocks. Each recipe has a filling and/or topping and batter. Play around with them! Pair any fruits you like. Try a crisp filling with a cobbler topping, or use the streusel from a buckle recipe to sweeten the top of your next slump. There’s no wrong way to make these summer fruit desserts.
If you come up with a fantastic combination, tell us in the comments! Even better, invent a new name for your recipe to rival “slump” or” “grunt” and share it with us. Happy baking!