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What is a Betty? Homespun Fruit Desserts from Crisps to Cobblers & More

If you have ever opened your Grandma’s recipe box…have you ever wondered what a Betty is? Vintage fruit desserts, like Betties, are being updated today though they still reflect the classic fruit dessert recipes of yesteryear. The recipes are easy to make and showcase the fruits in season as a wonderful dessert to serve friends and family at the end of a meal or as a treat with coffee or tea in the afternoon.

Come with me and explore the variety of these classic desserts. You may like to make one of these desserts with the fresh fruit of the season.


Pear Rhubarb Brown Betty

The unique characteristic of a Betty is that fruit is layered between or on top of small bread crumbs or cubes. Any type of bread including cinnamon raisin bread can be used. The dessert is made like a crisp but instead of a streusel topping, buttered bread crumbs are used.

Pears and rhubarb are combined in this home style comfort food dessert pictured above.


Old-Fashioned Apple Crisp


This baked fruit dessert, sometimes referred to as a crumble, has a crumbly streusel-like topping. The topping mixture is sprinkled over the fruit mixture before baking, and the topping melts slightly into the fruit as the dessert bakes. An all-time favorite is apple crisp, but, remember Streusel-Topped Peach Crisp is wonderful, as is Warm Pear Crisp.


Southern Berry Cobbler

Classic cobblers resemble a deep-dish fruit pie with a dense biscuit-like crust over the top and a fruit filling underneath. Some cobbler recipes feature the biscuit crust completely covering the top of the cobbler while with other recipes, the biscuit topping is dropped by spoonfuls, allowing some of the fruit to show.

Berries, peaches, pears and apples all are favorite fruits to use in cobbler desserts. Though the summer season is the time of year you will want to use fresh fruit in a cobbler, you can choose to make Easy Fruit Cobbler that calls for canned fruit filling, which simplifies the recipe. Also try Peaches & Cream Cobbler, or Peach & Rhubarb Swirl Cobbler.

Grunt or Slump

These are two names for fruit desserts similar to a cobbler except the dessert is cooked on top of the stove. In some part of the United States the dessert resembles a steamed pudding with berries. The term “grunt” is most common in the New England states.


A pandowdy is a variation of a cobbler in which the fruit is usually topped with a rolled sweet crust laid on top of the fruit. “Dowdying” refers to pushing the crust down into the fruit before serving, giving it a plain or “dowdy” appearance. Some pandowdy recipes put the crust on the bottom and then invert the dessert to serve it. Try Apple Pear Pandowdy for a sweet & tart twist.


Streusel Blueberry Coffee Cake

This dessert features a cake batter that is poured into a single layer 8x8-inch or 9x9-inch baking pan. Berries are added and “sink” into the batter during baking. When the cake is baked, it has a “buckled” appearance. Sometimes the top of the cake is covered with a streusel to disguise the uneven appearance. Coffee cakes that are made with a streusel topping, such as the one pictured above, are the same thing as a Buckle. 


This simple and summery fruit dessert is made of fresh fruit, such as berries, and layered with whipped cream.

Summer is the perfect time to make one of these vintage desserts. Capture the flavors of the season with these nostalgic recipes. Once you have mastered these desserts…experiment and combine other fruits or ingredients, and make it your own recipe, which will forever be a family treasure.


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