Anyone who is a fan of old-fashioned desserts will have heard of slumps. Although they might not have actually made one, they may know that a slump, a variation of a cobbler, is also related to a grunt. To understand the differences, it helps to know something about the origin of pastry desserts.
Early pastries, from the word “paste,” were dense and inedible doughs of flour, fat and liquid, sturdy enough to form into shapes and used as “pots” for cooking savory pies. In the 17th century, when sugar, butter and baking pans became available, cooks began making pies with thinner, edible crusts, which were turned upside down before serving.
Eventually fruit fillings, spooned out of the pan, replaced some of the savory meat mixtures, and biscuit or crumb toppings were used in place of pastry. These changes led the way to cobblers, crisps, grunts and slumps. Pandowdies, crumbs layered with fruit, were another variation. Grunts and slumps are versions of cobblers, named for the cobblestone look of the dough that dots the top.
Grunts have dumpling-like toppings, but instead of being baked, they are cooked on top of the stove. It is said that “grunt” refers to the sound of the bubbling fruit when the lid of the pot is lifted. If by any chance you have trouble keeping track of grunts, cobblers and slumps, open the oven door when the timer goes off and take a look. The biscuit topping comfortably slumped over the fruit says it all.
3 pints ripe blackberries
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups plus 1 tablespoon, all-purpose flour, divided
Grated rind from 1 lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons bourbon or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
2. Combine berries, 1/2 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon flour; toss gently. Add lemon rind and lemon juice, bourbon, cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 3 tablespoons butter; toss gently. Spoon fruit mixture into a greased 2-quart casserole dish.
3. Combine remaining flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Cut in remaining butter with a pastry blender or two knives until texture resembles coarse meal. Stir in buttermilk until mixture begins to hold together. Drop dough by large spoonfuls over top of berries.
4. Place dish on a rimmed baking sheet and bake 45 to 50 minutes, until topping is golden brown and berries are bubbly. Serves 6.
Recipe by Damon Lee Fowler.
Per serving: 450 calories, 13g fat, 30mg chol., 8g prot., 75g carbs., 9g fiber, 710mg sodium.
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Photo credit: Mark Boughton Photography; styling by Teresa Blackburn