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Buckles, Cobblers, Crumbles and Crisps


Ireland Hopping | Margaret M. Johnson

In my last column, I asked, “what’s your preference — a crumble, crisp, cobbler, or buckle — and offered some recipes for crisps and crumbles. This week, it’s cobblers and buckles, two other popular deep-dish fruit desserts also distinguished by their toppings. Cobblers, I’m told, originated with the Scotch-Irish (others say they have roots in Colonial America) and generally come with a biscuit or sweet pastry topping, while buckles start with a cake-like batter and put the fruit on top. In both cases, after the fruit is baked they appear with an uneven surface that looks “cobbled up” or “buckled.” I might get some disagreement from readers who call a cobbler a buckle or a buckle a cobbler, but I say, grab some vanilla ice cream, whipped or clotted cream, and pile it on to either of these easy-as-pie fruit desserts.

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Plums are the centerpiece of this colorful and delicious dessert.

8 tablespoons butter

1 cup self-rising flour

1 cup sugar

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

7 to 8 plums, halved and pitted

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Melt butter in a 9-inch round baking dish.

  2. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, sugar, milk and vanilla. Pour over butter; do not stir. Arrange plums, cut-side up, over batter; do not stir. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until fruit is tender and cake is browned.

  3. To serve, cut into slices and top with ice cream, whipped or clotted cream.




Another colorful two-fruit dish that makes an impressive end-of-summer dessert is this buckle made with both blackberries and raspberries. Add some blueberries if you wish!

2 cups blackberries

2 cups raspberries

1 cup sugar plus 1 teaspoon for sprinkling

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

3 tablespoons cold butter

1/3 cup buttermilk

  1. Preheat oven to 400° F.

  2. In a medium bowl, toss berries with 3/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup flour. Arrange berries on bottom of 9-inch square baking dish.

  3. In another medium bowl, combine remaining sugar, remaining flour and baking powder. With two forks, your fingers, or a pastry cutter, cut or work in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in buttermilk and mix gently until soft dough forms; gather and roll into a ball.

  4. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to a 9-inch square. Lay pastry over fruit and cut 4 to 6 slits on top. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sugar. Bake for 10 minutes, or until top is lightly browned; reduce oven temperature to 350° F and bake for 25 to 30 minutes longer, or until fruit is bubbling and crust is browned.

  5. To serve, cut through crust with a fork to form an irregular surface and then spoon into serving bowls or plates; serve with ice cream, whipped or clotted cream.




When it comes to versatility, this dessert has to be considered number one. You can use any combination of fruits and berries for the filling and just top them with scoops of biscuit dough!

For the filling

6 cups sliced fruit and berries

3/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 teaspoons cinnamon

For the cobbler

1 1/2 cups flour

3 tablespoons sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 ½ cups heavy (whipping) cream

1 tablespoon sparkling sugar

  1. Make filling. Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter the bottom of a 9-inch square baking dish.

In a medium bowl, toss fruit and berries with sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch, and cinnamon. Spoon into prepared pan.

  1. Make cobbler. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Stir in cream until blended (dough will be wet). With an ice cream scoop or large spoon, scoop 6 portions of dough onto top of fruit. Sprinkle with sparkling sugar.

  2. Put dish on a baking sheet (to catch drips) and bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until topping is brown and filling is bubbling. Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes. To serve, spoon fruit and biscuit topping into bowls or plates; serve with ice cream, whipped or clotted cream


Margaret Johnson’s “Recipes” page expands this year to “Ireland Hopping: Adventures in Food, Drink, and Travel.” For further details on her work, or to order a signed cookbook with FREE SHIPPING, visit