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Apple Brown Betty, Apple Crisp and Apple Cobbler: What's the difference between these desserts?

As apples start to ripen cooks can try a variety of apple desserts from crisps, crumbles and cobblers. And there is a difference between them. Getty Images/Special to The Forum

Fall means ripening apples eventually giving way to warm and toasty apple desserts. But what is the difference between apple desserts like apple crisp, apple crumble, apple cobbler and so on?

Saturday, Oct. 5, is National Apple Betty day, making it a good time for a little Apple Dessert 101.

Apple Betty or Apple Brown Betty dates back to Colonial days. However, according to the Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, it was first mentioned in print in 1864.

A Brown Betty can be made with pears or berries, but is most frequently made with apples. Unlike other apple desserts, sweetened crumbs are placed in layers between the fruit and it is served with lemon sauce or whipped cream, which gives the dessert more of a pudding texture versus a pie filling. That's why Apple Brown Betty can also be called apple pudding. It was a favorite dessert during Ronald Reagan's time in the White House.

Apple Cobbler is a dessert where baked apples are topped with a crust made of biscuit dough. Apple cobblers come in a variety of styles, including the following:


Apple Slump is an apple cobbler that is flipped upside-down after coming out of the oven so the fruit that cooked at the bottom of the pan is now on top of biscuits and 'slumps' down into the dish.

Apple Grunt is an apple cobbler cooked on the stove.

Apple Pandowdy is an old recipe, first printed in a cookbook in 1886 , cobbler which uses broken pie crust instead of biscuit dough.

Apple Crisp is a relatively new apple dessert first mentioned in a 1924 cookbook. According to Canadian Living, "A crisp is a baked fruit dessert topped with a crisp and crunchy layer of ingredients. The topping may include a proportion of sugar, butter, oats, nuts, flour and a spice such as cinnamon, tossed together to gain a somewhat granular look. The dessert is baked just until the topping is crisp and golden."

Apple Crumble is synonymous with Apple Crisp in the U.K. and Australia, but in Canada and the U.S., it is a slightly different dish. Like an apple crisp, an apple crumble is a baked fruit dessert with a layer of topping. But unlike the crisp, the crumble topping rarely includes oats or nuts. Instead, a crumble's topping is more like streusel, made with flour, sugar and butter. According to Canadian Living, "The topping is generally more clumpy than a crisp topping, but not as clumpy as a cobbler topping."

The fact is most of these apple desserts are pretty close to one another in taste, texture and appearance. So whichever you choose, for heaven's sake just start picking and baking.

Other holidays this week

  • Monday, Sept. 30: Chewing Gum Day
  • Tuesday, Oct. 1: Fire Pup Day
  • Wednesday, Oct. 2: Name Your Car Day
  • Thursday, Oct. 3: Boyfriend Day
  • Friday, Oct. 4: Golf Lover's Day
  • Saturday, Oct. 5: Get Funky Day
  • Sunday, Oct. 6: German-American Day
Related Topics: FOOD
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