The Life of Pies

The following is an article from the book Uncle John’s Perpetually Pleasing Bathroom Reader.

There are scores of delicious variations of cooked fillings and pastry out there— both sweet and savory. (Warning: This might make you hungry.)

PIE: A baking dish is lined with a pastry crust that bakes up crispy or flaky. On top of that goes a sweetened fruit filling, a savory meat filling, or, once it’s cooled, a cream or custard filling. Sometimes it’s topped with another layer of crust, and sometimes it isn’t.

COBBLER: A pie without a bottom crust. Instead, sweetened (and often spiced) fruit is placed in a deep dish and topped with large lumps of sweetened biscuit dough. The bottom of the dough sinks into the fruit and absorbs the juices. When baked, the lumps of biscuit dough puff up and can resemble a cobblestone street, which may be how the dish got its name. (Another theory: The pies were originally made in wooden bowls called cobelers.)

(Pandowdy image credit: Flickr user Emily Carlin)

PANDOWDY: Similar to a cobbler, except the lumps of biscuit dough are flattened before they’re placed on top of the fruit. Pandowdys are generally baked in a skillet.

GRUNT: The grunt is assembled like a cobbler but cooked on the stove. Dollops of dumpling batter are placed over the fruit as it simmers in a pot. Then the pot is covered and allowed to cook until the dumplings have steamed to perfection. The dish is said to get its name from the noise the dumplings make when they’re cooking. (They’re called “grunts” in Massachusetts, but in other parts of New England, they’re called “slumps.”)

BIRD’S-NEST PUDDING: A pie consisting of apples that have been peeled and cored, but not sliced. Sugar or brown sugar is poured into the center of each apple; then batter is poured over the apples. When baked, the batter-covered apples look kind of like birds’ nests, giving the dish its name.

BUCKLE: The bottom layer of this dish is made with cake batter, not a pastry crust. Fruit is then placed on top of the batter or even mixed in with it. Then it’s topped with a crumble mixture and baked.

(Cherry crisp image credit: Flickr user Chris Freeland)

CRISP: Like a buckle, it’s fruit topped with a crumbly concoction and baked. The difference:There’s no cake batter on the bottom, and the top is usually made with rolled oats.

BROWN BETTY: The betty dates to colonial America and used whatever fruit was in season; today, apples are typically used. Brown sugar (not white) is used, and layers of buttered breadcrumbs and fruit are lined in the pan in alternating layers.

(Clafoutis image credit: fugzu)

CLAFOUTIS: A simple centuries-old French peasant dish. Fruit (traditionally black cherries, unpitted) is topped with crêpe batter, which is like pancake batter, but eggier. The result: a spongy dessert, similar to bread pudding. Why leave pits in the cherries? Because, say the French, when baked they give the cherries extra flavor.

SONKER: North Carolina’s take on the cobbler, this is a soupy deep-dished dessert made in a large square baking pan traditionally called a bread pan. The pan is filled with fruit (peaches, strawberries, or cherries), then topped with a pastry crust and baked. Some purists insist that true sonkers are made with sweet potatoes, not fruit.

LAZY SONKER: A sonker topped with batter instead of pastry crust (to save the cook the trouble of rolling out the crust).

(Cornish pasty image credit: David Johnson)

PASTY: This one’s usually savory, not sweet. A circle of pie crust is filled with beef, venison, lamb, or fish, along with potatoes, rutabaga, and other vegetables; then the crust is folded over onto itself, creating a half circle. After it’s crimped shut and pierced with vent holes, the pasty is baked in the oven. The best-known pasties come from Cornwall, in southwest England.

TIDDY OGGY: Another Cornish dish. It’s a steak pasty, but without the steak and with an extra serving of potato (“ tiddy”) instead.

BRIDIE: A Scottish pasty made with minced steak, butter, and (sometimes) onions, but leaving out the potatoes and vegetables found in Cornish pasties.

SAMOSA: The Samosa hails from South Asia and consists of a pastry dough filled with boiled potato, onion, green peas, and spices. The dough is folded around the filling to make a triangle shape, then the samosa is fried in oil and served hot with chutney.


The article above is reprinted with permission from Uncle John’s Perpetually Pleasing Bathroom Reader. The 26th annual edition of Uncle John’s wildly successful series is all-new and jam-packed with the BRI’s patented mix of fun and information.

Since 1988, the Bathroom Reader Institute had published a series of popular books containing irresistible bits of trivia and obscure yet fascinating facts. If you like Neatorama, you'll love the Bathroom Reader Institute's books - go ahead and check 'em out!

We dish up more neat food posts at the Neatolicious blog

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