Food & Drink

Slump: a lazy cook's version of cobbler

Slump made with cherries is one of many variations on the basic recipe. The main difference between slump and  cobbler is that rather than being baked, slump is cooked on the stove, and the batter is steamed into dumplings.
Slump made with cherries is one of many variations on the basic recipe. The main difference between slump and cobbler is that rather than being baked, slump is cooked on the stove, and the batter is steamed into dumplings. MCT

Slump is the lazy cook's version of cobbler. And who has time to make cobbler? Or pie, for that matter? With all the local fresh fruit around, summer is the best time for slump.

"This is a perfect dessert to make on a hot day, as you will not need to turn on your oven," Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson wrote in Rustic Fruit Desserts: Crumbles, Buckles, Cobblers, Pandowdies, and More.

Some say the word slump comes from the way the dumplings slowly spread over the fruit as they cook. Or maybe not: "The reason for the name is thought to be that the preparation has no recognizable form and slumps on the plate," Alan Davidson wrote in The Oxford Companion to Food.

The dish appears to have originated in New England, where early colonists (without brick ovens) would prepare it in hanging pots over a fire. A slump also goes by the name grunt (because of the sound the bubbling fruit makes?). We'll stick to slump, thanks.

Even though the dessert sounds simple, it can be made in many ways. The choice of fruit can depend on the season or on supermarket bargains. Stone fruits such as peaches, apricots, cherries or plums work well. Berries, with all of their juicy goodness, are great. Mix them up according to your whim. In the fall, apples and pears can do slump duty.

"The amount of sugar needed in the fruit filling will vary, depending on the sweetness of the fruit," Schreiber and Richardson wrote. If the fruit is ripe, just a light addition of brown or white sugar is needed. For juicier fruits, a toss with cornstarch will help thicken the mixture.

As for the dumplings, you can keep them simple, just flour with baking powder, salt and butter, or you can try half whole-wheat pastry flour, or add a touch of spice with nutmeg and/or cinnamon. Some cooks use cardamom.

Cook the slump in a pot with a tight-fitting lid, so the dumplings steam through, according to author Nancy Baggett on Eatingwell.com: "The method results in very light, puffy steamed dumplings on top rather than the crisp, browned biscuit dough that typically adorns a cobbler."

For a fancy slump, serve it with whipped cream flavored with vanilla, nutmeg or cinnamon. Or perhaps a drop of orange liqueur.

RECIPE

Stone-fruit slump

4½ pounds mixed nectarines and peaches, fresh or frozen, halved and pitted

¾ to 1 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

½ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Dumplings:

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup unsifted cake flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground cardamom

1 stick (½ cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½ -inch cubes

1 cup cold buttermilk

Slice fruit over a large bowl to collect all the juices. Combine sugar, cornstarch and salt together in a small bowl; add to fruit. Toss to coat. Gently stir in the lemon juice. Pour fruit and juices into a 10- to 12-inch non-reactive deep skillet or Dutch oven with a tight lid. Let stand 15 minutes. Heat the fruit to a low simmer over medium-low heat, gently stirring occasionally to prevent juice from sticking to bottom of pan. Simmer until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

For the dumplings, whisk together flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cardamom in a bowl. Add butter; toss until evenly coated. Cut in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until it's the size of peas. Add buttermilk; stir just until mixture comes together and forms a slightly wet dough.

Place dough in 8 portions over fruit, distributing dumplings evenly. Heat fruit to a gentle simmer over low heat.Cover with a tight-fitting lid; simmer until dumplings are puffy and cooked through, 25 minutes. Remove cover; let cool 15 minutes before serving.

Makes 8 servings.

Adapted from Rustic Fruit Desserts by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson, who write, "Sadly, slumps do not keep well. Eat this one immediately."

Nutrition information per serving: 390 calories, 13 g. fat, 32 mg. cholesterol, 67 g. carbohydrates, 6 g. protein, 449 mg. sodium, 4 g. fiber

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