Plum crisp is a baked dessert with fruit on the bottom and a crumbly, crunchy crust on top. As with other flavors of crisp such as apple or peach, fresh fruit rather than canned or frozen is typically used. The origin of crisp is often attributed to English settlers in America who made the dish as a way of using up seasonal fruit. Apple, peach or plum crisp is said to have been served as a meal or breakfast in American Colonial times before becoming a popular dessert by the late 19th century. Crisp is closely related to other baked fruit desserts such as Betty, pandowdy, buckle and cobbler.
Cinnamon, vanilla and lemon juice may be added to fresh sliced plums spread in the bottom of a shallow baking dish for plum crisp. Some bakers like to use more than one fruit, such as by making a peach and plum crisp. Melted butter may be added to oats and brown sugar to form the top crust. Pressing this streusel mixture down onto the fruit will make a denser, crispier crust as the fruit bubbles during baking and the topping becomes golden brown. Plum crisp can be delicious served warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream although it may also be eaten cold.
Unlike fruit crisps which have a cookie-like topping, cobbler usually has a biscuit dough crust. Some bakers prefer to use a crumblier, sweeter cake batter for cobbler that may be made with any type of fruit including plums or berries. Buckle is often made with berries, especially blueberries, but almost any type of fruit may be used. What often makes buckle much different than a crisp such as a plum crisp is that cake batter is usually placed on the bottom of the pan and it may form other layers around the fruit as well. Yet, both desserts often share a streusel top crust made with flour, oats and brown sugar.
Some bakers may use bread or cookie crumbs and/or finely chopped nuts to top crisp, buckle or other baked fruit dessert. Since the main concept of this kind of dessert is to use up ingredients that are on hand before they spoil, the lines of which fruits, flavorings and toppings belong on crisp, buckle, pandowdy or Betty tend to become blurred as each baker may vary the recipe depending on what items he or she has available. Generally though, pandowdy has a broken top crust that sinks right down into the fruit filling, while the top of a crisp tends to be fairly straight and golden brown. Betty desserts are typically made with apples and often feature layers of crumbs in between the fruit.