A relic of a bygone era, buckles appear in books mostly as footnotes, a passing mention as an antiquated dessert with a funny name. For all the cobblers, crumbles, crisps, and pies out there, hardly anyone stops to consider making a slump, grunt, brown Betty, or our hero of the day, a buckle.
While everyone was staying home and stress-baking banana bread during the pandemic, it would have made much more sense to see a resurgence of fruit buckles. The dessert gets its name from its appearance, dimpled with fruit and streusel topping, like the wrinkled surface of a bridge about to give way. Given the way the world itself felt warped out of shape, distorted and liable to collapse any moment, the humble fruit buckle seems well suited to that unstable energy.
Thankfully, this construction is much more structurally sound than it may look. Though there’s a high ratio of fruit to batter, it holds up admirably under pressure, including transportation, advanced prep, and indelicate slicing. In fact, it’s much more stable than our beloved pumpkin pie.
This holiday season, I’m bringing the buckle back. Dressed in a spicy cloak of ginger and warm brown sugar, winter’s finest crimson cranberries sparkle from within, dusted with a heavy snow of confectioner’s sugar over sweet cinnamon crumbs. Blueberry buckles may be the best known of the bunch, but there’s no reason why we can’t switch gears with the seasons here. Emblematic of the fleeting nature of the holidays, cranberries will be gone before you know it, so you had better get your fill of these tart little jewels while they’re still around.
Plan ahead and toss a bag or two of fresh cranberries in the freezer to extend the joy. You can toss them right into the batter without thawing to speed right through to the good part: eating. Enjoy warm, at room temperature, or even chilled. My favorite approach is to enjoy it lightly toasted in the oven or air fryer, individually crisped slices with extra crunchy edges, and a big scoop of ice cream slowly melting on top.
Just because it buckles doesn’t mean it will break. It’s stronger than it looks, just like all of us.