Peachie keen

Slumps are close cousins to crumbles, buckles and cobblers but they're made on the stove top and not in the oven. (Chicago Tribune)

Making summer cobbler can be simple. When cooked on the stove it's called "slump." It's the lazy cook's version of cobbler because who has time to make cobbler? But with all the local fresh fruit around, summer is the best time for slump.

It began with the Girl Scouts. My love of slump. Of course, back then I didn't know it was slump. But when our troop leader, Mrs. Bailey, showed us how to mix up a dough (from Bisquick, of course) and drop it by tablespoons over bubbling canned apricots in the cast-iron Dutch oven perched precariously over a wood fire, I was fascinated. It seemed so simple.

Today, I still make it, but on the stove.

"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," wrote Alan Davidson 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 varied 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 the 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," wrote Schreiber and Richardson. If the fruit is ripe, just a light addition of sugar, brown or white, 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, cinnamon. Or perhaps a drop of orange liqueur — something one Girl Scout never dreamed of.

"Slump: A culinary term immortalized by Louisa May Alcott, author of 'Little Women,' who gave to her home in Concord, Mass., the name Apple Slump and recorded a recipe for the dish."

— Alan Davidson in "The Oxford Companion to Food"

Stone-fruit slump

Prep: 30 minutes
Stand: 15 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
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."