Cobbler is a traditional baked dessert that is enjoyed in households throughout the USA and Britain. It is typically made with a fruit filling and a golden brown biscuit topping (known as dumplings or scones in the UK). A childhood favourite for many people, it has a rustic appearance and is associated with comforting home-cooked food.
Most cobblers are made with sweet fruit fillings like cherry or peach, with the bottom of the biscuit shell soaking up all those delicious juices, while the top stays firm. They are usually served warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
History of cobblers
Cobblers are thought to have evolved from British suet puddings, which are sweet or savoury puddings made with flour and suet, the most famous example being the traditional Christmas pudding. When British colonists began settling in the USA, they made improvised versions of their favourite dish using whatever ingredients they had to hand, resulting in the cobbler and several regional variations, including Grunts, Slump, Pandowdy, Sonker and Brown Betty.
Like their suet ancestors, the original cobblers could also be savoury, and meaty stews were just as likely to be given a cobbler topping as their sweet counterparts. Sweet cobblers gradually grew in popularity, however, and by the late 19th century cobblers were known predominantly as a dessert item. There are still some savoury cobblers today, but the dessert version is far more common.
How to make a cobbler
There are as many types of cobbler as there are different combinations of fruit, but they are all made according to the same basic template. Make the filling, make the topping, then bake - it’s really as simple as that. Follow our simple guidelines for each stage for perfect cobblers every time, whatever you decide to put in them.
Making the fruit filling
You can make a cobbler from any type of fruit. Use a single type, or experiment with different combinations of your favourites. Frozen fruit is also fine, but make sure it is properly thawed before you use it. You’ll need enough to fill the bottom of your baking dish with a generous layer of fruit, which will be roughly 6 cups of chopped fruit for an average-sized dish.
Add a pinch of cornstarch to thicken the fruit juices into a silky sauce, and a little sugar to sweeten it. How much sugar you use will depend on the type of fruit you have chosen for your filling. Typically tart fruit like gooseberry or rhubarb will require more than sweeter fruits like strawberries or raspberries. Another option is to balance a tart fruit with a sweeter one - raspberry and rhubarb are a popular combination, for example.
How to make cobbler topping
The ideal cobbler topping should be light and fluffy underneath, to soak up all those juices, but firm and golden on the top. You can use your own favourite biscuit or scone recipe, but if you don’t have one, we strongly recommend whipping up a batch of extra-luxurious cream biscuits.
To make cream biscuits, simply combine 2 cups of flour, 2 ½ teaspoons of sugar, 2 teaspoons of baking powder and ¾ teaspoon of salt in a bowl, then mix in 1 ½ cups of heavy cream until you have a rough batter.
Once you have made your batter, place it on top of your filling in several scoops or large spoonfuls. Don’t worry about covering all of the filling like you would with a pie - one of the nicest things about cobblers is the way the filling bubbles up around the biscuit topping. If you have an ice cream scoop or cookie scoop, these will do the job very well.
Baking and serving cobbler
Cobblers need cooking for a fairly long time, as the fruit juices need to boil in order to thicken into a sauce. Approximately 45 - 55 minutes should do it, but make sure those biscuits are golden brown with the sauce bubbling up around them before you remove your dish from the oven. Serve warm, with a scoop or two of good vanilla ice cream.
Which fruit is best?
You can make a cobbler with any of your favourite fruits, but popular choices include berries like strawberry, raspberry, blueberry and blackberry, orchard fruits like apples and pears, and stone fruit like peaches, plums, cherries and apricots. Using firmer fruit like cherries or apples will prevent your topping from going mushy, as it will begin cooking before the fruits release their juices. This doesn’t mean you can’t use softer fruits, but try to team them up with a firmer fruit if you do.
Cobbler vs. pie
Cobbler is sometimes described as a kind of fruit pie, but strictly speaking, the two are different. Pies are made from pastry, rather than biscuit batter, and they are fully encased, with a crust at the top and the bottom, while cobblers typically only have a topping. Cobblers are generally easier to make, and unlike pies they don’t require specialist baking tins.
Cobbler vs. crisp
The cobbler has plenty in common with the crisp - both are made from a fruity filling with a baked topping, and like the cobbler, the crisp does not usually have a bottom layer of crust. The difference is in the type of topping, with crisps using a mix of butter, flour and sugar, which is rubbed between the fingers for a breadcrumb-like consistency, and baked in the oven until golden brown and crunchy. The topping for a crisp cooks much more quickly than a cobbler, so soft, overripe fruits are the perfect choice for filling.
Cobbler vs. crumble
A crumble is almost identical to a crisp, and there is much debate as to how the two actually differ. Crumble topping is essentially the same as crisp, but can sometimes have a softer, sandier texture, and may also include oats and spices. Many people use the terms ‘crisp’ and ‘crumble’ interchangeably, and in the UK, ‘crumble’ is likely to be used to describe both, to avoid confusion with potato chips.
If you’ve got a craving for cobbler, you have to try one of these delicious recipes.
This quick and easy peach cobbler uses ready-made biscuit dough and canned peaches, and cooks in just 20 minutes. Perfect for when you just can’t wait for your cobbler fix and the ideal accompaniment to oozy vanilla ice cream.
This vibrant berry cobbler from Sally’s Baking Addiction is sweet, summery and delicious, and when your favourite berries are out of season, it works just as well with frozen ones. The best berries to use are blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries.
Apple pomegranate cobbler
This unusual and elegant offering from Food and Wine pairs mellow apples with sweet-tart pomegranate for a more grown-up take on the classic cobbler. The pomegranate reduction adds to the depth of flavour, while a mix of green apples provides an added boost.
Strawberry buttermilk cobbler
Strawberries are the star of this seasonal treat from Food and Wine. Pair with California Pinot Grigio for a summer dessert to remember. The mixture of spelt and almond flours lightens the dough. Use the best quality and ripest strawberries you can find.