Cobbler refers to a variety of dishes, particularly in the United Kingdom and United States, consisting of a fruit or savoury filling poured into a large baking dish and covered with a batter, biscuit, or dumpling (in The United Kingdom) before being baked. Some cobbler recipes, especially in the American south, resemble a thick-crusted, deep-dish pie with both a top and bottom crust.
Cobblers originated in the British American colonies. English settlers were unable to make traditional suet puddings due to lack of suitable ingredients and cooking equipment, so instead covered a stewed filling with a layer of uncooked plain biscuits or dumplings, fitted together. The origin of the name cobbler, recorded from 1859, is uncertain: it may be related to the archaic word cobeler, meaning "wooden bowl".
Grunts, pandowdy, and slumps are Canadian Maritimes and New England varieties of cobbler, typically cooked on the stovetop, or in an iron skillet or pan, with the dough on top in the shape of dumplings. They reportedly take their name from the grunting sound they make while cooking. Another name for the types of biscuits/dumplings used are called dough-boys. Dough-boys are used in stews and cobblers alike.
In the United States, additional varieties of cobbler include the apple pan dowdy (an apple cobbler whose crust has been broken and perhaps stirred back into the filling), the Betty, the buckle (made with yellow batter (like cake batter), with the filling mixed in with the batter), the dump (or dump cake), the grump, the slump, and the sonker. The sonker is unique to North Carolina: it is a deep-dish version of the American cobbler.
In the Deep South, cobblers most commonly come in single fruit varieties and are named as such, such as blackberry, blueberry, and peach cobbler. The Deep South tradition also gives the option of topping the fruit cobbler with a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream. Savoury cobblers are less common in the region; for example, tomato cobbler, which may include onion and a biscuit topping that may include cheese or cornmeal, is one savoury variant that also resembles Southern tomato pie.
The American variant known as the Betty or brown Betty dates from native times. In 1864, in the Yale Literary Magazine, it appeared with "brown" in lower case, thus making "Betty" the proper name. In 1890, however, a recipe was published in Practical Sanitary and Economic Cooking Adapted to Persons of Moderate and Small Means with the word "Brown" capitalised, making "Brown Betty" the proper name.
Brown Betties are made with breadcrumbs (or bread pieces, or graham cracker crumbs), and fruit, usually diced apples, in alternating layers. They are baked covered and have a consistency like bread pudding.
In the UK and British Commonwealth, the scone-topped cobbler predominates, and is found in both sweet and savoury versions. Common sweet fillings include apple, blackberry, and peach. Savoury versions, such as beef, lamb, or mutton, consist of a casserole filling, sometimes with a simple ring of cobbles around the edge, rather than a complete layer, to aid cooking of the meat. Cheese or herb scones may also be used as a savoury topping.
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