Is There Any Difference Between A Cobbler And A Crisp?

Cobblers and crisps are two seemingly synonymous pastries, consisting of baked fruit fillings and gooey interiors that practically beg for a scoop of ice cream. Add a third option — the crumble — to the mix of pie's cousins, and you'll discover an array of harmonious fruit pastries.

But are cobblers and crisps really that interchangeable?

The fillings of both pastries would answer a resounding yes. While you can swap in various star flavors — think, summer strawberries versus farm-picked apples — cobbler and crisp recipes across the board call for similar ingredients and baking processes. Compare this peach cobbler recipe with that of this peach crisp for proof; give or take a few choice ingredients, these recipes both rely on fillings of peaches, flour, and sugar, baked in the oven for about fifty minutes. They're best served warm and perhaps finished with whipped cream.

Yet while the desserts seem similar enough, one telltale trademark can indicate if your cobbler is actually a crisp, or vice versa. To get to the truth of your pastry's name, it all comes down to the oats.

The difference is in the topping

Whole oats tend to top a crisp in a streusel-like finish, per The Kitchn. Meanwhile, a biscuit or dough closes off a cobbler, not entirely unlike a pie — but not quite the same either, thanks to its lack of bottom crust and deconstructed topping.

As such, a cobbler leaves more room for creativity; the pastry concludes with a topping of biscuits, dough, or even cake batter plopped over the filling, according to Food & Wine. One of the more common toppings, biscuits typically call for a separate recipe that relies on some combination of buttermilk, butter, or heavy cream. Biscuits are then shaped and arranged over the filling, via Bon Appetit.

For a crisp, an oat topping is the only choice. Combine oats with butter, flour, and sugar for the ultimate finish, per The Kitchn.

This finish not only differentiates a crisp from a cobbler but also explains the names. Biscuits splayed over fruit create the effect of a cobbled road, while the oat finish of a crisp crisps up in the oven, adding texture and flavor to the standard filling.

So whether you're in favor of a cobbler or a crisp, both pastries have infinite possibilities — neither limited to only the sweet. For innovative eaters, give savory a go with a duck confit cobbler. While non-traditional, this recipe does indeed fall under the cobbler — not crisp — heading; you don't have to top your dinner with oats, though a biscuit is a must.