What's the Difference Between a Cobbler, Crumble, and Crisp?

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When it comes to dessert — especially those involving fresh fruit and pastry! — we're usually too busy spooning up another bite to care what it's called. But these can be confusing, right? What's a cobbler, exactly? Is a crisp by any other name a crumble?

Do you need a refresher on your fruit desserts? Get straight on this family of summer goodies; everything you need to know is right here.

What Cobblers, Crumbles & Crisps Have in Common

Cobblers, crumbles, and crisps are all baked desserts of fresh fruit topped with some kind of pastry. The fruit juices bubble up into the pastry as it bakes, forming little pockets of deliciousness and giving most of these desserts their signature pockmarked appearance.

While there is a lot of regional variation in how these desserts are named, here are their general descriptions and ingredients.

Cobblers

Cobblers have a biscuit topping on the fresh fruit. The biscuits are usually dropped onto the fruit in small rounds, giving it the appearance of a cobbled road and hence the name.

Cobblers can also be made with cake batter or cookie dough instead of biscuit and are equally tasty.

Crumbles and Crisps

Crumbles and crisps are very similar, with the name crumble originating from England. They both contain fresh fruit with a streusel-like topping that gets baked until the fruit is cooked.

The original difference between the two lay in the streusel topping: crisps would contain oats and crumbles would not. In an actual crisp, as in apple crisp or strawberry crisp, the oats in the topping crisp up as it bakes, hence the name. As time has gone by, though, the lines have blurred and the names crumble and crisp are now used interchangeably.

Although these rustic desserts aren't going to win any beauty contests, they're a great, easy way to showcase ripe fruit and serve a lot of people. In our opinion, the combination of warm summer fruit and pastry trumps all. Add a scoop of ice cream and we're in heaven.

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(Image credits: Emily Han; Anjali Prasertong; Faith Durand)