This Gingerbread Cobbler with Apples and Pears is such a lovely seasonal dessert, one that I learned to make almost 20 years ago when I was taking cooking classes at a culinary school in Colorado. Many of the recipes we made in class were good, but this one really stood out as exceptional: a layer of sweet apples and pears infused with warm spices and brandy topped with tender biscuits bursting with the comforting flavors of gingerbread. SO cozy and homey and yet, just a bit sophisticated. Served warm with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream, this cobbler is autumn dessert perfection.
What Is a Cobbler?
A cobbler is very old-fashioned dessert, dating back to the 1800s. As we define it today is essentially a dessert with a fruit base (it could be any kind of fruit) that is baked with a layer of biscuits or cake on top. This differs from a crisp or crumble which also has a fruit base but has a crisp, granola-like topping made with flour, butter, oats and sometimes nuts.
The key ingredients in this Gingerbread Cobbler with Apples and Pears are a celebration of fall in so many ways:
- A mixture of apples and pears. I love the way the textures and flavors of these two fall fruits come together in this dessert, sort of like an apple-pear pie filling.
- Plenty of warm spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves). Bringing their quintessential fall coziness to this dish.
- Brandy. The small amount of brandy called for here really brings a subtle sophistication to the fruit filling. I've given you the option to substitute more cider for the brandy if you would rather omit it, but it really does contribute a welcome and complex sweetness.
- Apple cider. Cider, brandy and butter (and a little cornstarch for thickening) form the liquid base of the filling and the combination of the three is magical.
- A little molasses. The combination of warm spices and molasses is what gives the biscuits that classic gingerbread flavor.
- Buttermilk. Acidic buttermilk makes fabulously light and tender biscuits that are the perfect companion to the warm, rich filling.
I learned a thing or two about cobblers this past summer when I was developing my recipe for Cardamom Peach Cobbler that are worth repeating here as they will ensure a top notch Gingerbread Cobbler with Apples and Pears every time:
- Bake the fruit by itself before adding the biscuits. I learned this trick from the good people at America’s Test Kitchen. The apple and pear filling will benefit from a longer cook time than the biscuits. This also means that the biscuits are going on top of a hot filling which helps them from becoming gummy on the bottom. Win-win!
- Keep the ingredients for the biscuit dough and the dough itself COLD. This is the secret to tender, flaky biscuits. Much like pie dough, biscuits are made by cutting cold butter into the dry ingredients. This helps create that flaky layered effect we are looking for in a biscuit.
- Don’t overwork the dough. All it needs is 8-10 pulses in the food processor to cut in the butter and then a quick mix with a fork and your fingers until the dough just comes together. Done!
Pies are a wonderful thing at this time of year, but if you are looking for a seasonal fruit dessert that's little different, something rustic, cozy and SO satisfying, give this Gingerbread Cobbler with Apples and Pears a try. And don't forget the ice cream!
Gingerbread Cobbler with Apples and Pears
For the Filling:
- 5-6 Granny Smith apples peeled, cored and sliced (about 2 pounds)
- 4 large Bartlett pears peeled, cored and cubed (about 2 pounds)
- ¾ cup light brown sugar packed
- ¼ teaspoon fine salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 4 tablespooons unsalted butter
- ½ cup apple cider
- 3 tablespoons brandy or substitute extra apple cider
- 1 tablesoon cornstarch
For the Gingerbread Biscuit Topping:
- 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter cut into ½ inch cubes
- 1 ½ cups all-pupose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon fine salt
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- ¾ cup buttermilk
- Turbinado sugar for sprinkling
- Combine cider and butter in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. In the meantime, stir conrnstarch and brandy together in a small bowl until the mixture is smooth. Pour brandy mixture into cider mixture and whisk until thick and bubbly, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and pour over the fruit, stirring to combine.
- Pour the filling into a 9 x 13 glass baking dish. Transfer to the oven. Bake for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the Gingerbread Biscuit Topping: Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, ginger, cinnamon and cloves to the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. Scatter cubes of butter over the top. Pulse until the mixture resembles wet sand with a few pea-sized pieces of butter, about 8-10 pulses. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Stir molasses and buttermilk together in a liquid measuring cup or small bowl and drizzle over the butter and flour mixture. Mix together using a fork and/or your fingers until a dough forms (be careful not to overmix).
- Once the baking dish is out of the oven, stir the fruit and use an ice cream scoop or large spoon to drop 8-10 equal-sized mounds of dough on top of the hot fruit mixture. Sprinkle the dough mounds wth turbinado sugar and return to the oven. Bake until the filling is bubbly and biscuits are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.