While other parts of the world have claimed credit for various desserts, there are two that have become ingrained in American culture: pie and cobbler. Though these desserts are very different from one another, many often have a hard time telling the two delicacies apart. So, what is the difference between pie and cobbler?
Pie is a dessert that is prepared by adding filling to a crust-lined pan and baking it to a gooey, warm crisp. While many people associate pie with dessert, the delicacy comes in various forms, which can be sweet or savory, because the pie filling can be a variety of different foods. In fact, meat pies -- which are often filled with beef, pork, poultry, potatoes, and other rich, hearty ingredients -- are a popular meal or snack in the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, South Africa and various other parts of the world. These meat pies have been traced back to the Ancient Egyptians and Romans.
However, in the U.S., sweet fruit pie has been a staple of American culture as far back as the colonial days. Essentially, pie's crowning glory is its crust, which came about as a result of American settlers needing a way to cook the sweet dessert without the ingredients spilling out into the oven. The crust usually encompasses the entire pie, although crust along the bottom and sides that contain the filling are enough to classify it as a pie rather than a cobbler or a tart. Popular fillings for fruit-based pies are apple, pumpkin, cherry, peach and lemon. Today, pie has continued to grow and evolve beyond fruit and meat, and is commonly made from other sweet foods such as chocolate, whipping cream and pecans.
A cobbler, while sharing some similarities with pie, is a fruity, homemade dessert prepared in a dish with a deep bottom and lined with a thick upper crust. The top crust is not blanketed over the filling like it is on pies, but is prepared by layering small pieces of dough that don't completely conceal the fruit inside. This is where the name cobbler comes from, as the crust of the dessert is "cobbled" together rather than spread over the filling. One of cobbler's prized features is that the dessert is always prepared based on the fruits available with every season, meaning that the dessert is focused on fresh, real ingredients each time it is prepared.
Cobbler became an American variation of the beloved pies that were so popular in early colonies. The amount of crust and how much of the filling it encompasses matters very little with cobbler; rather, it is the fact that the dish is most often prepared with the fruits from each season that make it so yummy, as it ensures that the dessert will be sweet, ripe and natural. Some of the most famous cobbler fillings that have persisted through the years are blackberry, cherry, blueberry, peach, strawberry, and -- true to American tradition -- apple.
At first glance, the most noticeable difference between pie and cobbler is the crust -- or lack thereof. Because pie is defined by a thin crust that encompasses the majority of the filling, it's often easy to tell it apart from cobbler, as cobbler's crust is often thick, clumpy and more spread out across the top of the filling. Cobbler may lack crust altogether, simply opting for breadcrumbs or another kind of grainy topping, which pie could not get away with. Pie is also almost always prepared in a circular dish, whereas cobbler can be baked in a pan that is any shape or size.
Another obvious difference between pie and cobbler is that pie has more flexibility when it comes to what its filling is made of. While pies can be savory or sweet, cobbler is almost exclusively filled with fruit and ingredients that evoke a sweet, sugary flavor. While pies sometimes serve the role of meals and can contain everything from apples to fish, cobbler is reserved to seasonal fruits and is almost exclusively served as a dessert. In addition, pie must almost always use flour or another thickening agent in its filling to ensure that its filling won't soak and ruin the bottom crust; for cobbler, this isn't necessary.
Historically, cobbler came long after pie did. While they both became popular in the Americas during a similar time period, pie has been around since ancient civilizations. Cobbler was created as a variation of pie by Dutch and English immigrants who settled in the New World.
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There are many factors that make these dishes so similar and easy to confuse.If you were to place a fruit pie and a cobbler side by side, the two dishes will likely appear almost identical, except for the shape and crust. When a pie is sweet and made with fruit, the two desserts share a similar makeup and flavor, as each can be filled with almost any kind of fruit.
Another glaring similarity between the two desserts is that both dishes are often made and served during fall or winter holidays, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, though they both are commonly served during the Fourth of July as well.What makes these two dishes most similar, however, is that each is easy to prepare and taste incredible.