Welcome fall with this hot, bubbling, old-fashioned apple dessert

Photo: Stephen DeVries; Prop Styling: Kaye E. Clarke; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Cobbler may be one of the homiest-looking desserts, but it’s actually a delicate balancing act between the tender topping and cooked fruit. Overdo it on the filling, and you’re digging into a soupy pie; add too much topping, and you’re eating biscuits with fruit sauce. But get the ratio just right, and it’s pure comfort in a bowl.

How you decide to top a cobbler is a matter of personal preference. Some cooks choose a chewy layer of piecrust, others like craggy drop biscuits, and some opt for a thin and cakelike batter that bakes up around the fruit. (Just don’t use streusel—that’s a crisp, folks.) While we would never turn down a bowl of any of these cobblers, our Test Kitchen prefers the look and taste of tender, flaky biscuits that are made with a round cutter for our Classic Apple Cobbler.

The second key to mastering this classic is to cook the fruit before the crust is added, which prevents “al dente” apples and infuses the fruit with cinnamon, lemon, and brown sugar.

While we love summer cobblers made with peaches or berries, fall might be our favorite time of year for this cozy dessert. A fresh crop of apples is in season, the weather is cool enough to turn on the oven, and there aren’t many desserts that taste better topped with a dollop of vanilla ice cream—our third secret to a great apple cobbler.

WATCH: Warm Cinnamon Apples

Here are a few things to keep in mind when putting together an apple cobbler.

Apples for the Picking

You could use any kind of apple in this cobbler, but you’ll get better results if you combine two or more types. Different kinds keep the flavor and texture of the filling from being one-note. We’re partial to crisp-tart apples like Granny Smith and Braeburn, but Pink Lady, Winesap, and Jonagold are also good choices.

The Right Sugar

Light brown sugar is a perfect match for apples and cinnamon; it’s more complex than granulated sugar but not as intense as dark brown sugar.

The Perfect Flour

White Lily self-rising soft wheat flour is our Test Kitchen’s go-to for the lightest, most tender biscuits. We use all-purpose flour to thicken the filling.

A Touch of Lemon Zest and Juice

A little fresh lemon brightens the sweetness of the apples.