Prep. Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a 9-by-13-baking inch baking dish.
Combine filling. In a mixing bowl, toss the apples (2 1/2 pounds), lemon juice (1 tablespoon), lemon peel (1 teaspoon), and vanilla (1 teaspoon) together. Sprinkle sugar (1/3 cups), flour (1 tablespoon), cinnamon (1 1/2 teaspoons); ginger (1/4 teaspoon) nutmeg (1/2 teaspoon), and salt (1/8 teaspoon) toss to combine. Pour into prepared baking dish.
Bake. Place in preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes.
Make the topping. In a medium bowl, add all the topping ingredients, except the boiling water. Use a pastry blender to cut the butter (12 tablespoons) into the dry ingredients until the mixture looks like a coarse meal. Pour in the boiling water (1 cup) and stir just until the mixture comes together and is just mixed through.
Assemble. After the apples have been baked for 15 minutes, pull them from the oven and drop large spoonfuls of the dough topping over apples. Evenly sprinkle the top of the dough with 3 tablespoons of sugar.
Bake. Place the baking dish on a cookie sheet, in case the cobbler bubbles over and drips, and return to the oven for 20-30 minutes or until the topping is golden and baked through and the apples are tender.
Best apple to Use: Granny Smith is my favorite. I like that they bake up tender and soft but they don't get mushy unless you overbake your apple crisp! My grandma always used them so I think I'm extra attached to them. Fujis are nice because they hold their shape well when baked and they have a great flavor. Honeycrisp holds up well in baking and their flavor is off the charts delish. Gala apples are nice because they hold up well in the baking process. Try a combination to create a more complex and layered flavor in your apple cobbler with fresh apples.
Vanilla Extract – Use pure vanilla extract, not artificial, for the best flavor.
Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg – Remember when it comes to ground spices the flavor is best when used within 6 months after opening. Check out this article if you want to read more about spices.
Dark Brown Sugar – The difference between light and dark brown sugar is simply the amount of molasses each contains. In this recipe, I prefer the flavor of dark brown. In a pinch, if all you have is light brown you can, however, substitute it. Make sure you pack the brown sugar firmly.
Cutting Butter In Topping: Why should you cut butter into your flour and not just mix it all quickly? You want those chunks of unmelted butter to stick around! That’s what will give you really tender, moist cake at the end.