I have just come into possession of a beautiful cookbook called “Rustic Fruit Desserts” by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson (thanks, Mark!). It’s gorgeously-illustrated and makes my mouth water just looking at the cover. I love that they break the recipes down into seasons which makes it that much easier to decide what to make. Oh my goodness, we’re talking crumbles, crisps, buckles, cobblers and today’s offering…the pandowdy.
The pandowdy is an old-fashioned dessert that can accommodate any fruit of the season, but i so loved this apple version. Evidently, back in those old times when these desserts were first being made, they judged them rather harshly on their appearance, calling them names like slumps, grunts and pandowdies. But for my tastes, the simplest, perhaps homeliest desserts are often my favorites, and I actually think that this one is anything but dowdy. Not even a little frumpy. If, as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, to me, this one is definitely a looker. It doesn’t taste too bad either.
What sets this one apart from crisps, pies and cobblers is the texture of the crust. There is no bottom crust, just this lovely, biscuit-y topping that is quite easy to work with. I was amazed at how much it actually rose in the oven (just like a biscuit!). And need I even mention the apple loveliness that lies ever so fragrantly below that puffy crust? I think not.
So if you have access to some nice baking apples, you probably already have everything you need to make this simple, yet not-so-frumpy dessert.
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
½ cup cold whole milk, as needed
To make the pastry, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl. Cut the butter into 1-inch pieces, add to the flour mixture, and toss to evenly coat. Using your fingertips or a pastry blender, cut in the butter until completely broken down into the flour mixture (it will look like little pebbles).
Add the milk a couple tablespoons at a time, stirring well after each addition to evenly moisten the dough. Add only enough milk for the dough to come together in a relatively dry mass. Gather the dough into a ball, then pat it out into a square. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate while you make the filling.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 9-inch cast-iron skillet or 9-inch square baking pan.
8 large apples, peeled, cored and each cut into 16 slices (3 ½ pounds prepped)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of fine sea salt
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Vanilla Ice Cream for serving (optional)
To make the fruit filling, toss the apples, sugar, cinnamon, salt, lemon juice, and vanilla together in a large bowl, then transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Cut the butter into small cubes and scatter over the apples.
Roll out the pastry just a bit smaller than the size of the pan. The small gap between the pastry and the sides of the pan will allow steam to escape. Carefully drape the pastry over the apples, then cut 3 steam vents in the pastry.
Bake for 35 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and the filling bubbles up around the edges. This pandowdy is best served warm, topped with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.