Yesterday was a perfect fall day. The air was cool, crisp and the sun was shining. It was also an ‘applely’ kind of day. I spent much of the day in the kitchen cooking and canning applesauce and somewhere along the way decided to set aside a few apples for a dessert of some kind. I love rustic fruit desserts and in the cooler months apples and cinnamon are always the right choice. I decided on an apple pandowdy which is more or less an apple pie with only a top crust. The dessert gets its name from the word dowdy, meaning unfashionable or without style in appearance, but I can guarantee there is nothing shabby about this dessert.
As with most apple desserts, I like to use a few different varieties of apples so there is a mix of textures and flavours, some sweet, some tart, some soft and some firm. I had a beautiful mix from Golden West Farms of royal gala, golden delicious, honey crisp, macintosh and perhaps an ambrosia or two. I left the skin on some of the nicer looking ones for added texture and flavour but feel free to peel them all if that is what you prefer.
This recipe came to me via a kids cooking camp last summer with Project CHEF. Barb, the woman behind the program and a friend of mine, is also a big fan of these types of desserts and I am grateful that she introduced me to pandowdy. The recipe calls for a 9 inch pie plate or cast iron skillet. I wanted to use my skillet which is 10 inches and it worked out just fine. You can also use any other 9 or 10 inch baking dish you have around.
If you are intimidated by pie making, a pandowdy is a great place to start as there is no blind baking, no crimping and no lattice work. The beauty of a pandowdy comes from its rough look- the lumps and bumps. Traditionally at about the halfway cooking point a pandowdy is removed from the oven and some of the crust is gently pushed into the filling using a spoon to allow steam to escape and juices to come through and then put back in the oven to finish baking. I liked the look of it without “dowdying” it but I will leave that up to you.
This dessert is nice served a bit warm with vanilla ice cream or you could do creme fraiche or some maple whipped cream. This is the perfect dessert for Sunday dinner. Throw the pandowdy in the oven while the chicken and veggies are roasting and the house will smell amazing.
Thanks to Project CHEF for the inspiration for this recipe. We made apple pandowdy at the kids cooking camps last summer and it was a big hit. Like pie, you can make pandowdy with a variety of fruits, depending on what is in season. In this apple version, I like to use a few different types of apples to get a variety of flavours and textures.
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup (75 g) cold unsalted butter, cubed
2-4 Tbsp cold water
Knob of butter to grease skillet or pie plate
6 – 8 apples (about 3 pounds), peeled, cored and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp natural cane sugar or brown sugar
2 Tbsp all purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1 Tbsp butter, cut into small pieces
Cream or cold water to brush over the top
Sugar, to sprinkle on top
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt. Add the cubed cold butter and toss with the flour. Using your finger tips or a pastry blender cut in the butter until the mixture becomes like fine gravel (sandy in texture). Add 1 tbsp of cold water at a time and mix until the dough just comes together into a ball. If you prefer, you can make the pastry in the food processor.
Remove dough from the bowl and flatten into a round disc. Wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or longer.
Filling and Assembly:
Place a rack in the centre of the oven and preheat to 400F.
Lightly grease a 9 inch cast iron skillet, deep pie plate or square baking dish.
Place the apples in a large bowl and toss with the lemon juice to coat.
In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, flour, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and salt. Sprinkle this over the apples and mix until combined. Transfer mixture to the prepared pan. Dot the apples with the remaining tablespoon of butter.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the chilled dough until it is roughly the size of your pan. Drape the pastry over the apples, tuck in any extra pastry between the fruit and the edge of your pan. This is a rustic dessert so don’t fuss if it looks a bit rough. Cut a few steam vents in the crust and place on a baking sheet to catch any drips.
Bake at 400F for 25 minutes, reduce to 350F and keep baking for 35 -40 minutes or until the crust is golden and the fruit is bubbling around the edges or through the steam vents.
Remove and cool on a rack. Serve warm as is or with a dollop of creme fraiche, maple whipped cream or scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Note: Traditionally at about the halfway cooking point a pandowdy is removed from the oven and some of the crust is gently pushed into the filling using a spoon to allow steam to escape and juices to come through and then put back in the oven to finish baking. I liked the look of it without “dowdying” it but I will leave that up to you.