- Test Kitchen-Approved
- Your Best Buckle, Slump, Grunt, Crumble, Cobbler, Crisp, Sonker, Pandowdy, and/or Betty Contest Winner
You’ve got to love a dessert with a name like pandowdy. Compared to a pie with its pretty fluted crust, the pandowdy is laid-back, forgiving, and completely accepting of the fact that it won't win any beauty contests. It's covered with a pie or biscuit crust that’s broken up halfway through baking, giving it its “dowdy” appearance, though by some accounts, it likely originated from a resourceful cook who scattered remnants of dough over some expiring fruit. For the crust, I adapted my favorite galette dough from Cooks Illustrated by adding lemon zest and cornmeal for flavor. The baked crust is amazingly flaky and almost cookie-like from a cool technique called fraisage, which is just a fancy name for smearing your dough on the counter a few times. It’s perfect for a pandowdy because it gives the dough long, flaky layers and enough structure to remain crisp even when some pieces become submerged in juicy, bubbling fruit. To play up its rustic charm, I recommend using a cast-iron skillet, which conveniently allows you to brown some butter and sneak it into the filling. And from there, I kept the filling simple and all about the fruit -- pandowdy doesn’t want to be fussed over. It’s best served in a bowl, with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream, so you can spoon up all of the saucy fruit. It’s pretty darn good the next day, too, as it takes on more of a pudding quality as the pieces of dough get soft and jammy from the fruit. Feel free to play around: you can use any combination of stone fruit and berries (or a single fruit) as long as you have about 6 cups in total. —EmilyC
Test Kitchen Notes
WHO: EmilyC is an environmental scientist and consultant who always has a stash of chocolate in her Washington D.C. pantry.
WHAT: Meet pandowdy, pie's less beautiful -- but more laid-back -- cousin.
HOW: Make filling in a cast-iron skillet, blanket it with dough, and stick it in the oven. When your creation looks perfect, take a sharp knife to it. Your regrets will subside 30 minutes later, when you see the juice bubbling up through the vents, bathing your crust.
WHY WE LOVE IT: How do we love thee, pandowdy? Let us count the ways. We love your bubbling, not-too-sweet fruit filling. We love your perfectly flaky, cookie-like crust that comes together without much fuss. And oh how we love that, once we've polished off the whole thing, there's only one pan to clean. —The Editors
- Serves 6 to 8
FOR LEMON-CORNMEAL CRUST
1 1/4 cups
unbleached all-purpose flour
stone ground yellow plain cornmeal
Finely grated zest from 1 small lemon (juice reserved for filling)
unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3 to 6 tablespoons
of pitted, peeled, and sliced ripe peaches plus 2 cups of blueberries (or any combination of stone fruit and/or berries), about 6 cups in total
light brown sugar
cornstarch (or 1 tablespoon for an all-berry version)
freshly squeezed lemon juice
pinch of salt
FOR TOP OF CRUST
Egg white from 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- FOR THE LEMON-CORNMEAL CRUST: In food processor, pulse flour, cornmeal, salt, and lemon zest to combine about 3 times. Scatter butter pieces over the flour mixture, then pulse until the butter is about the size of peas, about 8 to 10 short pulses. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of water over mixture and pulse a few times, then repeat with 1 tablespoon of water at a time, or just until small curds start to form and dough holds together when pinched with fingers. It’ll look kind of crumbly but that's okay. (Alternatively, you can do this by hand.)
- Empty dough onto clean counter or piece of wax paper. Using bench scraper, gather dough into a rough rectangular mound about 12 inches long and 4 inches wide. Starting from the farthest end, use the heel of your hand to smear about one sixth of dough against your work surface away from you. Repeat until all of your dough has been smeared. Using bench scraper, gather the dough again into a 12-inch long and 4-inch wide mound and repeat smearing of dough with heel of hand. The dough should be smooth and cohesive at this point; if not, repeat smearing process again. Form dough into 4 inch disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate until firm about 1 hour. The smearing process creates long layers of butter in the dough, which translates to long flaky layers in the cooked crust.
- Heat the oven to 400° F while preparing filling and assembling pandowdy.
- FOR THE FILLING: In a 10-inch ovenproof skillet over medium heat, melt the butter completely; cook until it turns brown and smells nutty, about 4 to 6 minutes. Be sure to stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom so they don't burn. Take the pan off heat. Add fruit, brown sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, and pinch of salt to the brown butter, stirring gently to evenly incorporate all of the ingredients. (A note about thickener and sweetener: if your fruit is particularly juicy -- e.g, if you're using all blackberries -- you may want to increase the cornstarch to about 1 tablespoon. Add more brown sugar to taste if your fruit is on the tart side.)
- TO ASSEMBLE AND BAKE: On a lightly floured work surface, roll dough into a 12-inch round, dusting with flour as needed. (Don’t worry if your dough isn’t perfectly round.) Gently lay round of dough atop the fruit filling, tucking the dough edges around the fruit, leaving a small rim that sticks up against the side of the skillet. Brush with egg white and then sprinkle evenly with turbinado sugar. Poke a few small holes in the crust so steam can vent.
- Bake pandowdy for about 30 minutes, then remove from oven and break the dough into large pieces with a sharp knife to “dowdy” its looks. Return to oven and bake until the crust is golden and the fruit juices are bubbling up through the crust pieces, about 20 to 30 minutes longer. (I recommend putting a baking sheet underneath your skillet to catch any fruit juice that may bubble over.) Allow to cool at least 20 minutes. Even when fully cool, the pandowdy will have lots of juice, part of its charm, so serve in bowls with spoons. Vanilla ice cream, freshly whipped cream, or creme fraiche is highly recommended.