Make Ahead

Perfect Peach-Blueberry Pandowdy

July 12, 2013
1 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 6 to 8
Author Notes

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

What You'll Need
  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup stone ground yellow plain cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Finely grated zest from 1 small lemon (juice reserved for filling)
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3 to 6 tablespoons ice water
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 cups 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
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch (or 1 tablespoon for an all-berry version)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • pinch of salt
  • Egg white from 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
  1. 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.)
  2. 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.
  3. Heat the oven to 400° F while preparing filling and assembling pandowdy.
  4. 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.)
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Amy OHara
    Amy OHara
  • Yayita
  • Laura Candler
    Laura Candler
  • Jessica Collier
    Jessica Collier
  • lapadia

Recipe by: EmilyC

I'm a home cook. I love salads. Two things you'll always find in my refrigerator are lemons and butter, and in my pantry good quality chocolate and the makings for chocolate chip cookies.

71 Reviews

Amy O. August 11, 2020
Making this for the second time.....yum!
Yayita July 9, 2017
Food52 Perfect Peach-Blueberry Pandowdy by EmilyC
Rating 4 out of 5
This desert with vanilla ice cream was the most popular dessert at a BBQ party on a hot summer day. The only two things that I modified was
1. accidentally forgetting the vanilla extract when mixing the fruit,
2. using a mix of cold vodka (1 tablespoon) and cold water (3 tablespoons) when wetting the dough. The use of vodka to wet the dough is from Cook Illustrated dough recipe, it helps you use a bit more liquid without it hardening the dough as the alcohol cooks off (the alcohol does not impart any flavor),
3. using a mix of peaches (2 large ones) and nectarines (2 medium ones that were more ripe and juicy) since I had read that nectarines are bit sweeter than peaches and the peaches I got were not ripe at the time, and
4. slightly increasing the amount of brown sugar (3.7 tablespoons) and corn starch (2.5 teaspoons)to accommodate my tart peaches and juicy nectarines
Like others commented, the fruit juice does bubble out onto the crust and pools in certain areas. When I rolled out my dough it ended up being of a round shape with very rugged edges, therefore when I placed it on top of the fruit some areas didn't not have enough dough for me to leave a small rim that stuck up against the side of the skillet. In order to avoid big fruit juice pools I will make sure that a create a slight fruit mound (so that the middle is slightly higher than the outer edges) and roll the dough big enough to have dough rim up against the side of the skillet. This is definitely aesthetics as the flavor doesn't get impacted by the pooling, the dough is just slightly soggier in a good way.
Patti July 7, 2017
Has anyone used frozen blueberries with fresh peaches ? Any changes needed ?
EmilyC July 7, 2017
Hi Patti - I haven't tried frozen blueberries but I think they should work just fine! I'd be tempted to bump up the cornstarch just a bit (maybe to a heaping tablespoon) to account for the frozen berries. I'd definitely use them frozen (not thawed). Good luck, and report back if you go this direction!
macfadden September 6, 2016
This made a tasty dessert, but was a bit hard on the seasoning on my cast iron skillet. I didn't have kosher salt, so I had to guess how much table salt would be the equivalent of 1/2 tsp. I found the heaping 1/4 tsp I used to be not quite sufficient, so if any one else is making the same substitution, I would recommend using closer to 1/2 tsp. In any case, I thought the fraisage made the dough easier to handle, and the cornmeal gave it a good texture and flavor. If you like your fillings on the sweeter side, consider adding more sugar.
Ant September 3, 2016
found the stone ground cornflour i used to be too coarse. will use a blend next time.
Laura C. June 1, 2015
This looks fabulous! What a great recipe for a cast iron skillet.
Jessica C. June 11, 2014
I am very interested in trying this! It looks delicious!
EmilyC June 11, 2014
Hope you do! It's a favorite in my house! : )
Rumi143 April 7, 2014
I had a question - I usually don't use my cast iron for acidic recipes. Is this recipe not acidic enough to react/damage the seasoning?
EmilyC April 23, 2014
Sorry for the late response! I've never had a problem with the filling damaging the seasoning, though no need to feel compelled to use your cast iron if you're concerned. It works great in a square (9x9) pan, or an equivalently sized oval baking dish. Hope your enjoy it!
Debbie September 1, 2013
I have never heard of turbinado sugar. where do
I get it? Thanks
EmilyC September 1, 2013
Hi Debbie -- you can get turbinado sugar at most grocery stores in the baking aisle with other sugars. It's sometimes called 'sugar in the raw.' Any coarse sugar would work here, or you can substitute regular white sugar if you can't find it. Hope you try and enjoy the recipe!
lapadia August 18, 2013
Great recipe, EmC! Love the lemon flavored crust and I've even made it with a savory tomato-green bean filling, left off the sugar coating, of course. Excellent, Congrats.
EmilyC August 18, 2013
Thank you, and your savory version sounds amazing! Would you mind sharing how you made the filling? I'd love to try it.
lapadia August 18, 2013
Hi! Yes, I'll share, need to put it in writing. I'll message you this week sometime :)
The A. August 11, 2013
I made this last weekend and absolutely loved it. The crust is especially good with that crackly crunch from the cornmeal and it looked especially delicious after I "dowdier" it up! Total winner!
EmilyC August 11, 2013
So happy to hear this! Thanks so much for trying it -- glad it was a hit!
QueenSashy August 7, 2013
Yum! Congrats!
EmilyC August 10, 2013
Thanks QS!
Skinny B. August 7, 2013
I don't have a cast iron pan, will a pyrex dish do? Do I have to change the temperature for a glass casserole dish?
EmilyC August 7, 2013
Yes, any equivalently-sized casserole or pyrex will work. My mom has made this several times in a square pyrex (9x9x2 inches) and has rolled the dough out in a square versus circle. I'd leave the temp at 400 to get the nicely browned crust, but just check it a bit earlier than the recommended cooking time to be safe. Hope you try and like it!
Skinny B. August 7, 2013
Thanks Emily C. I will definitely try this recipe soon!!
savorthis August 7, 2013
Congrats Emily!
EmilyC August 7, 2013
Thanks so much savorthis!
savorthis August 7, 2013
PS- we are camping this weekend and I can't help but wonder if there is a way to do this on the fire. I am not that skilled in camp-baking but I am intrigued....Might not get around to it this time, but I'd love to give it a go!
EmilyC August 10, 2013
I'm not skilled at all in 'camp-baking' so I can't help, but it'd be really cool if you figured out a good method!
ChristineQ August 4, 2013
I made your Pandowdy last night and it was a hit, everyone raved.
EmilyC August 4, 2013
So happy to get your note! Glad it was a success! Thanks for trying it and circling back.
hardlikearmour August 4, 2013
Congratulations, EmC! This is definitely on my list of things to make.
EmilyC August 4, 2013
Thanks HLA! I hope you get a chance to try it!
healthierkitchen August 1, 2013
Wow! This looks delicious and I'm glad to finally know what a Pandowdy is!
EmilyC August 1, 2013
Thanks Wendy! I'll admit to not knowing much about pandowdy until this contest. I'm now a wee bit obsessed with them. I can't wait to try an apple version once honey crisps are in season.
Kukla August 1, 2013
Congratulations EmilyC! Even though in the end you destroyed the poor Pandowdy, it still looks and sounds very yummy! Good luck!
EmilyC August 1, 2013
Haha, thanks Kukla -- that pandowdy does get pretty beat up, doesn't it?!? In a way, though, I think it ends up being prettier!
Jo B. August 1, 2013
I have this in the oven now with mostly Italian plums and some peaches and apricots, no berries. Both finalists looked fantastic but I fell for the name, the pan, the lack of sugar in the crust, the cornmeal. Can't wait! Will report later.
EmilyC August 1, 2013
Thanks so much, Jo B -- so happy you're trying this! The plum, peach, apricot combination sounds delicious. Let me know how it turns out!
Jo B. August 2, 2013
EmilyC, the pandowdy was delicious! I love that it wasn't too sweet, what with the no-sugar cornmeal/flour crust and the light hand with brown sugar. I have two small suggestions for people who haven't made this yet (you MUST make it!)--one is not to tuck the crust down too far along the edge, as the filling swamped it before I even dowdied it--I should have looked at your photos and just turned the crust up, not also tuck it down. And I didn't cut a vent in it, so maybe that encouraged the side swamp. But that didn't hurt the taste at all, just made a little less of the crispy crust. The crust was super easy to handle, by the way. The other thing is, while I'll make this again in a cast-iron pan for a family or a group dessert where it all gets eaten in one evening, with just the two of us home I'll make it in a glass pan next time, so there's no need to transfer the leftovers to a glass container for refrigerating. In any case, great recipe, and it's a keeper! Here are a few photos:
EmilyC August 4, 2013
Jo B -- Thanks so much for trying it and for your helpful notes! Glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for sharing your pics!
gingerroot August 1, 2013
Hooray! congrats, EmC! I also had a feeling about this, I'm happy to see it here as a finalist.
EmilyC August 1, 2013
What a nice note -- thanks GR! Seeing this as a finalist definitely made my day!