sauce, interrupted

So. You’ve peeled, and stirred, and sniffed, and spooned, and perhaps you’re even reading this right now with a bowl of rosy applesauce balanced on your knee. (If one-handed typing were as easy as one-handed scrolling, I would gladly join you in a bowl.) All would be well with the world, were it not for the half a sack of leftover cranberries eyeing you pleadingly every time you open the fridge. And then there’s the matter of those extra apples rolling around. What to do?

I found my answer in a one-crust wonder that makes even my favorite single-crust pie look deliriously doughy. Its name is pandowdy, and if this is your first acquaintance, then believe me, the pleasure is all yours. This dessert has a lot going for it. A lot: It’s easy to make, fun to say (“pandowdy! pandowdy! pandowdy!”), and even comes with its own Dinah Shore soundtrack.

The recipe begins in a pot filled with apples, cranberries, and sugar softening over a medium flame. I know! Just like the applesauce. Apple-cranberry pandowdy is actually little more than sauce interrupted, gussied up with a few spices, and tucked beneath a buttery crust. It’s as simple as that. I’ve heard that the crust is traditionally smashed into the fruit before serving, but I don’t see the need for such violence. The whole thing slumps and oozes on its own accord as soon as you scoop-plop it into a bowl. And let’s not forget my favorite pandowdy perk: Because the single crust is the one on top, and not the bottom, it crisps back up in the oven even after a couple of days in the fridge.

The rains have come to Boston this weekend. On a grey, drippy day like today, a crust that refuses to sog is important to have around. Throw in a cushy green sofa and a log in the fireplace, and it’s hard to mind the rain. In fact, it feels kind of nice.

Happy Sunday, all.

Cranberry Apple Pandowdy
Inspired by Gourmet, June 2005, as seen here.

This is more a list of guidelines than a hard-and-fast recipe. Even the fruit is variable. You can use whatever is in season. The original recipe calls for making this pandowdy in a deep, 9-inch pie dish. I only have shallow, metal pie pans, so – as you can see from the photographs – I use a piece of Corningware, or my favorite red ceramic baking dish. You may need to alter the amount of apples or berries according to the size of your dish. Keep in mind that the fruit will shrink down a little once heated, so a pie dish filled almost to overflowing with raw fruit will be filled just to the top with lightly cooked fruit. Does that make sense?

About the crust: If you have a favorite pie crust recipe, use it. It’s no secret that I’m partial to Martha’s all-butter pâte brisée, and it works its magic in this dessert, too. The thing is, a pandowdy is particularly nice with a crust that is as flaky as it is tender, so recently, I’ve been substituting ½ c. (trans-fat free) vegetable shortening for one of the sticks of butter. (I use a brand called Spectrum.) I’ve had excellent results. The only drawback is that unlike the all-butter dough, which is a dream to work with, the half-butter, half-shortening dough tends to crack a little during the rolling and the draping over the fruit. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. Oh, and vegans, take note: The pâte brisée made with ½ c. vegetable shortening, and one stick of Earth Balance Buttery Sticks is a winner.

Martha’s pâte brisée recipe makes enough dough for two 9 to 10-inch pie crusts. You can use just one half of the dough, and stash the other half, well-wrapped, in the freezer for a future pie or pandowdy. If, like me, you’re using a ceramic dish with a much wider “mouth” than a 9-inch pie dish, you may find that it takes the full recipe of pâte brisée to cover the entire dish.

Whew. Have I thoroughly confused you yet? On to the recipe. Once I finally shut up you’ll see that it really is quite simple.

Your favorite pie crust recipe
2 c. fresh cranberries
5-6 medium apples
½ c. sugar
1 heaping tablespoon cornstarch
1 t. cinnamon
½ t. nutmeg
½ t. ground cloves
1 T. turbinado sugar for finishing (optional)

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Peel, core, and cut the apples into thick slices or chunks. In a large, heavy pot, combine the apple pieces, the cranberries, the sugar, the cornstarch, and the spices, and stir. Place the pot over a medium flame, and stir occasionally, until the apples are just tender, and the cranberries hold their form, but explode in your mouth with the slightest pressure between your teeth. Depending on your pot and your heat, it should take about 15-20 minutes.

Remove from heat, and transfer to your baking dish.

Roll out the pie dough, and drape over the fruit in the baking dish. Cut or break off any major overhang, and squeeze the extra dough around the edges into a thick lip around the rim of your dish. If you feel like it, press a fork into the dough, all the way around, for a nice pattern.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the filling is bubbling and the crust is golden. Then, sprinkle with turbinado sugar and place under the broiler (or use a kitchen torch, if you have one) for a nice, caramelized finish.


megan said...

Oh! Lovely to hear your voice this morning! Rain is so nice - I miss it...


Char said...

sounds like heaven, especially on a gray rainy day.

Rogue Unicorn said...

i think i'll try this with your pomegranate suggestion, though it probably won't be quite the same without the cranberries "exploding in your mouth".
Happy Sunday (erm Monday) and enjoy the rain.

Jess said...

Megan - Hi! Rain is so nice, but then again, so are farmers' markets until Christmas! Eli is on his way to L.A. right this minute. I assume you two will meet up? Jealous.

Char - Indeed. Even on this sunny Monday, I think the last piece will hit the spot.

Rogue Unicorn - We're finally rolling in pomegranates here, too. I'm not sure how pomegranate seeds do baked into things. But maybe a splash of pomegranate juice with the apples as they soften? Happy Monday to you, too! (You still have a few hours of Monday left, I think.)

Julie said...

Love me a good pandowdy. I don't get the smashing crust either - you push it into the fruit and juices to soften it? Why would you do that to a perfectly crispy golden crust? This looks like it would pass for breakfast, with thick vanilla yogurt...

minor catastrophes said...

Oh, you got it exactly right: still more apples left and tired of my same old recipes. I'm looking forward to trying this one!

Maggie said...

LOVE this. And want to make it immediately. And eat it for breakfast tomorrow.

Lindsey@pickyeatings said...

This is an interesting dish that I never would have thought of before. I do love some me some applesauce...

El said...

Speaking as someone who has way to many cranberries in the house, I eagerly look forward to trying this recipe. It looks like great comfort food and the photos are fantastic...Dinah Shore too :>)

Rogue Unicorn said...

Pomegranate seeds in baked things, oh god, no. That's all wrong. I meant pomegranate juice, as you suggested. I've still got the texture issue that a lack of cranberries bring. I'll think about it.
By the way, since you are rolling in pomegranates- pomegranate seeds+mint+toasted walnuts+goat cheese=happiness.

Jennifer said...

Um, how did you know about the bag of cranberries resting in my fridge? ;) I adore your affection for and attention to the homemade crust as I'm a newbie to such pursuits and need a bit of guidance.

Jess said...

Julie - I was actually thinking about you when I made this pandowdy. (I remembered your preference for top crusts over bottoms.) I have not yet been so bold as to eat pandowdy for breakfast, but your suggestion is quite tempting.

minor catastrophes - Great! Enjoy. Let me know how it goes, if you think of it.

Maggie - Another pandowdy for breakfast advocate. I think the universe may be trying to tell me something.

Lindsey - Well, you can start with the applesauce, and then whip up a pandowdy (it sounds like the kind of dessert one "whips up," doesn't it?) with your leftover fruit. That's been my game plan three times already this season!

El - I happen to know that you have been doing some gorgeous, fancy-pants things with cranberries lately. (More Cecilia Bartoli than Dinah Shore!) I have a feeling that this pandowdy would be honored to take in the cranberries that didn't make the cut.

Rogue Unicorn - Yes, yes, I'm with you on all things pomegranate. Especially that last bit about mint and nuts and cheese. That sounds wonderful.

Jennifer - The refrigerator spy that I dispatched reported back, of course. About the crust: People tend to do a lot of fretting about pie crusts, but the big secret is that they are really pretty straightforward. I often make mine by hand, with a pastry cutter, but an even faster and easier method is to use a food processor. I think that the key to pie dough is this: less is more. That means handle the dough as little as possible, process it as little as possible, and add only enough water so that the dough holds together when you give it a squeeze. It may take a couple of tries to figure out what that perfect dough is supposed to feel like, but once you've got the hang of it, pie dough is virtually impossible to mess up. Even if it breaks or cracks a little, you can just patch it together.

Kasey said...

Oh my, this looks like a good time. Perfect for Thanksgiving. Thanks for sharing :)

Nithya said...

Pandowdy... I've just tried saying it out aloud and it sounds as good as it reads. I can't wait to make it. Too bad I don't get cranberries in India. Would raisins be a good substitute?

{kms} said...

love the photo with the spoon. i'd have a hard stopping myself from eating the rest!

momMe said...

Oh what a beautiful Thanksgiving -- pan dowdy and all. Cooking with you, watching you make magic in the kitchen, following your well tested recipes is truly inspiring. How lucky I am to spend the holiday with you and your hunky other half. Can't wait to do it again sans the pressure of work and deadlines. love you --- mom

kate said...

this is something i would sneak by the spoonful from the fridge. i don't know if this means i should make it or shouldn't...

Jess said...

Kasey - My pleasure!

Nithya - I'm not sure that this pandowdy would work with dried fruit as its primary ingredient. (I use fresh cranberries here.) Perhaps you could make it as a primarily apple pandowdy, studded with a handful or two of raisins. If you give it a try, I would love to hear how it turns out.

{kms} and kate - Yes, that spoon and I were partners in stealing bites from the refrigerator all week long. That's my kind of crime.

And Mom - It's always a pleasure cooking with you. Eli and I are the lucky ones. Love you.