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.