"Shoofly pie and apple pandowdy makes your eyes light up, your tummy say howdy!" my dad used to sing to me, a nod to his Pennsylvania upbringing. But I'd never ate a pandowdy or let alone knew what it was, until I was researching it a few weeks ago for the Kitchen Window piece. My research yielded some information, though the origins of the strange name are still unclear (though I do have a query into the Library of Congress about it, so stay tuned...). Some consider "dowd-y" to be a variation of the word "dough," and others conjecture that it descended from the term "pandoulde," a regional British word for custard.
What we do know is that the pandowdy has New England roots and can be made with either typical pie dough or a biscuit crust. It's a very close relative to the cobbler, though it varies in two distinct ways: Molasses is used to sweeten the fruit, and just before it's finished baking, the crust is sliced or crumbled into pieces and mixed with the fruit juices to create dumpling-like morsels scattered among the thick filling. For those of you paralyzed by the task of making the perfect-looking crust, the pandowdy may just be your dessert. You'll spoon the filling over it anyway, so who cares what it looks like?
Traditionally, pandowdy was made with apples, but I threw in some raspberries to add tartness and take advantage of the fall-bearers. Try using late-summer or early-fall apples like Gravenstein, Northern Spy, or Benhams-- a variety popular in Kentucky and Virginia. The result is an earthy dessert with a rich, hearty flavor (you should be a molasses lover). It pairs well with a lightly-spiced ice cream, like cardamom, or just plain vanilla. I like to bake mine in a cast iron skillet, but if you don't have one, a pandowdy can be made just as well in a 8- or 9-inch square or round baking dish.
For the biscuit top:
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 Tblsp. granulated sugar + 1 tsp. for sprinkling
1 Tblsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
3/4 c. whole milk
For the filling:
5 apples (about 2 lbs.) cored and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
1 c. raspberries
2 Tblsp. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. molasses
1/3 c. granulated sugar
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tblsp. unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1. For the biscuit top, in a medium bowl whisk together flour, 1 Tblsp. sugar, baking powder, and salt. With a knife and fork or pastry cutter, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles cornmeal and peas. Add milk and stir gently to combine. Form dough into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Store in the fridge for at least 20 minutes while you prepare the filling.
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a medium bowl, combine apples, berries, flour, molasses, sugar, and lemon juice. Stir in cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and salt. Pour filling into a 9-inch cast iron skillet. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes.
3. While filling is baking, on a clean, floured surface, roll out the biscuit dough into a 9-10-inch circle. Set aside.
4. Once filling has baked, remove from oven and cover the filling with the biscuit dough, tucking any overhang into the sides of the skillet and sprinkling with the remaining teaspoon of sugar. Return to the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes more, until biscuit dough is light golden and filling is bubbling.
5. Remove from the oven and with a sharp knife, cut biscuit top into squares. Spoon some of the steaming filling over the biscuit and return to oven to bake 5-10 minutes more. Remove from oven and let cool. Serve slightly warm.