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Apple pan dowdy (or pandowdy) is a traditional American dish which saw its heyday in the 1800s and early 1900s. A combination pie and pudding, the name comes from the method in which the recipe is completed: after an apple-based filling is baked in a crust-lined casserole, the hostess takes a fork and "dowdies" the crust, breaking it into pieces which manage to remain crisp despite being partially immersed in the juicy filling. And the filling is juicy; don't be surprised when you cut into the crust and find a sea of liquid. As the dish cools, the "dowdied" crust absorbs a lot of the liquid, leaving you with an almost pudding-like confection. This dish is best served right from its baking pan.
The following recipe for apple pan dowdy fell out of my husband's grandmother's (my grandmother-in-law's?) cookbook, which he received after her death. Julia Zampine was a farm wife who prepared wonderful meals for the farm's workers (mostly family members) every day, but was never known to write down a recipe; thus I cherish this, the only written record I have of her years in the kitchen. Her recipe is rather cryptic, as are many written by experienced cooks; it's more notes to herself than anything. I've fleshed out her directions for the less experienced among us.
1 recipe pie crust for double-crust 9-inch pie (see recipe below)
7 or 8 large apples
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup molasses or maple syrup
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons butter, cut into bits
4 cups Round Table Unbleached Pastry Flour*
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into pieces
6 to 8 tablespoons ice water
Note: This pie crust recipe makes enough dough for four single 9-inch crusts (two top-and-bottom-crust pies or four "open-faced" pies.
*Pastry flour is a must here; I'm positive that's what makes the difference.
In a large bowl, mix flour and salt. Cut in butter till mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle ice water over all and mix with a fork or your hands till mixture holds together. Gather dough into a 1-inch-thick disk, wrap in waxed paper, plastic wrap or foil, and refrigerate at least 1 hour (or up to 2 days) before using. If dough is refrigerated longer than 1 hour, it will be very stiff; you'll have to let it warm up a bit before rolling it out.
Divide dough into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other. Roll out larger piece to fit into bottom and up sides of a casserole dish (a 9 x 9-inch pan, or equivalent, is the right size). Peel, core and slice apples into 1/4-inch slices, and toss them with sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Spoon apples into pie crust.
Mix water and molasses (or maple syrup), and pour over apples. Dot with butter.
Roll out second piece of dough, and fit it over apple mixture. Seal it to bottom crust. Brush top crust with milk and sprinkle with granulated sugar, if desired (this will make a brown, sugary crust).
Bake on the lowest rack of a preheated 425°F oven for 45 minutes, then decrease heat to 325° and continue to bake until crust is well browned. (I found that the crust was fairly well browned after the initial 45 minutes, but your oven may be different).
Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, take a knife and slash, in a random pattern, all the way through the pan dowdy. With a fork and spoon, gently lift pieces of crust from the bottom, and submerge pieces of the top crust; in effect, you're just really messing this whole thing up. Don't get carried away; crust pieces should remain in fairly large (2-inch-square) chunks. Let the dish cool to warm before serving; it you serve it too hot, it will be very runny.
This recipe reprinted from The Baking Sheet Newsletter, Vol. II, No. 9, September 1991 issue.