I know what you’re thinking. “What the hell is a pandowdy/pan dowdy?” Opinions vary on it--even the spelling, but basically, it’s fruit and crust or batter topping. Like a cobbler, grunt, or slump, or buckle, it’s open to interpretation. I mean, everyone’s got their own take on it and they vary from region to region.
What I’ve been able to find, is that a pandowdy, sometimes called a pan dowdy, is basically a fruit dessert--fruit on the bottom--most often sweetened with maple syrup, crust on the top. The crust is where variations come into play. Some sources say that a pie crust is the way to go. After baking, you take the pandowdy out of the oven, and break up the crust, pushing parts of it into the fruit, giving it a broken or “dowdy” appearance. This is also helpful if you can’t make a decent looking pie to save your life. Like me. It’s sort of like a deep dish pie, I suppose.
This also holds true if you’re using a biscuit-type crust. You’d take it out of the oven when done, break up the crust, and give it that messy look. No matter what type of crust you use, you really can’t mess this up, because it’ll still be simple, classic, and mouthwateringly good.
Pandowdy is a very old New England dessert. The colonists used what they had on hand, and those were mostly very basic ingredients. White sugar was expensive and not very common in more rural areas. To sweeten things, they commonly used maple syrup, honey and molasses. Think about it--how natural it was back then to be a locavore, and they didn’t even realize how important that would be to so many people in the 21st century! They used what was local--fruits, seafood, meats, vegetables, dairy--their cooking was simple, yet satisfying and very enjoyable.
Surprisingly, many of the dishes the colonists enjoyed back then are still popular New England fare to this day. We just have an easier time collecting ingredients and preparing the food than they did. I have a book about colonial cooking, and one recipe says to beat egg whites stiff with a handful of twigs. Can you imagine how tough that would be to do? We can whisk egg whites with a real whisk, not twigs! A Kitchen Aid mixer can do it in just a few minutes. I plan on making more typical colonial dishes, so be on the look out for those!
If you’re looking for a fast, easy dessert--this one’s for you! I made this for dessert on the same day we had the Lobster Rolls, and I had it in the oven in no time at all. It’s great anytime of year, too. Traditionally, it’s made with apples. Since I was fresh out of those, I went with a blend of berries--some fresh blueberries from the farm, and I added in a frozen mixed berry blend of cherries, raspberries and blackberries.
This one's from one of my favorite books--The New England Cookbook, by Brooke Dojny. Not only does it have traditional New England recipes, but also updated classics from all over the region--with an emphasis on fresh, local ingredients. It's a huge book, jam packed with recipes. If you have a chance to peruse through it, you really should.
The recipe is the author's take on an apple pandowdy that she enjoyed one winter evening at the Bethel Inn in Maine. It doesn't have the pie or pastry crust, or even a biscuit crust. What it does have is a tender, lightly sweetened cakelike crust. No matter what type of fruit you end up using, I guarantee you'll love this one.
Mixed Berry Pandowdy
slightly adapted from The New England Cookbook
5 to 6 cups of berries or apples (if you're using apples, peel, core and slice them)
3 tbsp maple syrup (I used a real maple syrup/agave blend from Trader Joe's, but please at least, if you can, try to use real maple syrup)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract (You can use all vanilla, if you like)
Heat the oven to 350.
Lightly grease a shallow 2 quart baking dish.
Pour the berries (or arrange apples) in the baking dish and drizzle with the maple syrup.
Sprinkle the cinnamon and nutmeg over the fruit--toss to combine.
Bake for about 20-25 minutes. **For tender berries, I probably wouldn't bake them for that long, but I had a good amount of frozen berries, so I followed this step. Also do this if you're using apples.
While they're in the oven, whisk the rest of the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
Just when you're ready to add the topping to the pan, whisk the milk and egg in a smaller bowl, then stir in the melted butter and extracts.
Stir the wet mixture into the dry, and pour the batter over the berries, spreading out gently with a rubber spatula.
Return it to the oven and bake, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes. It should be lightly golden brown and a tester should come out clean.
Cool for a bit and serve warm.
Whipped cream would be perfect with this, but even better? Some ice cream…
In other news, I've just started a free monthly newsletter! It's got things you won't find on my blog, like a 5 in 5 Spotlight on bloggers and their blogs, bonus recipes not posted here, a look back at recipes you may have missed, announcements, and more. You can sign up by clicking on the link below, or by clicking the link in either sidebar. Your email adddress will never be sold to a listing company, and you'll never receive spam from me. Thank you!