This warm and cozy fall dessert is simple to make (thanks to store-bought frozen puff pastry) and is perfect for Thanksgiving.
I’d never heard of a pandowdy up until this year. Have you? It’s a classic American dessert with origins in New England and dates back quite some time. I’ve made crisps and crumbles, buckles and betty’s, but this was my first time making pandowdy. It definitely won’t be my last.
What makes a pandowdy unique is the way in which it’s cooked. A single pie crust – or in this case, frozen puff pastry dough – is cut into squares and placed over top of a fruit filling. The goal is to cover most of it, but not all. You want a few holes so that the juices can bubble up and over. About half way through baking, the crust is pressed down into the filling, and then placed back into the oven to bake some more.
What happens next can only be described as culinary magic. You’d think this step would result in a soggy, unappealing topping, but it’s actually quite the opposite. The sweet juices evaporate and caramelize to create an ultra crisp, slightly burnt crust that’s reminiscent creme brûlée. Those extra dark spots might appear to be burnt, but they’re actually the best part.
Pandowdy can be made with just about any fruit you’d make a pie with. Apple is probably the most common, but blueberry isn’t far behind. I (obviously) opted to use pears because I found some particularly pretty ones at the farmer’s market. Pears are often overlooked in the pie category, but why? They have a tender-crisp texture when cooked and boast a sweet, floral flavor.
The other flavorings can be kept as simple as brown sugar and cinnamon to allow the fruit to really shine. I opt to add in a little orange zest/juice and vanilla because I think they compliment the other flavors nicely. Oh, and let’s not forget the brown butter. Brown butter is one of my all time favorite flavors and I feel it makes just about everything better. The whole thing gets finished with a touch of cream, which is optional, but totally recommended. It gives the dessert an almost custard-like lusciousness.
Frozen puff pastry is what really makes this recipe easy. Give it a few hours to thaw out in the refrigerator and that’s it. I’m all about the homemade pie crust, but sometimes you just want something quick and simple to satisfy your sweet tooth.
This is an awesome fall dessert to keep in your back pocket for entertaining (Thanksgiving, cough cough), or just for a cozy night at home.
One Year Ago: Kale + Brussels Sprout Salad with Sharp Cheddar, Bacon + Pecans
Two Years Ago: Fennel + Onion Gratin
Three Years Ago: Waffles with Maple Brown Butter
- 4 lbs Bartlett pears, cored and sliced
- 2 teaspoons orange zest
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed but cold, cut into 12 rectangles
- 1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp water
- Coarse or granulated sugar for sprinkling
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- vanilla ice cream for serving
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Combine pears, orange zest, orange juice, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, dark brown sugar, and flour in a large bowl.
- Melt butter in a 10-inch oven-proof skillet and cook until it turns brown and smells nutty. Pour into the pear mixture and toss to combine, then transfer back to the skillet.
- Arrange the puff pastry squares over the top to cover most, but not all of the filling. Brush the pastry with egg wash, then sprinkle lightly with coarse or granulated sugar.
- Bake until puffed and golden, about 30 minutes. Pour heavy cream all over, then return to the oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, then use a spoon to press the pieces of puff pastry down so the juices ooze over top. Place back in the oven for an additional 10-15 minutes or until the crust is crisp and very dark brown.
- Let cool, then serve warm with vanilla ice cream.