This warm and cozy Brown Butter Pear Pandowdy is a fall dessert that's so simple to make! Pandowdy is similar to a pie, only the juices bubble up over the top to create a crackling, crisp shell. Sweet, in-season pears are baked with brown butter, cinnamon and sugar, covered with a buttery, caramelized puff pastry crust. It's perfect for Thanksgiving or any other chilly fall evening.
What is a Pandowdy?
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 extract 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.
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