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Apple Pan Dowdy

Your eyes might light up if you’re old enough to remember the 1946 hit single by Dinah Shore, “Shoo Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy.” Chances are you don’t have a clue what an apple pan dowdy is, but your great-great-great grandmother probably did. In the mid 1800’s the apple pan dowdy (commonly referred to as a Brown Betty in the South) was a staple dessert on American tables. Something of a cross between a cobbler and a pie, the apple pan dowdy served the twin purposes of providing a sweet ending to a meal, while making use of existing food stuffs, such as stale bread. Hey, it’s better to make dessert than throw it to the hogs, right?

Ingredients for the Crust

  • 1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 9 tablespoons unsalted butter - cold, cubed
  • 3+ tablespoons ice water

Instructions for the Crust

Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a medium sized bowl. Whisk until well combined. Add butter cubes and mix with fingers to create a cornmeal-like texture. Some some pea-sized bits of butter may remain. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons ice water and stir with a fork until the dough begins to come together. Add more ice water in ½ tablespoon increments if needed. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead three times, then form into a ball. Press dough ball into a disk shape, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Ingredients for the Filling

  • 8 large firm-tart apples (about 4 pounds), peeled, cored, and sliced 1/4-inch thick. Good varieties include Jonagold, Honeycrisp, Winesap, Granny Smith and Pink Lady.
  • 2 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar (for sprinkling)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Set the rack to the middle position.
  2. Arrange apple slices in a 12-inch cast iron skillet. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl, then sprinkle on top of the apples. Combine molasses with water in a bowl, then pour over the apples.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, roll the chilled dough out into a rectangle approximately 1/4 inch thick. Cut into 3-inch squares. Arrange the dough squares on top of the apples in a random pattern. Sprinkle the top with sugar. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, then gently press the pastry down into the juices with a spatula until it is approximately 80 percent submerged. Return the pan to the oven. Bake for an additional 15 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and the pastry has a nice glaze.
  4. Cool for at least 30 minutes. Tastes great when served topped with ice cream!
Mike Parker

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Recipes

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