A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big, BIG everything else: flavor, ideas, holy-cow factor. Psst: We don’t count salt, pepper, and certain fats (say, olive oil to dress greens or sauté onions), since we’re guessing you have those covered. Today’s special: blueberry pandowdy with a bread pudding-esque shortcut.
What’s a pandowdy? Depends on who you ask:
Merriam-Webster Dictionary will tell you that it’s “a deep-dish spiced apple dessert sweetened with sugar, molasses, or maple syrup and covered with a rich crust.”
Martha Stewart will tell you it’s a “classic American dessert from the 19th century…‘dowdied’ up when dough is cut into pieces instead of being left whole.”
What’s the Difference?, a newsletter by Food52 alumna Brette Warshaw, will tell you it’s “similar to a cobbler, but the biscuit or pie dough is rolled out and placed on top of the fruit. During the baking process, the topping is broken up with a knife or spoon and pushed into the fruit, causing the fruit to bubble over it.”
I’ll tell you it’s delicious. And fun to say. Go on, say it loud, say it proud: pandowdy. Fun!
Like pies, pandowdies start with fruit—hopefully fresh, hopefully seasonal. While this dessert used to indicate apples alone, in the years since, it’s spread its wings. Here at Food52, we love a swampy (yep, swampy!) strawberry pandowdy. Or a perfect peach-blueberry one. Both of these recipes follow the traditional path: flaky pie pastry, criss-crossed on top and half-sinking.
This rendition takes a shortcut. Instead of making dough from scratch—be it pie or biscuit—we’ll turn to something simpler. A tried-and-true friend who you can always count on. A port in the storm. A hero in the fairytale. A challah in the supermarket!
If you haven’t met challah, it’s a fluffy, braided bread traditional to Jewish cuisine. Like the French brioche, challah is enriched with eggs and fat—in this case, oil. That’s why challah makes such killer French toast and bread pudding. And, it turns out, pandowdy.
Cut a loaf of challah into thick slices, tear into pieces, then soak these in heavy cream. Scatter atop a pie pan filled with blueberries. Sprinkle with an unshy amount of sugar. In the oven, the fruit will bubble and thicken (thanks, cornstarch!) and saturate half the bread pieces, much like summer pudding. Meanwhile, the top half will turn custardy and crackly and crispy.
You’ll want to eat it straight out of the oven—but wait. Let cool for a bit to help the fruit regain its composure. Now dollop big, sloppy portions into shallow bowls or rimmed plates. And to finish, a little pour of cold cream. Okay, a little more. Okay, okay, a little more.
Makes 9-inch pandowdy
For the blueberry filling
cups fresh blueberries
cup granulated sugar
teaspoon kosher salt
For the challah topping
cups torn challah pieces (see headnote)
tablespoons heavy cream, plus more for serving
tablespoon granulated sugar
pinch kosher salt
Have you ever made pandowdy before? What kind of fruit? And what kind of topping? Tell us in the comments below!
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