Scone of the Month: Stretching dough for pandowdy

Fruit desserts are among my favorite, partly because of their wholesome coziness, as well as some of their colorful names. You have fools, grunts, slumps and crisps, and even more specifically with apples, you get dumplings, brown “betties” and pandowdies. 

I have yet to make all of these whimsically named creatures featuring my favorite orchard fruit, but managed to finally achieve a check off the list when I made apple dumplings last fall (see blog entry October 2018).

My scone-of-the-month project in August (I’m behind but catching up) set my mind toward thoughts of apples again this year. A neighbor had bestowed upon us a bag of windfall golden delicious apples. Easy enough to whip up a bunch of apple cinnamon scones, I thought. But as I flipped through the pages of my fave scone book, Elizabeth Alston’s “Biscuits and Scones” (1988), I realized scones, or, their dough, don’t have to take on any traditional configuration, particularly when a scone dough is used to top a recipe called Lemon-Rosemary Apple Pandowdy. Oh boy, all of many of my favorite things in one dish!

A pandowdy, by most definitions I’ve read, is a dessert made up of a sweet apple filling that is a sort of a cross between a pie and cobbler, baked in a deep dish with a crust on top that is somewhat patched together deliberately, or “dowdied,” to present as a very homey (or homely) apple comfort-food type of dish. Sounded like how many of my apple pies actually turn out…I think I have been dowdy-ing all this time! 

This recipe used lemon juice and dried rosemary in the filling, and some dried rosemary in the sweet dough for the crust. I was excited…I would put lemon and rosemary in everything if it was reasonable to do so. I had dried rosemary, but I also have an ever-present supply of fresh rosemary growing just outside my kitchen door. I thought I would use a little of both (not over-doing the herb’s pungent flavor) to give layers of fresh rosemary and bright green to the dish.

I changed up the filling a wee bit also by using brown sugar instead of the granulated called for in the recipe. I tend to favor it in apple dishes for the richness it imparts. I also added a little cinnamon (when apples are involved, I cannot help myself).

I also decided to extend the lemon component in this dish by adding lemon zest to the scone dough, which was a simple mix of traditional scone dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, salt), blended with cold cubes of butter, the zest and rosemary, and then cream to mix it all just to a crumble dough.

A brief knead brought the dough together (it’s always amazing when a tumble of shaggy scone dough turns to a semi-smooth round). Here, I was hesitant about the next step of rolling this small ball of dough to a length and width that would adequately fit my oval casserole where the apple filling awaited. Scone dough isn’t often stretched to those dimensions, would it adapt to pie pastry proportions? Actually, it didn’t matter…this was a “dowdy” dessert, so whatever happened, it would be right! What a relief.

I was delighted that this scone dough not only rolled thin perfectly, but was also easily transferred (via the parchment paper I rolled it out on) to the baking dish. I tucked and rolled the edges to give it a pie-esque finish. 

I liked the tiny flecks of green rosemary peeking through the crust. With a small, sharp knife, I cut vents int the dough, then gave all a finish of sparkling sanding sugar.

The pandowdy browned up nicely. I tested the doneness of the apples by sticking a thin sharp knife through the vents. The sheer slices of apple were tender, and he puffs of steam through the vents gave off not only that homey harvest comfort of cooking apples, but the freshness of lemon and rosemary, too.

My first plunge of the serving spoon had the crust giving in a tender-crisp way, similar to thick pie pastry. The apples were juicy enough so that I scooped extra juice up to drizzle over the top of each serving. A sweet fruit glazed with a sweet nectar balanced beneath a buttery herb-and-lemon crust sturdy enough to hold its own, and dowdy enough (yes!) to stand up to any fall dessert you’d want to make.

Lemon-Rosemary Apple Pandowdy

From “Biscuits and Scones” by Elizabeth Alston (1988)

Makes 6 servings

Filling:

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar 
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 pounds Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, quartered and thinly sliced (5 cups)

Biscuit Topping:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves
  • 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut up
  • 1/3 cup light cream or milk

Heat oven to 425. Have ready a heavy baking dish about 8 inches square or round.

To make filling, crumble rosemary as fine as possible into a bowl. Add sugar and lemon juice; stir. Add apple slices; toss to coat. Spread evenly in the baking dish.

To make biscuit topping, put flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and rosemary into a medium-size bowl, crumbling the rosemary as fine as possible. Add butter and cut in with a pastry blender or rub in with your fingers, until the mixture looks like fine granules. 

Add cream. Stir with a fork until a soft dough forms. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and give 10 to 12 kneads. Turn dough over and roll or pat to fit just inside the baking dish. Place on top of the fruit. Cut 4 slits in the dough so steam can escape. 

Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until the crust is golden. With a knife, lift edge of crust to make sure it is cooked underneath. Remove from the oven. Serve warm.

Blogger’s Note: I substituted brown sugar for granulated sugar in the filling and added about a half teaspoon of finely chopped fresh rosemary in addition to the dried. For the crust, I added one teaspoon of fine lemon zest and 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary along with the dried. I finished the crust topping with a couple tablespoons of sparkling sanding sugar (one could also sprinkle cinnamon sugar over the top).

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