A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from February 17, 2009
Pandowdy (Pan-dowdy; Pan Dowdy; Apple Dowdy)

Entry in progress—B.P.

wiseGEEK
What is a Pandowdy?
Pandowdy, sometimes written as pan dowdy, is a dessert with an unknown origin. The name however, has long been fun to use, and the dessert to many is the ultimate in comfort food desserts. Some traditions suggest early European settlers of the Americas created the dessert, and most believe the fruit used for the first renderings of the dessert was apples. Hence apple pandowdy is the most commonly featured type.

The name pandowdy may be a reference to the “dowdy” or rumpled appearance of the dessert in finished form. A layer of sweetened and spiced fruit is given a thick top crust, usually made with pastry or piecrust. As the dessert cooks and the crust hardens, the crust is pushed and broken into the fruit with a fork, which allows the juices of the baking fruit to somewhat cover the crust. Some recipes merely suggest breaking up the crust after the pandowdy is removed from the oven. When a pandowdy recipe uses a traditional pastry or piecrust, it typically calls for you to make enough crust for a two-crust pie, but to roll this amount out into a thicker crust to lay on top of the fruit.

There are some inaccuracies online regarding recipes and descriptions of apple pandowdy. A few websites mistakenly refer to the dessert as an apple upside down cake, or where the fruit is baked on top of a biscuit like, or cake like crust, then inverted before serving. Most recipes for this fruit dessert do not suggest this method, and perhaps these other accounts are mistaking the dessert with other fruit concoctions like clafouti or buckles.

Instead, the pandowdy most resembles a deep-dish pie, with the addition of breaking up the crust, or to some people who make cobbler with piecrust instead of biscuit dough, the dish would just be cobbler. It should be understood that traditional cobbler uses a biscuit or dumpling dough rather than pastry dough. Another part of the name pandowdy may refer to the fact that the dish is usually assembled in a pan or skillet, rather than a in a pie dish. Actually, you can be pretty liberal in choosing your pan or dish for the dessert, and you can even make this dessert in big oblong or square pans. Fortunately you don’t have to be particularly skilled with rolling out crust, and a few holes won’t matter since you’ll break the crust up before serving it.

Shoo-Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy
“Shoo-Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy” is a popular song about New England cooking, with music by Guy Wood and words by Sammy Gallop. It was published on 1945.

The biggest hit versions of the song were recorded by Dinah Shore and by the Stan Kenton orchestra (with June Christy doing the vocal). It was also recorded by Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians, and by Ella Fitzgerald. The recording by Dinah Shore was released by Company Records as catalog number 36943. It first reached the Billboard magazine Best Seller chart on April 4, 1946 and lasted 2 weeks on the chart, peaking at #7. The recording by Stan Kenton/June Christy was released by Capitol Records as catalog number 235. It first reached the Billboard magazine Best Seller chart on March 14, 1946 and lasted 4 weeks on the chart, peaking at #8.

Dictionary of American Regional English
pandowdy n chiefly NEng Cf apple pandowdy, pan pie
A deep-dish pie or cobble, usu made with apples.
1830 in 1834 Smith Life Jack Downing 107 ME, You don’t know how queer it looks to me..politics and pan-dowdy..jumbled up together.
1838 Kettel Yankee Notions 221, I doubt what learned Thebans call / THe same, but Yankee natives all / Have chirstened it Pan-Dowdy [Footnote:] This restical and true Yankee dish..is a prodigious apple-pie, with a brown crust, baked in a deep pan, under nomen [=whence the name]. Crust and contents are crushed into a chaos; and when served up cold, as the Doctor says, credite Pisones [=believe [me], Pisos], it is fit for an Archduke.
1847 29.498 eMA, Oh! those were joyous time,/ The times of which we’ve read./ Of good old-fashioned pandowdy,/ Of rye-and-Indian bread.
1852 Hawthorne Blithedale 241 NEng, Hollingworth [would] fill my plate from the great dish of pandowdy.
1873 Harper’s New Mth. Mag. 46.593, he should relish an old-fashioned pandowdy, such as his mother used to make forty years ago.
1913 Dialect Notes 4.55 ME, Apple-dowdy...A kind of pudding made of apples with bread or batter, baked in a deep dish for a long time, and cut so that the crust comes in the middle. It is eaten with sugar and cream. Also pan-dowdy.
1949 Kurath 21 eNEng, ..is the name of a desert [sic] made of fruit and sweetened dough—a srt of cobbler—that has currency on Massachusetts bay and in New Hampshire and Maine, and is not unknown on Cape Cod and narragansett Bay.
1979 Flagg Cape Cod Cooking 121 eMA, Rhubarb Pan Dowdy..Butter a baking dish. Into it put the rhubarb...Pour the batter over the rhubarb and bake in a 350 degree oven until crusty and brown on top.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
pandowdy, n.
orig. and chiefly U.S. (New England).
[Origin unknown; the first element is probably PAN n.1 (compare quot. 1846 at main sense) or perhaps PAIN n.2 Compare slightly earlier apple dowdy n. at APPLE n. Compounds 2.
A seemingly earlier occurrence of this word (?1805) cited from Pocumtuc Housewife in Dict. Amer. Eng. (1942) III. 1676/2 is spurious (see M. T. Wilson in Harvard Libr. Bull. (1980) 28 58-61).
Perhaps compare English regional pandoudle:
a1728 W. KENNETT Etym. Coll. Eng. Words & Provinc. Expressions (Lansd. 1033) 306 [Somerset] Pandoudle, a custard.]

A dessert, usually of apples, baked in a deep dish and topped with a crust which is broken up into the fruit midway through cooking.
1833 S. SMITH Life & Writings J. Downing xxiv. 101 You dont know how queer it looks to see..politics and pan-dowdy..jumbled up together.
1846 C. BEECHER ,i>Miss Beecher’s Domest. Receipt Bk. xiii. 128 Good light bread rolled thin, makes a good crust for pandowdy, or pan pie.
1852 N. HAWTHORNE Blithedale Romance xxiv. 241 Hollingsworth [would] fill my plate from the great dish of pandowdy.
1893 C. G. LELAND Mem. I. 74 Pan-dowdy—a kind of coarse and broken up apple-pie.
1947 R. BEROLZHEIMER Regional Cookbk. 142 The Pandowdy..[is] served by cutting out squares of the biscuit, turning the squares upside down on the crust, adding butter, and covering with the apple mixture, then with thick unbeaten cream.
1978 J. UPDIKE Coup (1979) v. 173 Let’s face it,..you’re American as apple pandowdy. 1994 Select Homes & Food Sept. 64 Peach and blueberry pandowdy.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
apple dowdy n. [the origin of the second element is unknown; compare slightly later PANDOWDY n.] U.S. regional (chiefly New England) a dessert consisting of apples baked in a deep dish and topped with a crust which is broken up into the fruit midway through cooking (see PANDOWDY n.).
1823 J. NEAL Errata I. i. 27, I was pretty sure to get a double allowance of Indian pudding—pumpkin pies; or pudding and molasses—or *apple-dowdy—with a plenty of sweetning at the very next meal. 1854 F. FERN Little Ferns for Fanny’s Little Friends 120 On the buttery shelves are..plates of doughnuts, and pans of apple dowdy.
1923 W. NUTTING Massachusetts Beautiful 241 Did ever a dish of apple dowdy go to the spot like that?
2001 Advocate (Baton Rouge, Louisiana) (Nexis) 1 Mar. F1 My brother-in-law..called recently ranting about a terrible apple dowdy, his wife, Toby, had just served.

Recollections of a Housekeeper
By Caroline Howard Gilman
New York, NY: Harper
1834
Pg. 13: 
I do not feel myself called upon to say how many loaves of bread, under my apprenticeship, came out of the oven as heavy as a bad joke, or as sour as an unkind one; how many pickles turned soft and yellow; how I filled a bed without curing the feathers; how I put pepper instead of alspice into a batch of mince-pies; how many chemical separations instead of affinities took place in my baked beans and Indian puddings; and how my pan-dowdy disconcerted all the family, except my cousin Sam, a black-eyed boy, with a raging appetite, who dines with us every Sunday, and who affirmed that the paste was not tough, and that he did not mind if the apple cores did choke him a little.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • (0) Comments • Tuesday, February 17, 2009 • Permalink