Roast the toast: rhubarb & apple butter pandowdy

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Perhaps you’ve noticed by now that i have a thing for old-fashioned fruit desserts? yeah, i kinda do. here’s how this one came about:

the other day i was roarin’ about a really great book i have to give away over here and i asked what peeps were looking forward to preserving this spring. a lot of you said rhubarb. rhubarb is something i am never in need of – when may/june comes i can practically swing from mine.

then i realized that may is around the corner and i still had three quarts of rhubarb in the freezer – yikes! i’m not down with frozen fruit from the year before when it’s time for a new year’s bounty to explode. so i raced into my larder and deftly pulled my super chatelaine cape over my ears and head (you did know i had one didn’t you? why yes, it’s specially fitted, slips right over my fur) and i got my paws on that rhubarb.

first let me tell you that a pandowdy is just an old-fashioned name for a bottomless pie. perhaps those victorian gentlewoman rendered a bit pinkish (or peckish?) at the mere thought of a loose and bottomless pie, and so…pandowdy is ever much more, well, dowdy.

armed with this imagination, i figured if i’m making a wayward crust, she’s gonna need some grit.

how’s this for grit?

martha is my go to gal for crust. i made this cornmeal pate brisee. and to ensure my crust rough and ready for a good time, i went a little heavier on the meal – 3/4 of a cup, and lighter on the fine stuff – 1 & 3/4 cups.

(a note about my cornmeal; it’s from a local berkshire farmer, and i can’t get enough of it. yours can be yellow, and not as rough cut. but try to find stoneground, and better still, local!)

follow martha’s recipe and in case she wasn’t 100% clear, once you get the ice cold water in the processor and the dough just barely starts to cling to itself – no more then 30 seconds please – take it out and divide it in half. here’s the clincher: do not play with the dough no matter how enticing she may be. get her into two discs as quickly as possible, they don’t have to be perfectly shaped. wrap them in plastic wrap, put one in the freezer for another use, and one in the fridge to use now. if you happen to have one a little bigger than the other, use that one now.

you can even make the dough a day ahead of time. if you do, take the half you are using out of the fridge 30 minutes before you want to make the pandowdy.

last thing before we get on with it: i had frozen rhubarb, i had canned ancho apple butter. you may have frozen blueberries and canned peach butter, or frozen cranberries and canned pear butter. both would be lovely combos, the pairing is up to you.

rhubarb & apple butter pandowdy

1/2 recipe cornmeal pate brisee, augmented as above
6 cups fresh or frozen rhubarb, sliced to 1 inch, thawed & drained if frozen
1/2 cup brown sugar (you can go up to 3/4 cup if you like sweet desserts, i like mine less so)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 pint apple butter (i used ancho apple butter) pinch sea salt deep dish 9 or 9 1/2 inch pie dish, buttered

1. preheat oven to 425 degrees. toss the cornstarch and brown sugar together, add to the rhubarb in a large bowl and stir. add apple butter and gently combine.

2. pour fruit mixture into buttered pie dish and sprinkle a pinch of salt evenly across the top.

3. roll out the chilled dough, you’ll want to keep it thicker than your average pie crust, about a quarter inch. place over fruit mixture. do not worry too much about the sides, let them fall inside the dish. slice three lines across the crust 4-5 inches long and an inch or so apart. this to let off steam when she gets hot and bothered in the oven.

4. bake for 30 minutes. reduce temperature to 350 degrees, rotate and bake for 10-15 more minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling up around the sides and possibly escaping through the steam vents.

5. let cool for 45 minutes before you sink your teeth in.

the fruit butter technique is a good one for a pandowdy because the cooked down fruit fiber helps to bind things together – important with a missing bottom. also good when frozen fruit is involved as they too can get a bit loosey-goosey if left to their own devices.

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