We’re right in the middle of another cherry season here in Ontario. Life is good.
Right now, I am munching on cherries right out of the bowl. Despite all the great cherry recipes out there (including the one that I will post today 🙂 ) my favourite way to indulge in cherries is all by themselves. Munching and spitting of the stone in the middle.
I’ve already made several cherry pies, cherry jam, and even a sauce for a lovely venison back strap that we grilled the other week. Today’s recipe is a pandowdy. Pandowdy, buckle, cobbler, crumble, crisp, these are all just variations on a fruit filling topped with a pastry, biscuit or streusel of some sort. Easier and faster than a pie, you still get all the bang for the buck in stellar filling with just enough carb on top to make them feel like comfort food. And ice cream really suits all of the toppings. Pandowdies are basically just taking pie pastry, cutting out shapes from it, and layering them on top of the prepared filling before popping the pan into the oven. An old fashioned word, ‘dowdied’ means to cut pastry into strips or squares and topping a pie filling with them.
The fun comes with the type of pastry that you use. Sure, you can totally use my Perfect Pie Pastry. You may even have scraps or half of a recipe in the freezer, waiting to be used up. This is the perfect opportunity. Having fun with shapes, brushing them with a touch of cream or egg wash, and then sprinkling turbinado sugar on top of all the cut outs, makes for a fantastic finished crust. The juices from the bubbling fruit underneath will start seeping up, and the crust turns nice and golden. Let cool and top with that generous scoop of vanilla ice cream.
For today’s recipe, I’m taking that topping and adding a bit of chocolate to the dough. Because chocolate and cherries just play so well together. Think of it as a simple riff on the classic Black Forest Torte flavours. In fact, to emphasize that Black Forest Torte was the inspiration for this recipe, I’ve added kirsch (cherry liqueur) to the filling.
So the dough is my classic Perfect Pie Pastry, with a few changes. I’ve added black (or regular) cocoa powder and increased the sugar by 1 tbsp. The recipe with make two rounds of pastry, or enough for two pie shells. In this case you could freeze half the dough for a future pan dowdy, or save it for a pie that won’t require a topper. This would make a cool bottom for a lemon chiffon pie, chocolate cream pie, or how about my Key Lime Pie, or even my Almond Joy Coconut Cream Pie. You’ll come up with some fantastic ideas I’m sure!
The filling is just so easy. Pitted cherries with cornstarch, sugar and some salt are all that are required for this filling. But have some fun with it. I added cocoa nibs to the cherries for crunch, since the cherries will soften and turn slightly jam-like. And of course the kirsch. If you don’t have kirsch on hand, why not add a bit of bourbon, another great liquor that pairs fabulously with cherries. (If you wanted to have some more fun with it, why not add some Urfa Biber, a lovely raisin-y, smokey pepper, or even some chopped fresh rosemary? They both work well with cherries). All you need to do is stir everything together in a bowl before adding them to the bottom of a baking pan. Then top the filling with those fun little cutouts. Layer them strategically or haphazardly, it’s up to you. Just make sure to leave some gaps for steam to escape. In no time this will have baked up, and then all you need to do is wait a few minutes to let the juices settle back down.
So yes, I mentioned that you could serve this with ice cream. It’s a no-brainer, especially during the hot summer months. But if you really want to pay homage to that Black Forest torte, why not serve this with a bowl of stabilized whipping cream flavoured with a bit of sugar and more of the liqueur you ended up using in the filling, on the side? Top a serving with a generous dollop of the whipped cream, and maybe some preserved or maraschino cherries, and you have a dessert worthy of fancy company! Oh, to make stabilized whipped cream (the kind of cream that won’t start weeping and losing its body too quickly) used powdered or icing sugar to sweeten it, as well as a little extra cornstarch. This will help firm up the final whipped cream.
So, this is my cherry contribution this year. We’ve been really busy away from home right now, and I just haven’t had the time or inspiration to sit in front of the computer. My apologies. I do get like this every year. Summer is fun, but it definitely knocks the energy out of me. But it will return as the evenings start to cool down towards the end of August, helping me to find some sleep again. Hope your summer is going fabulously!
Chocolate Cherry Pandowdy
And old fashioned fruit based dessert, with a lovely pie crust topper. But without the fuss of making a pie! Cherries, chocolate and a bit of kirsch or bourbon create a lovely dessert inspired by Black Forest Torte flavours. Serve with ice cream or stabilized whipped cream.
- 2 cups AP flour minus 1 tbsp
- 3 tbsp cocoa powder
- 3 tbsp granulated sugar plus 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter chilled and cubed
- 1/3 cup shortening chilled and cubed
- 1 large egg
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup ice water use only 2 tbsp to begin with
- 1 tbsp or so of cream
- 1 tbsp turbinado sugar
- 1 1/2 lb (approx 680 grams) sweet cherries, pitted (You should have about 4 1/2 cups worth)
- 2 tsp cornstarch
- 2 tbsp (25 grams) packed light brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 3 tbsp cocoa nibs
- 2 tbsp kirsch or bourbon
*Can be made in advance.
Combine flour, cocoa powder, sugar and salt. I use a food processor, feel free to do everything by hand, using a large bowl and a whisk.
Add the cubed butter and shortening and pulse only until blended to a rough, crumbly texture. It should only take 2 or 3 pulses. You still want to see large pieces of butter (the size of marbles). Or use a pastry blender or knife to achieve this. Try not to overwork with your hands though- their warmth will warm up the butter too much.
Whisk the egg, lemon juice and 2 tbsp of the ice water in a small bowl.
Add to flour mixture and pulse just till the dough comes together into a rough ball. Don't worry about grabbing every little bit from the sides, you can add this to the ball you turn out onto the counter by hand. Ideally you should still see pieces of butter. If it isn't coming together in the first few pulses, add more ice water, but no more than the original 1/4 cup stated in the ingredients. On a humid day you will most likely need less water.
Shape the ball into two disks and wrap. Chill at least 30 minutes- 1 hour, or freeze till needed. Save one for future pandowdies or as a pie shell.
Take out one disk and let return to room temperature. Place it on a well floured counter.
Roll it to 1/4 thick. Using floured cutters create 'cookies'. If you want you could also just use a knife to cut 1 1/2 to 2 inch squares. Place these aside onto a parchment lined plate till needed. You want enough to cover the pie dish or baking pan you are using, plus a bit extra for overlapping. Chill till needed.
Remove from the fridge when you start on the filling.
Preheat the oven to 375F (or 190C) and place a rack into the top third of the oven.
In a large bowl add the pitted cherries along with the cornstarch, the sugar and the salt. Stir to coat well. Add the cocoa nibs and kirsch. Stir and let sit for while you make the pandowdy topper.
Spoon the cherry filling into a sprayed 9 or 10 inch pie plate or a 9 or 10 inch square baking pan.
Layer the pastry cut outs over the filling, overlapping them into any pattern, or as haphazardly as you like. Just ensure that you leave enough room for some steam to escape. Don't be afraid to cover the edges of the pie plate or pan.
Brush the pastry with a splash of cream, and sprinkle turbinado sugar over it all.
Place this pan onto a baking sheet and bake until the filling is bubbling and the crust is a golden darker brown (it may be hard to tell since it is chocolate to begin with, so truly bubbling juices will be your best indicator. This should take 40-45 minutes.
Let it cool for at least 10 minutes. It can even be served at room temperature.
Serve it warm or at room temp with ice cream or stabilized whipped cream.
Leftovers will keep, covered in an airtight container for at least 3 days. Reheat to serve.