The air in my house had a distinct chill this morning, the kind that arrives as summer ends. So when I dressed to walk my daughter to the bus stop, I pulled on a cozy sweater, happy to wrap it around me. I’ve been waiting for this — that in between time when we can still enjoy mild temperatures, but move on to the comforts of sweaters and boots.
Of course, that happiness only lasted until I stepped outside and discovered that it wasn’t nearly as chilly as it felt inside. In fact, it was downright warm.
Still, for a moment, I felt that familiarity, security and comfort that comes with wrapping myself up in the coziness of a sweater. It’s like an old friend.
Speaking of friends, longtime readers of this column will remember that former BDN staffer Eric Zelz used to illustrate each recipe that appeared. His beautiful illustrations were subtle and nuanced, creative and heartwarming. Once, for a recipe inspired by a friend of mine who passed, he managed to capture her spirit in the illustration, unknowingly creating a character that reminded me so fully of her.
It was his idea to launch Maine Course, this column, as a collaborative project, and his inspiration that kept it going week after week for nearly a year and a half. When Eric retired at the end of last year, I wasn’t sure what to do — but ultimately I decided to continue writing even though the column isn’t the same one we’d envisioned.
This week Eric has again inspired this column. He and his wife, Abigail Zelz, recently wrote a children’s book called “Pass the Pandowdy, Please,” and it was reading about the unique dessert that is pandowdy that inspired me to create a new apple cobbler recipe.
See, Eric mentioned that they named the book after the pandowdy because they liked the sound of the unusual name. I loved that reasoning. A pandowdy is a spiced apple dessert cooked in a cast iron skillet with a crust topping. There’s a recipe included in their new book, but I don’t own the right skillet to try it.
Fortunately, there are so many other fun and silly names for fruit desserts out there. There’s the buckle, the slump and the grunt, for instance. I really love the idea of eating something called a grunt.
And even the cobbler is a little funny if you stop to appreciate the name for a moment. Beyond the desserts covered with a thick crust, cobblers are folks who repair shoes. Dessert or shoes … both are good.
This particular recipe for apple cobbler begins with fresh apples, which are plentiful in pick-your-own orchards and at farmers markets right now. I used what I had in our fruit bowl, which included some early girls and another tart apple I found at the farmers market.
Because these bold apples aren’t too sweet, rich brown sugar counters the tartness and a gentle mix of cinnamon and nutmeg enhance the flavor.
As for the topping, I used my favorite recipe for baking powder biscuits and adapted it a bit with a touch of sugar and a hint of cinnamon.
The resulting dessert tender and sweet, with hints of savoriness. And it’s an absolute delight served warm with a scoop of cold vanilla ice cream.
- 4 cups fresh apple chunks (do not peel)
- ¼ cup light brown sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp fresh ground nutmeg
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp sugar
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 2 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
- ⅓ cup milk
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In a 2-quart square glass baking dish, combine the apple chunks, brown suagr, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir well and spread out.
- In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, sugar and cinnamon. Using either two knives or a pastry cutter, cut the cold butter into the flour mixture until it looks like coarse crumbs. Stir in the milk until the dough holds together.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured board and gently knead until it forms a smooth dough. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough into a square approximately the size of the glass baking dish. Gently transfer it to top the apples.
- Slide the baking dish into the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes, until bubbling at the sides and golden on top. This is delightful served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.