This dessert came to be for a few reasons. One: it’s the first day of fall and this seems like the perfect bridge-into-autumn dessert, using late summer berries and incorporating Bosc pears from the farmers market.
Two: I’ve been awfully into rustic, free-form desserts lately. Recently, Linnea was up in Sonoma–ambling around the square with her mom–and brought home a book called Rustic Fruit Desserts by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson. Both are from Portland, OR and Julie owns a little small-batch bakery there by the name of Baker and Spice. She started out selling her tarts and crumbles at the farmers market…and business grew. I can see why. There’s just something nice about unfussy desserts with a reliable crust that showcase beautiful, seasonal fruit. The ingredients are simple: mainly butter, sugar, buttermilk, eggs, and fruit. And the method almost seems intuitive, as if you’re keying into something that people have been doing the same way for years and years.
For those of you who don’t know what a pandowdy is, never fear. I didn’t either. But Rustic Fruit Desserts will fill you in on the difference between a crisp and a cobbler, a buckle and a pandowdy. The latter, by the way, is an old-fashioned spoon pie, with fruit on the bottom and a thick formed crust on top, which is broken up to allow the juices to come through. After skimming the beautiful book, my (unemployed) wheels started turning: wouldn’t it be great to open a little bakery that only sold rustic desserts? Linnea and I debated on the name, playing around with the order of wording and have settled on Buckle and Slump. If someone would like to provide funding, you know where to find me. Just kidding…sort of. So regardless of whether you’re testing it for a new rustic dessert venture or for the troops at home, this one probably won’t have much idle counter time.
For this recipe, use ripe pears (and if you use Bartlett pears, there’s no need to peel them). It’s always tempting to use overly ripe fruit in desserts such as this because essentially you’re just baking the fruit down. But if you do that here, you’ll end up with nothing more than a mushy pandowdy. You really do want the pieces of pear to hold a bit of their shape. You may certainly skip the ginger in the crust and those of you who dislike the flavor obviously will. However, it was quite subtle and added a slight warmness to the buttery crust that I would certainly miss.
Recipe from: Rustic Fruit Desserts
For Fruit Filling:
For biscuit topping:
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 400 F. Butter a 9-inch pie pan. To make the fruit filling, combine the sugar, cornstarch, and salt together in a large bowl, then add the pears and lemon juice and toss until evenly coated. Gently fold in the raspberries and transfer to prepared pan. Distribute the butter atop the fruit.
To make the biscuit: whisk the flour, 3 tablespoons of the sugar, the baking powder, and the salt together in a bowl. Add the butter and toss until evenly coated. Using your fingers or a pastry blender, cut in the butter until it’s the size of large peas, then transfer to a bowl. Stir in the ginger, then pour in the 2/3 cup buttermilk and stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. The dough will be crumbly and the pieces of butter will be visible.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and press together, then press into a 9 inch circle. Don’t bother rolling it out–remember, this is a “rustic” dessert. Carefully place dough atop fruit. Brush dough with the 1 tablespoon buttermilk, then sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Place pie pan on baking sheet to catch drips. Bake in the lower third of the oven for 30 minutes. Then turn oven down to 350 and bake an additional 20 minutes or until pastry is golden and juices are bubbly and thick. Allow to cool for 30 minutes before serving. Covered with a tea towel, this pandowdy will keep at room temperature for 3 days.
Healthy Comfort Food
People describe raising young kids as a particular season in life. I hadn't heard this until we had a baby, but it brought me a lot of comfort when I'd start to let my mind wander, late at night between feedings, to fears that we'd never travel internationally again or have a sit-down meal in our dining room. Would I ever eat a cardamom bun in Sweden? Soak in Iceland? I loved the heck out of our tiny Oliver, but man what had we done?! Friends would swoop in and reassure us that this was just a season, a blip in the big picture of it all. They promised we'd likely not even remember walking around the house in circles singing made-up songs while eating freezer burritos at odd hours of the day (or night). And it's true.
Oliver is turning two next month, and those all-encompassing baby days feel like a different time, a different Us. In many ways, dare I say it, Toddlerhood actually feels a bit harder. Lately Oliver has become extremely opinionated about what he will and will not wear -- and he enforces these opinions with fervor. Don't get near the kid with a button-down shirt. This week at least. He's obsessed with his rain boots and if it were up to him, he'd keep them on at all times, especially during meals. He insists on ketchup with everything (I created a damn monster), has learned the word "trash" and insists on throwing found items away on his own that really, truly are not trash. I came to pick him up from daycare the other day and he was randomly wearing a bike helmet -- his teacher mentioned he'd had it on most of the day and really, really didn't want to take it off. The kid has FEELINGS. I love that about him, and wouldn't want it any other way. But, man it's also exhausting.
I just finished washing out Oliver's lunchbox and laying it out to dry for the weekend. My favorite time of day is (finally) here: the quiet of the evening when I can actually talk to Sam about our day or sit and reflect on my own thoughts after the inevitable dance party or band practice that precedes the bedtime routine lately. Before becoming pregnant for the second time, I'd have had a glass of wine with the back door propped open right about now -- these days though, I have sparkling water or occasionally take a sip from one of Sam's hard ciders. Except now the back door's closed and we even turned on the heat for the first time yesterday. The racing to water the lawn and clean the grill have been replaced by cozier dinners at home and longer baths in the evening. You blink and it's the first day of fall.
I'd heard from many friends that buying a house wasn't for the faint of heart. But I always shrugged it off, figuring I probably kept better files or was more organized and, really, how hard could it be? Well, I've started (and stopped) writing this post a good fifteen times which may indicate something. BUT! First thing's first: we bought a house! I think! I'm pretty sure! We're still waiting for some tax transcripts to come through and barring any hiccough with that, we'll be moving out of our beloved craftsman in a few weeks and down the block to a great, brick Tudor house that we wanted the second we laid eyes on it. The only problem: it seemed everyone else in Seattle had also laid eyes on it, and wanted it equally as much. I'm not really sure why the homeowner chose us in the end. Our offer actually wasn't the highest, but apparently there were some issues with a few of them. We wrote a letter introducing ourselves and describing why we'd be the best candidates and why we were so drawn to the house; we have a really wonderful broker who pulled out all the stops, and after sifting through 10 offers and spending a number of hours deliberating, they ended up going with ours. We were at a friend's book event at the time when Sam showed me the text from our broker and I kind of just collapsed into his arms. We were both in ecstatic denial (wait, is this real?! Did we just buy a house?) and celebrated by getting chicken salad and potato salad from the neighborhood grocery store and eating it, dazed, on our living room floor. Potato salad never tasted so good.
If your house is anything like ours, last week wasn't our most inspired in terms of cooking. We're all suffering from the post-election blues -- the sole upside being Oliver's decision to sleep-in until 7 am for the first time in many, many months; I think he's trying to tell us that pulling the covers over our heads and hibernating for awhile is ok. It's half-convincing. For much of the week, instead of cooking, there'd been takeout pizza and canned soup before, at week's end, I decided it was time to pour a glass of wine and get back into the kitchen. I was craving something hearty and comforting that we could eat for a few days. Something that wouldn't remind me too much of Thanksgiving because, frankly, I can't quite gather the steam to start planning for that yet. It was time for a big bowl of chili.
Porridge is not the sexiest of breakfasts, it's true. It doesn't have a stylish name like strata or shakshuka, and it doesn't have perfectly domed tops like your favorite fruity muffin. It doesn't crumble into delightful bits like a good scone nor does it fall into buttery shards like a well-made croissant. But when you wake up and it's 17 degrees outside (as it has been, give or take a few, for the last week), there's nothing that satisfies like a bowl of porridge or oatmeal. It's warm and hearty and can be made sweet or savory with any number of toppings. The problem? Over the years, it's gotten a bad rap as gluey or gummy or just downright boring or dutiful -- and it's because not everyone knows the secrets to making a great pot of warm morning cereal. So let's talk porridge (also: my cookbook comes out this month! So let's take a peek inside, shall we?)