How to Make Apple Pandowdy

Posted by The Home School in the Woods Team on

The mingling of apples, dough, sugar, and spice has been loved by all for centuries. Once America’s staple dessert, Apple Pandowdy “made your eyes light up and your stomachs say howdy!”


If you plan on studying the early 19th century with your kids, you’ll definitely want to include this simple and delicious homemade apple cobbler recipe.


Below, we’ll let you in on the history behind America’s beloved Apple Pandowdy – plus, you can make it for yourself with our recipe, found in our Early Nineteenth Century in America Time Traveler.


What is Apple Pandowdy?

Apple Pandowdy, sometimes spelled Apple Pan Dowdy, was originally a combination of sliced apples, dough, butter, spices, and molasses. When baked, this rustic cobbler was a sweet, sloppy mess of bread and apples – similar to the taste of apple pie. 


To make it, the apples would be chopped and flavored with sweet and savory spices. Next, the apples would be placed into the oven to cook until they were melted down into applesauce. Then biscuit dough clumps were plopped on top of the mixture and placed back into the oven until the dough was cooked and sunk into the apples. 


This popular American dessert has been a favorite to many throughout history. Our very own first lady, Abigail Adams, was a big fan of Apple Pandowdy. Louis May Alcott even referred to it in her book Little Women as “Apple Slump.” 


The nickname Apple Slump is believed to have originated due to the fact that the apple and dough “slumped” down as they cooked in the pan together. 


Origins of Apple Pandowdy

We know that Apple Pandowdy originated in America around the 19th century. However, the pairing of sweetened apples and spices can be traced back to Ancient Rome. By the Middle Ages, cooks were perfecting all sorts of pies – especially ones containing apples.


A variation of apple pie, Apple Pandowdy was a cobbler that showed up in Colonial America and well into the pioneer days. The word “dowdy” comes from the Middle-English term “doude,” which is an inelegant person or thing. 


It’s believed that people from the North referred to the dessert as Pandowdy, and those from the South called it Brown Betty. However, other names included slumps, cobblers, grunts, and duffs.


Since Apple Pandowdy was a quick and affordable dessert to throw together, it became a popular choice among those who didn’t care about looks, but rather taste.

The best part about this dessert was that it was incredibly simple to make, and the apples could be swapped out for any seasonal fruit. Cherry pandowdy was a popular variation of the dish, as were peach and blueberry.


Since refined sugar was an expensive commodity of its time, cooks would often use molasses as it cost significantly less. The sweet flavoring of molasses and the tanginess from the fruit made it a mouthwatering masterpiece. 


If you don’t believe us, listen to the song that was made about it! This version is by the one and only Bing Crosby and The Charioteers from 1946. 



Apple Pandowdy Recipe

This homemade apple cobbler recipe will be a guaranteed favorite in your house. Not to mention, it’s a fun opportunity to step back in time and taste what others ate throughout history. If you’d like to know more about including recipes into your curriculum, check out our blog post, Adding Interest to History With Recipes


The ingredients to Apple Pandowdy are simple and affordable – most of which you probably already have in your cupboard. The recipe can easily be made gluten-free by swapping out the flour with gluten-free flour. You can even make it dairy-free by using dairy-free butter and nut milk.


Apple Pandowdy Ingredients:

  • 4 c. apples, peeled and sliced 
  • 1/3 c. brown sugar
  • 2/3 c. white sugar
  • 2-1/2 c. flour
  • 1 c. milk 
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1-1/4 c. butter
  • 3 tsp. baking powder 
  • 3 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg

Apple Pandowdy Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. 
  2. Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl. 
  3. Using a 9” baking dish, lay apples on the bottom. 
  4. Mix together cinnamon, brown sugar, and nutmeg, and sprinkle on apples.
  5. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the egg. Continue mixing, alternately adding flour and milk, making a stiff batter. 
  6. Turn out mixture onto apples, spreading evenly. 
  7. Bake for 50 minutes or until golden.
  8. Enjoy!

Get Baking Pandowdy!

We hope you enjoy making this recipe with the whole family while singing its famous, catchy tune! For more delicious recipes, check out Abraham Lincoln’s famous cake or Kidney Bean Loaf from the Great Depression-era!


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