Brown Sugar Apple Pandowdy

published Aug 23, 2023
Brown Sugar Apple Pan Dowdy Recipe

Brown sugar-sweetened apples baked under a pastry crust that's been broken into syrup-coated pieces.


Prep20 minutes

Cook40 minutes

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Photo of brown sugar apple pan dowdy.
Credit: Kelli Foster

Apple pie is one of the best parts of fall, but it takes a lot of work to serve a perfect slice of pie. Luckily, there’s an old-fashioned answer to this dessert dilemma: An apple pan dowdy (or pandowdy) is everything you love about apple pie, but with much less work. 

In this recipe, we top brown sugar-sweetened apples with a buttery pie crust and bake until golden and flaky. Once the pan dowdy comes out of the oven, you take a spoon and break the crust so that the syrupy juices seep up from underneath. The apple pan dowdy will look messy, but the syrup-covered crust serves as a sweet, crisp contrast to the tender apple filling beneath.

What Is an Apple Pan Dowdy?

An apple pan dowdy (or pandowdy) is an old-fashioned baked fruit dessert with a “dowdied” or broken pastry topping. An apple pan dowdy is traditionally sweetened with molasses or maple syrup, but in this recipe we’re using dark brown sugar.

Credit: Kelli Foster

Why Is It Called Apple Pan Dowdy?

The term “dowdy” means frumpy or messy. In order to “dowdy” this baked dessert, break up the crust with the back of a large spoon. The syrupy juices of the filling coat the edges of the broken crust, which will cool to create a sweet lacquer over the crispy pastry. 

Some recipes call for cutting the pastry crust into pieces and layering them haphazardly over the spiced, sweetened apples. This achieves the “dowdied” look, but takes extra effort to prepare. Plus, the overlapping layers of crust might not bake up as flaky and crisp as a single crust will. It is best to bake a pan dowdy with a top pie crust, and then break up the pastry once the dessert has come out of the oven.

What Is the Difference Between Pan Dowdy and Pie?

There are two significant differences between a pan dowdy and a pie.

  • Baking dish. Pies are baked in shallow dishes specifically designed for pies. A pan dowdy is prepared in a deeper baking dish.
  • Crust. Both desserts are baked with a from-scratch flaky pastry crust or one that’s store-bought. For pies, the top crust is perfectly latticed, crimped, or vented. In a pan dowdy, the crust is “dowdied” or broken into pieces partway through baking or after it comes out of the oven. 

How to Serve Apple Pan Dowdy

Dowdy the crust as soon as the baking dish comes out of the oven, then let it cool until just barely warm. Scoop the filling and sticky-crisp pastry into bowls and top with vanilla ice cream, homemade caramel sauce, or vanilla whipped cream.

Brown Sugar Apple Pan Dowdy Recipe

Brown sugar-sweetened apples baked under a pastry crust that's been broken into syrup-coated pieces.

Prep time 20 minutes

Cook time 40 minutes

Serves 6

Nutritional Info


  • Cooking spray

  • 1

    homemade or store-bought pie crust, thawed if frozen

  • 1

    large egg yolk

  • 1 tablespoon


  • 1/2 cup

    packed dark brown sugar

  • 1 tablespoon


  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground ginger

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    ground nutmeg

  • 2 to 2 1/2 pounds

    sweet-tart apples, such as Gala, Pink Lady or Honeycrisp (about 4 large or 6 medium)

  • 1

    medium lemon

  • 2 teaspoons

    granulated sugar


  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F. Coat an 8x8-inch, 9x9-inch, or other 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray.

  2. Place 1 pie dough on a sheet of parchment paper and roll out to a 10-inch round. Slide the parchment onto a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate while you prepare the filling.

  3. Place 1 large egg yolk and 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl and whisk with a fork until combined.

  4. Place 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg in a large bowl and stir to combine, breaking up any clumps of sugar.

  5. Peel 2 to 2 1/2 pounds sweet-tart apples. Halve and core the apples, then cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Add to the bowl of spiced sugar. Squeeze the juice from 1 medium lemon into the bowl (about 2 tablespoons). Toss to combine, making sure there are no clumps of sugar or cornstarch left in the bottom of the bowl. Transfer to the baking dish and spread into an even layer.

  6. Place the pie crust over the apples, folding the excess pie dough around the edge under itself. Cut 6 1-inch slits in the center of the crust. Brush the crust with a thin layer of the egg wash. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons granulated sugar.

  7. Bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the baking dish and continue to bake until the pan dowdy is fragrant, the filling is bubbling, and the crust is golden brown, about 20 minutes more.

  8. Place the baking dish on a wire rack. Press the crust down into the syrupy juices with the back of a large spoon in 5 to 6 spots, letting the juices coat the edges of the broken pie crust. Once cool, they will be sticky and lacquered, but remain crisp and flaky. Let cool until just barely warm before serving, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Do not serve hot.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The pie dough can be made up to 4 days ahead and refrigerated. The wrapped dough can also be placed in a freezer bag and frozen for up to 3 months; thaw in the refrigerator overnight before using.

Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days. The crust will soften upon refrigeration.