We’ve all heard of pies, crisps and cobblers, but have you ever tried a pandowdy? This incredibly easy dessert has all of the elements of a fruit pie – juicy filling, golden-brown pastry crust – but it requires a fraction of the effort. To streamline the crust, we top the fruit filling with store-bought frozen puff pastry. The trick is to gently press the crust into the bubbling fruit after baking, creating the signature “dowdy” appearance. It’s a beautifully rustic dessert with bits of pastry that are crispy on top and soaked in fruit juices on the bottom. For the cleanest shapes, stick your stamped-out pastry back in the freezer for 20 minutes while you assemble the fruit filling. You want the butter in the puff pastry to be as cold as possible when you pop it in the oven.
Line a small rimmed baking sheet or a large plate with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, unfold the thawed puff pastry dough. Dust the top with more flour. If necessary, gently roll out the puff pastry to smooth the creases. Using a knife or cookie cutter, cut the dough into shapes. Transfer the pastry pieces to the prepared baking sheet and freeze for 20 minutes. Discard any scraps or save for another use.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425°. Position one rack in the middle of the oven and a second rack in the bottom third of the oven. Set a large rimmed baking sheet or two large sheets of foil on the bottom rack to catch any juices.
In a large bowl, toss the berries with the sugars, orange zest, orange juice, salt and the ¼ cup of flour. In a 12-inch cast-iron skillet, melt the butter over moderate heat. Remove from the heat and pour half of the butter into a small bowl. Scrape the berries into the skillet and distribute evenly.
Arrange the chilled puff pastry pieces on top of the fruit. Brush with the reserved melted butter and sprinkle with demerara sugar, if using. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the pastry is puffed and golden brown. Reduce the oven temperature to 350° and bake until the fruit is very tender and juicy, about 30 minutes more.
Transfer the pandowdy to a cooling rack and, using the back of a large spoon, gently press the puff pastry into the fruit without completely submerging it. Let cool slightly. Serve warm with a big scoop of ice cream.
NOTE If you don’t have time to thaw the puff pastry overnight, cover it with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. It should be pliable, but hold its shape. If the puff pastry gets too soft, return to the freezer for 10 minutes.