Apple Brown Betty
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Apple Brown Betty is a type of fruit crisp that’s created from sliced apples, buttered bread crumbs, and warm spices. This easy old fashioned dessert is baked until crispy and golden, and is best served with ice cream.
What is an Apple Brown Betty?
A brown betty is a traditional American dessert made from fruit and sweetened crumbs. While the apple version is most popular, this dessert can be made with other fruits including berries, peaches, or pears.
Lemon juice is often mixed with the fruit – both to prevent oxidation and to balance the sweetness of the fruit and sugar filling.
The origin of this dessert is somewhat controversial. Someone named Betty was the first to make this recipe, and some believe that the brown may refer to the color of the topping – which gets its color from a generous amount of cinnamon, as well as the browning that occurs during the baking process.
There is other speculation that Betty was a brown-skinned woman, and the name of this dessert refers to the color of her skin. There have been several attempts to change the name of this dessert to avoid any racial implications, but the name, Apple Brown Betty, endures today.
Regardless of its namesake, the apple brown betty dessert is a popular vintage recipe that has been passed on through generations of time.
What’s the difference between Apple Crisp and Apple Brown Betty?
There are SO many versions of Apple Brown Betty, but it definitely belongs to the apple crisp or apple cobbler family.
Some versions are made with bread crumbs, crackers or corn flakes. Some are made with a crumble of butter, sugar, and flour (and sometimes oats).
The old fashioned Apple Brown Betty my mother-in-law loved was more of a bread with a crisp topping that was served with a sweet vanilla sauce, like a bread pudding.
As I researched, I believe bread crumbs to be the original version of the apple brown betty. According to National Today, “The recipe consisted of lemon juice, sandwich bread, brown sugar, Granny Smith apples, butter, and cinnamon.”
It’s basically an apple crisp recipe with sweetened bread crumbs, and is less saucy. It tastes very similar to a crisp or crumble, and the bread crumb topping is much less finicky than getting a streusel topping just right.
Bread crumbs in a dessert?
Before you turn your head to the fact that this apple dessert has bread crumbs in it, just think of all those bread-y desserts like apple fritter donuts or apple French toast (aka bread pudding). I’ve even made an apple monkey bread.
It goes together, I promise!
For this apple brown betty recipe I’m sticking as closely to the original recipe, except using a sweeter apple in place of Granny Smith. I also opted to use apple pie spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice) instead of just cinnamon, for added flavor.
For this recipe you will need:
- Apples – Use any apple that will withstand baking. (NOT Red Delicious)
- Granulated Sugar – To sweeten and help release the natural juices from the apples.
- Lemon Juice – To help prevent apples from browning, and to balance the sweetness.
- Butter – I prefer salted butter for this recipe, to help cut the sweetness and enhance flavors.
- Brown Sugar – To sweeten the bread crumbs.
- Apple Pie Spice – A combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice to flavor the topping.
- Soft White Sandwich Bread – The amount of slices to equal 3 cups of crumbs will depend on the quality of the bread used. Whole wheat bread would also be fine.
For the Apples
- Peel, core, and slice the apples. I like to use a peeler, corer, slicer tool for this. Then cut the slices into smaller pieces, about 2-inches long.
- Place apples in a bowl with the sugar and lemon juice. Stir and set aside to macerate — release juices.
For the Topping
- Pulse bread in a food processor until fine crumbs.
- Melt the butter in a large bowl. Add the brown sugar, apple pie spice, and bread crumbs.
- Mix together until bread crumbs are evenly coated.
Assembling the Apple Brown Betty
A betty dessert is traditionally layered. I believe this is so that the bread crumbs can soak up some of the liquid that the apples put-off.
The bread crumbs can get slightly mushy on that bottom layer. So if you don’t like that idea, you may layer the dessert with all of the apples on bottom and all of the crumbs on top, but you may want to add 1-2 teaspoons of cornstarch to the apple filling to thicken it to a saucy texture during baking. (Otherwise it may be quite liquidy.)
- Layer half of the apples onto the bottom of a greased 9×9-inch baking pan. Top with half of the seasoned bread crumbs.
- Repeat with the rest of the apples and bread crumbs.
- Bake, uncovered, at 375˚F for 50-55 minutes or until the apples are tender, and the top of the dessert is golden brown and crisp.
Serving and Storing
Brown Betty is traditionally served with cream-based sides, such as ice cream or whipped cream. Mixed with the apple flavor and spiced bread crumbs, the cream caps a delicious dessert that tastes just like heaven.
Cover and store any leftovers at room temperature up to 2-3 days or in the fridge for up to 5 days. Leftovers are best eaten warm by reheating in the microwave for 30 second increments until heated through, or crisped up in the oven at 350˚F for 10-15 minutes.
More Apple Desserts
If you liked this recipe, you might also want to try these apple desserts:
If You Make This Recipe, Please Rate and Review it in the Comments Below. THANKS!
For the apples:
- 2 lbs apples* (about 4 large apples; approximately 5 cups sliced)
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
For the topping:
- 1/2 cup salted butter, melted
- 1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 2 tsp apple pie spice*
- 4 (+) slices of soft white sandwich bread (to equal 3 cups of crumbs)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a 9x9-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
- Peel, core, and slice the apples. Then cut the slices into smaller pieces, about 2-inches long. Place apples in a large bowl with the sugar and lemon juice. Stir and set aside to let macerate — release juices.
- Pulse bread in a food processor until fine crumbs. Melt the butter in a large bowl. Add the brown sugar, apple pie spice, and bread crumbs. Mix together until bread crumbs are evenly coated.
- Layer half of the apples onto the bottom of the prepared pan. Top with half of the seasoned bread crumbs. Repeat with the rest of the apples and bread crumbs.
- Bake, uncovered, at 375˚F for 50 to 55 minutes or until the apples are tender, and the top of the dessert is golden brown and crisp. Serve warm with a scoop of ice cream or dollop of whipped cream.
- Most any apple, EXCEPT Red Delicious, will work for this recipe. I chose to use Fuji, but Gala or Pink Lady would also be great choices. Granny Smith will also work, but may need additional sugar to sweeten.
- To substitute Apple Pie Spice use: 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, and 1/4 tsp allspice.
- You may layer the dessert with all of the apples on bottom and all of the crumbs on top, but you may want to add 1-2 teaspoons of cornstarch to the apple filling to help thicken the juices to a saucy texture during baking.
- Cover and store any leftovers at room temperature up to 2-3 days or in the fridge for up to 5 days. Leftovers are best eaten warm by reheating in the microwave for 30 second increments until heated through, or crisped up in the oven at 350˚F for 10-15 minutes.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 354Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 41mgSodium: 231mgCarbohydrates: 53gFiber: 4gSugar: 38gProtein: 2g
This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix, and is an estimation only.