Tuesday, September 18, 2012

What's in a name? And a recipe for Apple Brown Betty

I have a wonderful little article clipped from an old Martha Stewart Living magazine. It describes

in words

and pictures

just what delineates the various kinds of fruit desserts. I'm going to quote freely from the piece.

A crumble, as you might guess, features irresistibly crumbly morsels that make the fruit (almost) seem like an afterthought.

A cobbler, possibly named for the way cooks cobbled it together from ingredients on hand, is as inviting and homey as it sounds; it is made with sweet-tart filling and either a moist batter or a billowing biscuit topping.

A grunt is similar but topped with unassuming dumplings and cooked on the stove. This dessert is true to its oddball name - its fruit bubbles noisily as it cooks, tempting anyone within earshot. (A grunt is also sometimes called a slump, a name that comes from its graceless habit of falling over itself when served in a gooey, yummy mess.)

A crisp is a baked concoction of sweetened fruit with a crumbly topping. Some debate whether the topping should include oats.

A brown Betty is a spiced fruit dessert with buttered breadcrumbs or cake-crumb topping that turns golden brown as it cooks.

A buckle is a hybrid dessert - like a cakey cobbler with a crumble topping.

A pandowdy, with its rustic piecrust topping, is mussed up intentionally, giving it a dowdy appearance that encourages one to dive in with abandon.

The article suggests that the cook experiment, and that when doing so
you might inadvertently redefine the dessert, turning a grunt into a crumble, or even add a whole new member to the genre. It makes no difference; let your mood and your supplies guide you.
I just love all these names. There are several I've never made, but I will begin to remedy that situation today. As I was writing this, I (coincidentally??) heard 'Along Came Betty' on a jazz radio station, so here it is (and more!) for your listening pleasure as you read along.

Since the article is from her magazine, I thought I'd make Martha's Apple Brown Betty.

Apple Brown Betty

4 to 5 slices white sandwich bread, torn into large pieces
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
2 1/2 pounds Gala apples (about 6), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup packed light- or dark-brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Vanilla ice cream, for serving (optional)

Preheat oven to 375ยบ F.

In a food processor, pulse bread until coarse crumbs form (you should have about 2 cups).
Spread breadcrumbs on a rimmed baking sheet; bake until golden, 8 to 10 minutes.
Let cool completely.
Transfer to a bowl, add butter, and toss until coated.
Meanwhile, place apples in a large bowl, and toss with lemon juice.
Stir in sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and half the breadcrumbs.
Transfer mixture to an 8-inch square (or other shallow 2-quart) baking dish.
Sprinkle with remaining breadcrumbs.
Cover dish tightly with aluminum foil.
Bake until fruit mixture is bubbling, about 40 minutes.
Then remove foil, and continue baking until breadcrumbs have browned and apples are easily pierced with a paring knife, 10 to 15 minutes more.

Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

Top, if desired, with vanilla ice cream sprinkled with cinnamon

My notes:

I used salted butter, and white sugar.

I used our homemade whole wheat bread, and cut off the crusts.

Whole wheat crumbs toast much faster than 8-10 minutes - check after 3 or 4.

I think next time I wouldn't even both to toast the crumbs. I'm sure they will crisp up just fine in the baking.

Even though it didn't say to grease the baking dish, I coated it with cooking spray.

I used the apples I had on hand, Galas and McIntoshes. And they must have been a lot smaller than the ones in the original recipe. I used many more than six, and weighed them on the kitchen scale. I barely used two pounds, and there were plenty of apples.

I tried using a 7 x 11 pan, but it was too full so I switched to a 9 x 13.

And, I forgot to mix the butter in with the crumbs so I just poured it over the top.

I topped with whipped cream.

This is a really good apple dessert. It's just a little different from all the others I've made over the years. The crumbs add a crunchiness that I loved. Wonderful. I'll make this again and again.


  1. So great you included Benny Golson. Typing as I listen to great music. Ambiance is wonderful. You cook like I do. Assemble, change direction, tweak and enjoy! By any name it’s still a rose! Have a wonderful evening, Nan.

    1. I couldn't resist. It seemed like a sign, hearing it as I was writing about a 'Betty.' :<)

  2. All of the different words are pretty cool and the dessert looks wonderful!

    1. It was great. Gone now. (but we did share with our dear neighbors)

  3. Yummy -- fun listening too. Beautiful pictures -- if only you had a way to transmit the cinammony scent, all the senses would be covered here.

  4. so many different varieties of these yummy apple desserts. You make me want to bake something.

  5. My mother used to make these desserts and i believe she knew the difference. That would be more than i knew but now you wonderful definitions make it much clearer to me. Now I wonder why I never asked my mom about them. Probably my mouth was too full of whatever she chose to make that day. Thanks for posting this. I am going to print it and keep it for future reference

    1. I do love information like this, and am so pleased you enjoyed it too.

  6. Looks simple and delicious, and just right for a fall dessert. Thanks for sharing!

  7. I can almost smell it!! And I am sure that, even if you make it "again and again", it will never be exactly the same, but have a slightly different deliciousness to it every time.

  8. I haven't made apple brown betty, but I often make apple crisp and when I make apple pan dowdy I often used Pillsbury pie crust. We live near several apple orchards that grow a whole wonderful variety of apples.Delicious.

    1. We aren't that near any orchards, but the local co-op carries apples from one a few miles away, so I am happy, happy!

  9. No matter how prepared or what you call it, those apples look delicious.

  10. This seems like the perfect fall dessert.

  11. We're definitely going to try this one. Your last recipe was such a hit and Rod's craving more apple-based desserts. :)

    1. There are lots more under recipes/fruit desserts. Bake away, my dear!

  12. I love this time of year---the apples, beets, tomatoes are so abundant, and there are so many great ways to use them all up. I just tend to start throwing fruit into a mix of crumbly, crusty, crunchy stuff, with some spices, and depending on how sweet the apples taste to me, maybe a little sugar. YUM.

    1. One of my very best friends is a beet lover! Not me. But I send her beet recipes and articles. :<)


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