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Apple Brown Betty is a vintage baked apple dessert with a sweet crumble topping.
What is an Apple Brown Betty?The first published “brown Betty” recipe dates back to around 1860 in colonial New England. While the apple version is most popular, this dessert can be made with other fruits including berries or pears. It’s a traditional baked fruit dessert with a sweet crumble topping. Lemon juice is often mixed with the fruit – both to prevent oxidation and to balance the sweetness of the fruit and sugar filling. Presumably, someone named Betty was the first to make this recipe, and some believe that the brown may refer to the color of the filling and topping – which get their color from a generous amount of cinnamon in both the filling and topping. 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 over the decades to change the name of this dessert to “scalloped apples” or just a basic “warm fruit dessert” to avoid any racial implications. But the name, Apple Brown Betty, endures today. In some Betty recipes, the crumbs are made from leftover cake or stale bread. Others (like ours) are a simple mix of flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon, mixed with melted butter to form a crumbly topping that is sprinkled over the sweetened apples before baking.
Key ingredients and Substitutions
- Apples – Chose a variety of apple that will hold its shape after baking. We chose Granny Smith because the tartness of these apples nicely balance the sweet topping. You could also use Honey Crisps, Cortland, or Braeburn.
- Lemon Juice – Fresh lemon juice adds a touch of acidity to the sweet fruit filling, plus it prevents the apples from turning brown once they are peeled.
- Brown sugar – This sweetener is used in both the filling and the topping.
- All–purpose flour – Used to thicken the filling and in the simple, crumb topping.
- Ground cinnamon – This spice is the predominant flavor, along with the apples. It’s added to both the filling and the topping.
- Melted Butter – Used in the topping and helps to form the crumbs.
- Whipped Cream – For serving, or you can serve your Apple Brown Betty with vanilla ice cream.
Special supplies needed
- Large bowl to toss the apples and filling ingredients
- 9x13x3-inch deep dish baking dish (we used this Pyrex deep dish, but any deeper, oven-safe casserole dish will work.)
- Apple corer, vegetable peeler, and paring knife
How do I make Apple Brown Betty?
- Core, peel and cut the applies into wedges. Spoon lemon juice over the apples as you work to avoid oxidization.
- Drain off any excess lemon juice then add brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and flour to bowl with the apples. Once combined, pour in the baking dish
- Mix melted butter with flour, brown sugar and cinnamon, then sprinkle over the tops of the apples.
- Bake in the oven for about an hour.
- Serve hot, warm, room temperature or chilled with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream on the side.
Chef’s Tip – Lemon juice tossed with the cut apples will prevent them from oxidizing. But note that most of the lemon juice will be drained off prior to baking. (If you end up using more than the ½ cup called for in the recipe, that’s totally fine – it will not end up in the final dish.)
Frequently asked Questions
- Can I make Apple Brown Betty ahead of time? You can prepare the entire dish and refrigerate until you are ready to bake. However, bring the dish back up to room temperature before placing in the oven.
- How do I store any leftovers? Allow your Apple Brown Betty to cool completely, then cover and store in the refrigerator covered for up to three days.
- How do I reheat the leftovers? You can place the baking dish back in a warm oven to heat through, or microwave individual servings to warm through.
- Can I add oats to my Apple Brown Betty topping? You can – but then, technically, you are making an Apple Crisp instead of a “Betty”. Betty desserts have only a crumb topping with no oats added, but some versions have stale cake or bread crumbs added.
You may like these other Apple desserts:
6 pounds crisp apples such as Granny Smith (about 12 large apples)
½ cup or more of lemon juice
1 cup brown sugar, packed
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 ½ sticks butter, melted (12 tablespoons)
¼ cup brown sugar
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Peel and core the apples and cut into eight or ten wedges depending on size. Add to a very large bowl and as you add each apple, toss with a little of the lemon juice. Repeat until all of the apples are peeled and cut, using additional lemon juice as needed.
After tossing the apples, drain off all of the lemon juice in the bowl and discard. Whatever juice that sticks to the apples is enough.
Pour apples back into the bowl and toss with the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg. As you toss, the mixture will turn wet. Once there is no dry left, pour into a 9x13x3-inch deep baking dish.
Mix all of the topping ingredients then using your fingers, dab bits of it over the top.
Bake for 50 minutes and check to see if the apples are tender. If not continue to bake for 5-10 more minutes.
Place under the broiler to brown the top then remove.
If serving with whipped cream, whip that now and serve with the hot dessert. Can also be served warm, room temperature or chilled. As it sits, the filling will thicken up a bit.
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