While similar to British apple crisps, Apple Brown Betty is an all-American dessert, the recipe for which was passed down from generation to generation. Unlike an apple crisp, the topping for which typically contains oats,… or an apple cobbler that has a biscuit dough topping… Apple Brown Betty is made with old, stale breadcrumbs or leftover cake.
It first appeared in print in 1764 in the Yale Literary Magazine. Fannie Farmer’s Boston Cooking School Cookbook had a Scalloped Apples recipe that is identical to Brown Betty. In fact, they updated the name to Brown Betty by their 1930s edition.
Updated renditions may replace stale crumbs with flour and the various spices with a pre-mixed pumpkin pie spice blend. While this is not my personal recipe, I thought you might enjoy checking out the old, original version.
1¼ c stale cake crumbs, finely ground
½ c dark brown sugar, packed
¼ c sugar
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground allspice
¼ tsp ground ginger
Pinch ground cloves
2½ pounds apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1 T lemon juice (to prevent browning)
1/3 c apple cider
4 T cold butter
Combine crumbs, sugar & spices. In a larger bowl, toss apples with lemon juice (to prevent browning). Spread 2 T crumb mixture across bottom of buttered 9×9” (4-qt) baking dish. Top with half the apples. Pour cider over it all and scatter with half the remaining crumbs. Dot with half the butter and top with remaining apples & crumbs. Finish with butter. Bake at 350°F for 35-45 min till golden brown and bubbly. Cool briefly. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.