A few weeks back we were discussing what new recipes we wanted to “flip.” Cas decided to browse through some of the old cookbooks and came across a recipe that we had both heard of but never tried: Brown Betty. This particular recipe was in a 1950’s cookbook by the Rumford Baking Powder Company. I decided to give it a go.
What IS a Brown Betty? An Apple Brown Betty is a traditional American dessert made from fruit (usually apple, but also berries or pears) and sweetened crumbs. Similar to a cobbler or apple crisp, the fruit is baked and in this case the sweetened crumbs are in layers between the fruit. It is usually served with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. The dish was first mentioned in print in 1864. The Rumford’s recipe called for graham cracker crumbs or dry bread crumbs. I went with the graham crackers. That was the first mistake.
As I do in every “flip” process I make the original recipe as is first. This helps me decide what needs to be improved on if anything. So I made it one Sunday afternoon when a close friend was dropping by for a few minutes and she, Cas and Mom got to be the guinea pigs of the original. (This is your public apology friend, you know who you are!) In theory, it should have been wonderful. In reality it was terrible! File 13 Folks! That’s what I ended up doing with the portion that was left from four servings for my test tasters. Oh my, where to even begin!
The second mistake was the lack of liquid (the recipe only called for 2/3 cup of water for the whole dish!) to help it do something…anything, but what it did – lie there and look dry and well…brown. I actually even added more water because it did not look right. From the ingredients you would have thought it would be fabulous. Apples, cinnamon, sugar, butter, graham crackers….as Ina Garten would say, how bad can that be? Pretty bad.
The taste was okay but the consistency was wrong, wrong, wrong. As I mentioned, my test tasters assured me it was good but after everyone went on their way, I dumped the whole thing. That’s an hour I’ll never get back.
So I sat on the idea for another couple weeks. Some recipes online indicated they used brioche bread and made it like a bread pudding. I can see how that would work but it really isn’t the traditional idea of an Apple Brown Betty which is more like an apple crisp. What is a Food Flipper to do?
After an unusually stressful time with some fish for a catering gig, an idea came to me and I decided to give Betty another shot. This second attempt was far superior and I definitely added a little flip in the mix by adding pineapple and a mix of dried fruits – cranberry, cherry and golden raisins. I replaced the graham cracker crumbs for a traditional apple crisp topping. The result was something I would serve to company and anywhere. I’ve also decided that Betty needed a name change as well. Instead of Brown Betty she is now Sweet Betty.
The Recipe: Sweet Apple Betty
For the fruit –
3-4 apples, peeled and sliced or diced (I used a mixture of Golden Delicious and Red Delicious)
¼ c dried cranberries
¼ c dried cherries
¼ c golden raisins
2/3 c pineapple tidbits
1/4c pineapple juice (used from the tidbits)
½ c topping mix
¼ c sugar
1-2 T cinnamon
For the topping-
1 c brown sugar
¾ c quick oats
¾ c plain flour
1 t cinnamon
1 stick butter, cold, plus ½ stick for reserve
- Peel and slice or chop apples; place in a large mixing bowl.
- Add sugar and cinnamon to apples and coat well. Cover for about 30 minutes. This will create a little juice.
- Add in dried fruits, pineapple and pineapple juice, mixing well. Set aside.
- Measure sugar, oats, flour and cinnamon into a mixing bowl and stir well making sure all lumps are gone.
- Cut the stick of cold butter into cubes and dump into dry ingredients.
- Cut in butter with your hands or pastry cutter until mixed well with the consistency of crumbled granola.
- Add ½ cup of topping mixture to fruit, mixing well. Pour into 9 x 12 casserole.
- Sprinkle remaining topping evenly over the top.
- Melt ½ stick of reserved butter and drizzle over the top.
- Bake at 375 for 45 minutes or until bubbly.
- Cool slightly and serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.