Beautiful Brown Betties

Have you ever wondered what are the differences in a cobbler, crisp, crumble and betty? They all have some common qualities – fruit, flour, sugar, and spices but are they the same? How about grunts and slumps? When I described what I was going to make to my boys, they asked if I was talking about a fruit stuffing(?). It was time to find out…..

I know that a Brown Betty is an apple dessert made with sliced apples, brown sugar, and breadcrumbs similar to that of a pudding. I did a search on the web for “brown betty” and found this very interesting page called History and Legends of Cobbler, Crisps, Crumble …. Just what I was looking for! They had a description on each of these scrumptious fruit desserts, including the grunts, slumps, pandowdy, and bird’s nest. Their home page is What’s Cooking America. In here, they have a collection of recipes, cooking articles, hints and tips, culinary dictionary, newspaper columns, and food history. My favorite section is of course the History and Legends of Favorite Foods.

According to this site, a Betty is a fruit dessert consisting most commonly of apples, baked between layers of buttered crumbs. This pudding dessert was popular during colonial times in America. The name Brown Betty first appeared in print in 1864. In 1890, the Brown Betty recipe was part of the winning essay for the $500 American Public Health Association Lomb prize (1890) on practical, sanitary and economic cooking adapted to persons of moderate and small means by Mrs. Mary Hinman Abel. This dessert had humble beginnings.

Some of you may know that Brown Betty is also a name for a type of teapot. The Brown Betty teapot is considered by many tea aficionados as one of the best teapot designs ever created. It has a rounded body which allows the tea leaves more room to swirl about, thus releasing more flavor. The teapot is made of a special red clay with a dark chocolate brown glaze that seems to retain heat better. The tea brewed in this pot is deemed to be perfect.

I checked out several apple brown betty recipes out there and finally came up with this version using whatever I had on hand. The Pepperidge Farm cinnamon swirl bread worked out really well. I used agave nectar instead of brown sugar and added some spices, chopped crystallized ginger, and apple juice to moisten it up. The final result was a moist and very flavorful dessert, perfect with a cup of apple cinnamon tea or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. This is a great dessert to prepare in the fall when apples are in season.

In this recipe I used Gala apples but any kind of apple will do just fine. Sometimes I like to use a mix of apples as in my Apple Pie recipe. I find using different kinds of apples in the same dish provides greater flavor and texture.

Apple Brown Betty
3 medium sized apples, peeled, cored, and sliced about ¼ inch thick
1 tbsp all purpose flour
4 slices cinnamon raisin bread, finely cubed
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
1 tbsp chopped crystallized ginger
2 tbsp butter, melted
2 tbsp agave nectar or ¼ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons apple juice
2 tbsp butter, for topping

Grease an 8-inch casserole or pie dish. In a large bowl, toss apples with flour. In another bowl, combine bread, nutmeg, crystallized ginger, and melted butter.

Transfer about a third of the breadcrumbs to the dish. Add a layer of apples. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of agave nectar or 2 tablespoons of brown sugar over the apples. Create another layer by adding another third of the breadcrumbs and remaining apples. Again drizzle 1 tablespoon of agave nectar or 2 tablespoons of brown sugar over the apples. Top with remaining breadcrumbs and sprinkle apple juice over the bread and apples. Dot with the 2 tablespoons of butter. Cover with foil and bake in a 375˚F oven for about 40 to 45 minutes until apples are tender. Remove foil and continue to bake for another 10 to 15 minutes until breadcrumbs are golden. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.

We went canoeing and paddle boating on one of our 10,000 lakes this past weekend. For those who of you who are outside of the US, Minnesota is known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes”. According to Wikipedia, the official count of lakes more than 10 acres in size stands at approximately 11,842. Minnesota’s shoreline from its lakes and rivers provide more shoreline than California, Florida and Hawaii combined. You can click here for an alphabetical listing of the lakes. Don’t worry, you will not be there the entire day as the list is incomplete.

Enjoy…..and have a wonderful day!

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  1. lequan@luvtoeat says

    Ooh, your Brown Betty looks mighty yummy right about now. Thank you for that link on the differences between cobblers, crisps, crumbles, and a brown betty. I never knew the differences and that explained it quite well.

    I love that your family enjoys doing outdoor activities such as biking and canoeing together. I can't wait till my kiddies are old enough to do that kind of stuff. Beautiful pictures and a beautiful lake! Thank you for sharing. Hope you have a great weekend!

  2. rotinrice says

    I really enjoy that site with the History and Legends of Favorite Foods. I am glad I found it :)

    You can actually start biking now with the kids. When the boys were little, we were able to strap a seat to each our bikes and cycle with them. When they got a little too heavy, we used a buggy attached to my bike. As they got older but still with limited horse-power, we attached tandems to our bikes so that we can still do the 15 to 20 miles trails. Eventually they graduated to their own bikes.

  3. the lacquer spoon says

    First, that's a beautiful teapot! I have a similar one, but not so glossy… And your rich apple pie comforts me stuck in the summer heat. In Japan, we use "Kogyoku" apple, which has strong acidity, but is suitable for baking :)

  4. Joanne says

    I've had the differences in these fruit desserts explained to me about a thousand times and I still can't keep them straight! I love this apple-y dessert though…whatever it's called!

  5. Stella says

    Hey Biren, I was just wondering if I had even labeled my post properly yesterday. I really thought to myself, 'should I have called this a crumble?'. Oh well (yikes)….
    Your brown betty looks delicious too, and I love that teapot. I want one (smile).
    p.s. I actually came by here thinking that you probably hadn't posted yet. I wanted to ask you what you think is the best gluten free yeast bread recipe to try. I'm trying to go 'less gluten'. So if you know a good recipe, please advise.
    p.s.s I love that pic at the bottom of this post!

  6. leaannbrown says

    I've always wondered about the different names for all those cobbler-ish dishes. Thanks for the info. Did not know at all about the tea pot. My favorite dessert is a warm cobbler with vanilla ice cream. Looks like a great day on the lake! How fun.

  7. rotinrice says

    Hi Stellla, as long as it taste good, nobody is too concerned about what it's called :) Isn't that teapot cute? It has such a high glossy glaze that you can see my reflection if you look hard enough…yikes! I was trying to hide behind a chair while photographing it but to no avail.

    Yes, in fact I have two very good gluten-free rice bread recipes adapted from Betty Hagman, The Gluten-free Gourmet Bakes Bread. One of them is also yeast-free. I think you would prefer the one with the yeast as it comes out beautifully and you would not even know it is gluten-free. Perhaps I should make a loaf and post it soon.

    Awww… are sweet!

  8. Pam says

    Yum! It looks delicious! I did a blackberry buckle post not too long ago about the variety of these types of desserts. Just wish I had a helping of this right now! Have a great weekend!

  9. rotinrice says

    You do have different apples varieties of apples in Japan. On my recent trip, I had the Aomori which was excellent – crisp and very sweet! I am sure the Kogyoku apples will do very well in this dish. You must be wishing for fall/autumn to come soon :)

  10. Reeni says

    What a scrumptious brown betty Biren! In another month it will be apples season here and I will be making all kinds of dessert including this one. The boating looks fun!

  11. Mary says

    That is a really good looking dessert. This is so easy to do but few things can top them for flavor. I hope you are having a great day. Blessings…Mary

  12. sayantani says

    love the aroma of baked apples with some batter…this one looks very inviting especially with that dollop of ice cream.

  13. Devaki says

    Hi Biren – I really admire the time you took to research the roots of this dish right here.

    And the end resuly what with the agave and cinnamon raisin bread is soul warmingly delish.

    Yummy with a nice big scoop of whipped cream.

    Ciao, Devaki @ weavethousandlfavors

  14. kamalika says

    hmmm…sounds grt…but nobody in my house will eat any thing made of apple and I can't make this only for me…:((…the snaps are grt BTW…..

  15. rotinrice says

    Hi Beth, thanks for visiting and leaving a comment. I hope your daughter likes this. It is pretty yummy especially with a scoop of ice cream :)

  16. denise fletcher says

    Thanks for all the hard work clearing that up :) I've often wondered too, what the actual difference was between a cobbler and crumble!

    I ilke both the dessert and the teapot and that cup with roses (?) is beautiful. Did you know I collect tea pots, as well as teacups, though I prefer to drink coffee? Appreciate the helpful links too, which I am going to check out right now!

  17. rotinrice says

    The cup is from Roy Kirkham's Rose Collection. I have a pair. It is a really nice tea mug which is smaller or more slender than a coffee mug. I love all the tea stuff….. :) :)

  18. Megan says

    HI Biren! Brown Betty Teapot?! Who knew? I drink tea all the time…. and yummy in my tummy on your recipe that you finally picked. We just had our first crop of apples at market and they looked soo delish!I would love to make this one. Looks like you had fun in the canoe….I love canoeing! happy monday! food love from wisconsin! megan

  19. zerrin says

    No matter what its name is, I can eat everything based on apple. And your apple dessert looks so yummy! Can I have that bite on the sixth picture please? Canoeing sounds like a great fun in this very hot summer.

  20. MaryMoh says

    Lovely dessert! But the name is new to me. I'm learning 😛 Maybe one day I should make one and call it 'Brown Mary'…LOL 😀 Wonderful to see your family have fun out door.

  21. Chef Dennis says

    your brown betty looks delicious! I never really knew what made one or the other, crisp or crumble…… thanks for sharing those great pictures at the lake!

  22. Cristina TeenieCakes says

    I could never keep it straight between cobblers, grunts, slumps, etc. "Crisps" I get. Thanks for setting it straight, although I know I'll forget again soon enough 😉

    Your brown betty looks inviting and I could have a serving right now with a generous scoop of vanilla bean ice cream!


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