Apple Brown Betty
Apple Brown Betty

The English language is a funny thing, especially when it comes to fruit desserts. There are crumbles, crisps, cobblers, grunts, slumps, buckles and brown bettys and chances are you could maybe get the definitions of the first three pretty close, but you'd start to get lost somewhere around the grunts and slumps and fail this Food SAT miserably!! No worries--I'm here for a quick tutorial (if you care and I don't blame you a bit if you don't!!--just skip to the recipe, no feelings hurt!).

A crumble is sort of what it sounds like:  a baked dish of fruit with a crumbly oat-based topping. A crisp is very similar to a crumble except that there are no oats in the topping so it's more sweet and like a streusel. A cobbler differs from the first two in that it has a biscuit-like topping. A grunt and slump are the same thing--sort of like a cobbler but cooked, covered, in a pan on the top of the stove so that the biscuit-like topping steams above the fruit. A buckle is more like a cake, in which a cake-y batter surrounds the fruit, which sinks to the bottom and it's cooked in the oven. And last, but not least, we have the brown betty, which uses the same non-oat topping as a crisp, but also mixes the topping in with the fruit so that there's a layer in the middle as well as on the top and it cooks in the oven. Whew! Are you as tired as I am? But knowledge is power and this Apple Brown Betty is powerfully good!!

There's just something so warm and homey about apple desserts--they're the kind of things moms and grandmas have been throwing together for centuries with whatever ingredients they happened to have on hand. This one even uses Ritz crackers as the base for the crumb topping, which makes me think that someone somewhere ran out of breadcrumbs and substituted crackers, hoping that it would work, which it totally, totally does! The saltiness of the crackers plays really well against the sweetness of the fruit. I served this at a big family dinner last week and it was a huge hit! And it's really easy to make!

Basically all you do is peel apples, toss them with dried cranberries (or raisins) and some lemon juice and sugar--

Then you make the crumb topping by crushing up the crackers and combining them with sugar and tossing some of it with the apple mixture. You then add melted butter to the rest of the mixture and it becomes the crumb topping.

Next the apple mixture bakes and when it's softened a bit, you top it with the rest of the crumb mixture.

It's sort of like eating a crustless streusel-topped apple pie, but way way easier to make. It's fantastic on it's own but a big scoop of good vanilla ice cream plunked on top doesn't hurt either. My husband even liked it better cold the next day and since there are apples in it, how bad could it be as a little breakfast treat?!!

Apple Brown Betty

Makes enough for about 12 people, but you could easily halve this if you're serving less

Prep Time: 15 minutes: Bake Time: 50-60 minutes


  • 2 1/2 pounds firm apples like Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Honey Crisp, Pippins, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks (I used about 6 large apples)

  • 1 cup dried cranberries or raisins

  • 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

  • 1 1/3 cups sugar

  • 2 cups Ritz or saltine crackers, crushed

  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted

  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg (optional--I didn't use it)

The Recipe

1.  Place a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

2.  Place the apples, dried cranberries and lemon juice in a 9x13 baking dish and toss together well. Set aside.

3.  In a medium bowl, mix together the sugar and crushed crackers. Remove about 2/3 cup of the mixture and toss with the apple mixture. Transfer to the lined baking sheet, but don't wash the baking dish and bake for about 25-30 minutes, until the mixture is bubbly.

4.  While the apples are cooking, you can finish making the crumb topping. Add the melted butter, cinnamon and nutmeg (if using) to the remaining cracker/sugar mixture in the bowl and mix everything together well. Set aside.

5.  When apples are cooked, remove from the oven, and transfer everything to the already-used baking dish. Turn oven up to 400F. Spoon the rest of the topping over the apple mixture and spread it out evenly. Return the dish to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes more, until the topping is browned and the filling is bubbling strongly.

5.  Serve hot, warm or at room temperature as is or topped with ice cream or whipped cream. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.


Note:  Recipe adapted from Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts by Alice Medrich. I doubled the recipe and I cook it a little bit differently than she does.

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