Brown Betty

Betties are part of the group of baked-fruit-with-topping dishes (along with cobblers, crisps, crumbles, slumps, etc.), which I can never seem to tell apart from one another. After comparing Apple Betty recipes in multiple 19th and 20th century cookbooks, it seems like the distinguishing feature of a Betty is multiple layers of breadcrumbs alternating with the fruit – although there were a few exceptions that used cubes or slices of bread instead. This recipe from 1866 makes a pretty standard Apple Betty. No measurements are given in the original; I have provided the amounts I used for a 1.5 quart baking dish, but since precise measurements don’t matter it can be easily adapted for other sizes.

Brown Betty (for a 1.5 quart baking dish)

  • 5-6 apples, peeled and sliced
  • about 3 tbsp butter
  • about 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • about 1 tsp cinnamon
  • about 1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs
  1. Butter the baking dish, then put a layer of sliced apples in the bottom of the dish.
  2. Dot the apples with butter and top with brown sugar, cinnamon, and breadcrumbs.
  3. Continue alternating layers until the dish is full, ending with a layer of breadcrumbs.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, until the apples are cooked through and the breadcrumbs are starting to brown. Cover the dish if the breadcrumbs are browning too much before the apples are cooked.
  5. Let cool slightly, then serve.

Tasting notes:

There’s not much to say about this Betty, because it tastes like most other Apple Betties I’ve had – basically like apple pie filling without the crust. I almost think it’s better cold the next day, and it would certainly be good with sugar and cream as the recipe author Sarah Scott suggests. Feel free to add additional spices as well – nutmeg, cloves, and lemon peel all appeared as flavorings in other Apple Betty recipes from the time. Personally, I love Betties just because they’re so easy to throw together, and are a great way to use up stale bread. That’s probably why thrifty Victorians liked them too.


Scott, S.E. (1866). Every-day cookery for every family. Philadelphia: H.C. Davis & Co.

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