It sounded familiar, but I don’t know if I knew what an Apple Betty was. Apparently it was one one of Ronald and Nancy Reagan’s favorite desserts in the Whitehouse. That’s the trivia I found, but I couldn’t find out who Betty was. It’s not Betty Crocker – the dessert predates her by about 60 years (did you know Betty Crocker is a fictional character?). I was able to find a ton of recipes for Apple Betty, but after scanning them, no one seems to be interested in finding out who Betty was and why she liked to mix her apples with layers of sweetened crumbs. That’s who I will celebrate today, whoever you are.
Apples and sweetened crumbs are essentially what an Apple Betty is (it’s called Apple Brown Betty and just Apple Betty interchangeably). It’s like an apple cobbler but with more layers. It sounded pretty good no matter what it was. I batted around all kinds of recipes for this. One from Martha Stewart (too involved), one from Paula Deen (too much like a cobbler), one from Michael Symon (bad reviews). There’s no shortage of recipes for it. In the end, I went wth my old standby, The Pioneer Woman, who had not only the top rated recipe but also the easiest to make. A lot of the recipes I found seemed to be more like a cobbler with a streusel on top (don’t get me wrong, I love me some streusel), but I felt an Apple Betty had to be different than that, so I went with the breadcrumbs, and Ree Drummond had the best version of this I could find. (A helpful note, if you are using one of her recipes, go to her blog for it, not Food Network. Her blog gives you more details and step by step instructions).
Her Apple Betty had just four ingredients: Apples (I picked up some Granny Smiths), Brown Sugar (how come you taste so good), Bread (I used 7 slices of Clement’s white bread) and butter. Lots of butter. To make it, you essentially layer it (just like Betty would). Layer of sugar, layer of apples, layer of breadcrumbs. Repeat. Then you put pads of butter all over the top. It goes into the oven for 45 minutes and comes out smelling like a little bit of heaven.
I was a little worried that it didn’t brown up enough but it smelled great and it was bubbling from the sides, so I felt it was done. Lola came home about five minutes before it came out of the oven, so when she finally settled in, we sat down to watch Survivor (I can’t believe they voted off Rupert!) At the first commercial break, I scooped us out a bowl and topped it with vanilla ice cream. We just recently tried to break from cable and are watching network shows through a digital antenna. We are still figuring out if this will work, but it puts us back to the good ol’ days when you couldn’t pause live tv and you had to get your business done on the commercial breaks. I had our bowls ready before Lola even had to yell out, “It’s back on!”
Oh Betty. Oh sweet Betty.
If you read the ingredients, you knew this was going to end up pretty good. You can’t take butter and sugar and not have some happy results. But this was special. I sliced the apples super thin so you never got a giant chunk of apple. They kind of melted into soft apple delights. The whole thing was a beautiful medley of flavors. The sugar coated the breadcrumbs so you get these tiny bits of sugar bread that gave it a nice surprise texture too. The Betty was still nice an warm when I served it which mixed well with the vanilla ice cream. Lola was in love. She was too involved in Survivor to go off raving about it, but she kept saying “this is fantastic!” We were both pretty happy.
Now I know what an Apple Betty is and I celebrated it appropriately. Somewhere out there, lost in the annals of history is a young woman who once created a dessert with nothing but some apples and day old bread. She probably served it to her family – maybe as her son returned form the war. Her dessert became the talk of the town and soon every person in town wanted some. Her recipe had to be locked up at the bank for safe keeping. She was a celebrity in her little one horse town. Today, we say thank you Betty and cheers for bringing great taste and happiness to the world. You deserved this day of celebration.
Next Up: National Noodle Day