Rustic Apple Brown Betty

In The Apple Lover’s Cookbook (2010), Amy Traverso includes a mixture of new recipes and old American classics like this Rustic Brown Betty.  This recipe makes a dessert not unlike a crisp or cobbler, with fruit on the bottom and a crumbly crust on top.  But Brown Betty is more economical and modest than her cousins: in this case, the crust is made from stale breadcrumbs – a delicious way to use up leftovers.  Many other Brown Betty recipes direct cooks to make multiple layers of apples, breadcrumbs, and butter slices in a deep dish.  Assembled this way, the Brown Betty must cook for about 40 minutes.  Traverso’s recipe cuts the cooking time in half, adding another layer of efficiency to this heritage American dessert.

Traverso suggests using firm-tart apples like Arkansas Black, Esopus Spitzenburg, or Northern Spy. We have also used Northwestern Greening. We served our Brown Betty with ice cream from John’s in Liberty.  Both apple and ginger ice cream were delicious compliments.  The whole wheat bread crumbs and minimally-sweet flavor of this dish left us wondering if this Brown Betty would do well at the breakfast table served with yogurt and a fine cup of coffee.  Try it for yourself!


  • 1/3 pound crusty white (or whole wheat) bread, preferably a bit stale

  • 1/3 cup walnuts, chopped

  • 4 Tbs salted butter

  • 5 large firm-tart apples (about 2 1/2 pounds total), cut into 1/4”-thick slices

  • 1/3 cup maple syrup


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and set a rack to the middle position.

Break the bread into large chunks. In a food processor pulse the bread until it forms fine, fluffy crumbs. Add the walnuts, and pulse about four more times, until the nuts are broken into small pieces.

Melt the butter over medium heat in a skillet. Add the bread and nuts. Cook, stirring often, until the bread looks golden brown and toasted, 6 to 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the crumb mixture from the skillet. Transfer to a bowl, and set aside.

Add the apples, maple syrup, and 3/4 cup water to the skillet, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook until some water is evaporated and the apples are just becoming tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Sprinkle the crumb mixture over the apples, and bake in the oven until the apples are fully cooked and the sauce is bubbling, 15 to 20 minutes.

Let the Betty cool on a rack for 20 minutes. Serve warm in the skillet.