An Apple Betty Is a Simple and Sweet Treat
Typically made with apples, this dessert offers all of the goodness of a crisp—crunchy topping paired with warm, tender fruit—but with far less work. And less ingredients too, making it a popular treat in lean times.
Variations abound, but at its simplest, an Apple Betty is upgraded baked apples. Most recipes call for halved (or sliced) apples that are sprinkled with sweet and lightly spiced (usually with cinnamon or nutmeg) soft, fresh breadcrumbs, topped with butter, then baked until the fruit is soft and the topping toasted.
From there, you can fancy things up with homemade brioche or cinnamon raisin breadcrumbs, apple cider, vanilla extract, dried fruit, toasted nuts, or even a caramel drizzle. But no matter what you add to the recipe, it is a plain dessert at heart. It may not be as pretty as a lattice pie, or as indulgent looking as a bubbling cobbler, but when topped with a scoop of melty vanilla ice cream, an Apple Betty is rich, comforting, and delicious, especially on a cool fall night.
Most food historians believe that the Apple Betty is an American dessert. According to The Oxford Companion to Food, one of the earliest references to the dish dates back to 1864, where it was mentioned in an article in the Yale Literary Magazine. In the article, the dessert was included in a list of things (including tea, coffee, and pies) to be given up during "training," or when working out.
Because apples are available in supermarkets year-round, they make a reliable base for a betty. But you can follow the same technique with other fruit to make a peach, pear, or plum betty as well. If the fruit is on the small side, simply cut it up, layer it in a baking dish and shower it with breadcrumbs.