Apple Brown Betty is a cobbler-type dessert popular in colonial America. It is done in layers, sort of like lasagna, except for having entirely different ingredients and purpose in the course of a given meal. It's extremely easy, since it doesn't even require making a crumble topping, let alone a pie crust. And, like many desserts (except those with gelatin), it's vegetarian, and can be made vegan by substituting margarine for butter and omitting whipped cream.

There are lots of ways to assemble this. You can mix the apples with sugar and spice and layer with buttered bread crumbs; you can use individual layers of butter, sugar, bread crumbs and apples; you can spice the bread crumbs and layer with sugared apples. In this method, I've tried to keep the ingredients separated, but you can go any way you choose.

You need:

  • 6 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced. Tart apples are nice in baked apple dishes.
  • 4 slices of bread. Stale is easier to work with, and you will use up otherwise icky bread.
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar.
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened.
  • Cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, etc. Apple-type spices.
  • A casserole dish in which to bake it all.
  • A blender or other pulverizing device.
  • Heavy whipping cream, for serving purposes.

Cut your apples into thin slices. It's important to have real slices as opposed to chunks, as you are going to be layering things in the pan, and your layers should be fairly even. Chunks = too chunky. Put the slices in a bowl and set them aside. You can add a dash of sherry or lemon juice to your apples, if you so desire.

In a blender or food processor, pulverize your slices of bread. If you have no such handy device, you can try putting your bread in a plastic bag, crumbling it partially by hand, and rolling the remaining chunks out with a rolling pin. However, make sure your bread is good and stale before you try this method. You can toast the bread first or stick it in the oven for a couple minutes if necessary. I do this pretty often to line cake pans.

Once you have your bread crumbed, mix in your spices. Use as much as you want; I would start with a teaspoon of each, and work up to taste. Or you can spice your apples instead of your crumbs. Either will work fine.

Now you get to layer everything together in the pan. Start with a liberal layer of butter, then one of brown sugar. Then add a layer of bread crumbs, then one of apples, and repeat until all your ingredients are used up: about 3 layers. Try to make the apple layers a little thicker than the others, as you want to end with a layer of bread crumbs.

Bake the whole shebang at 350 degrees F for approximately 45 minutes, until golden. All the layers will meld together into a lovely apple mess. Whip the cream (with a little white sugar or without) until your arm falls off, i.e. until it's whipped, and serve over plates of warm Brown Betty.