The brown betty is a cousin of the crisp, crumble and cobbler, all homey fruit dishes baked with some variation of a sweetened, flour-based topping. Their names can be confusing because they are often are interchanged, but their toppings officially define them, with crisps and crumbles having a streusel-like crust (crisps typically with rolled oats and crumbles without) and cobblers studded with biscuit dough. Brown bettys are topped, and often layered, with sweetened breadcrumbs or cracker crumbs, which makes them the simplest and most accessible of the bunch.
This brown betty involves briefly cooking fresh apples – skins left on for their rustic appeal and nutrition – in apple cider and an aromatic drizzle of pure maple syrup, vanilla extract and cinnamon. A handful of cranberries is tossed into the mix, along with just enough butter to add a modest layer of richness.
The slightly softened fruit is then sprinkled with a mixture of breadcrumbs – made, conveniently, from basic whole-wheat sandwich bread – and enriched with walnuts, brown sugar and a bit of butter and cinnamon.
After 30 minutes in the oven, what hits you first is the enticing, warm fragrance that fills your kitchen. Then there is the visual appeal of the crisp, golden-brown crust with the apple-cranberry mixture bubbling beneath it.
Its taste is a celebration of the seasonal fruit, in which the delicate sweetness of the apples and tart punch of the cranberries really shine through and are elevated to an apple-pie-like experience.
I like to serve the brown betty with a small scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt for dessert or, I confess, with a dollop of Greek yogurt for breakfast.
Apple cranberry brown betty (6 servings)
The topping, a mix of crumbs made from whole-grain sandwich bread, walnuts, brown sugar and cinnamon, bakes up crisp and golden brown, turning the seasonal fruit, easily and healthily, into an apple pie-like experience.
Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt.
From registered nutritionist and cookbook author Ellie Krieger.
2 slices wholewheat sandwich bread, 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, 3 tablespoons chopped walnuts, 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 2 pinches salt, 4 large (unpeeled) Golden Delicious apples, cored and cut into 1/2 cm-thick slices, 1/4 cup pure maple syrup, 1/3 cup unsweetened apple cider, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 cup fresh cranberries
• Preheat the oven to 175 degrees. Have a 20-cm pie plate or ceramic baking dish at hand.
• Tear the bread into pieces (crusts included), letting them fall into a food processor. Pulse for about 15 seconds or until the pieces are reduced to crumbs. The yield should be about 2 cups. Transfer to a medium bowl along with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter, the walnuts, brown sugar, ½ teaspoon of the cinnamon and a pinch of salt; toss to incorporate.
• Combine the apple slices, maple syrup, apple cider, vanilla extract and the remaining ½ teaspoon of cinnamon and pinch of salt in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are tender but still retain their shape, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cranberries and the remaining tablespoon of melted butter. Transfer the apple mixture to the pie plate or dish.
• Scatter the breadcrumb mixture over the apples. Bake for 30 minutes or until the topping is crisped and lightly browned. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Nutrition per serving: 220 calories, 2 g protein, 40 g carbohydrates, 7 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 150 mg sodium, 5 g dietary fibre, 29 g sugar
Krieger's most recent cookbook is Weeknight Wonders: Delicious Healthy Dinners in 30 Minutes or Less (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013). She blogs and offers a weekly newsletter at www.elliekrieger.com.
Photo for The Washington Post by Deb Lindsey
Ellie Krieger – The Washington Post