I’ve never made Apple Brown Betty and I am not entirely sure I have ever actually tasted it. I had a general idea of the simple ingredients but always chalked it up to one of those “clean out the pantry” recipes reserved for spaghetti feeds and church functions. After hosting Easter brunch, I had an overabundance of leftover challah bread and crispy, sweet Pink Lady Apples, so I put on my Sunday best and started scheming a new recipe.
Traditionally, Betty recipes just toss together a mix of sliced apples, day old bread crumbs, butter, brown sugar and cinnamon and bake them together in a casserole dish. As a natural skeptic, I wasn’t convinced a simple Apple Brown Betty recipe would be anything to write home (or blog) about. So, I incorporated two of my favorite things; rum and fire. I first sautéed the apples with butter, brown sugar and spices until the sugars started to melt. Then I doused the skillet in a shower of dark rum and ignited the ingredients into a flambé of Food Network proportions. It was beautiful. Once the fire everything caramelized into a hot, sticky sweet saccharine dream.
I layered the apples and bread crumbs together in the skillet and topped the whole thing with chopped pecans, dollops of butter and a drizzle of the caramely rum syrup. She baked up nicely in the skillet and came out looking fairly plain and unassuming. I didn’t expect much but I was blown away by the full-on flavor this Betty boasted, what she lacks in looks she makes up for in her spicy and flavorful personality. The lower layers of challah soaked up all of the juicy syrup and the top browned up into a blanket of golden buttery toast. I am not even sure how but she tasted like the best cinnamon roll ever with hints of pecan pie and buttery toast. Heavenly, really.
In conclusion, I learned two very important lessons from Betty: Never judge a book by it’s cover (which I already but this just reiterated the importance) And whatever you do, never underestimate a woman with a dessert named after her, there is a reason and it tastes amazing.
- apples, preferably tart apples - 4-5 medium sized
- day old bread - I used Challah - 6 thick cut slices
- butter, cold - 5 tablespoons
- dark brown sugar, lightly packed - 1 cup
- cinnamon - 1 tablespoon
- cardamom - 1 teaspoon
- dark rum - 1/4 cup
- chopped pecans - 1/3 cup
- Preheat oven to 375°.
- Peel, core and slice apples into 1/8" - 1/4" slices. Place apple slices in large mixing bowl and sprinkle with 1/2 cup brown sugar, the cinnamon and cardamom. Toss the apples to fully coat them in the sugar and spices.
- Slice the bread slices into 1/4" - 1/2" cubes.
- Melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium/low heat in a 10" cast iron skillet. Add the coated apples to the skillet and sauté until the sugars melt and start to caramelize, about 2 minutes.
- Turn the heat up to medium/high. Pour the rum over the apples and quickly (and carefully) ignite the alcohol with a culinary torch or the flame of a gas range. Allow the alcohol to burn out and lightly stir the apple mixture. Cook over medium /low heat for 5-7 minutes until the apples start to soften and the liquid thickens into a caramel like syrup.
- Transfer the apples back into the mixing bowl. Cover the bottom of the skillet with 1 tablespoon of butter and remove from heat.
- Spread half of the apples over the bottom of the skillet. Top the apples with half of the bread chunks. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of brown sugar over the bread. Spoon the rest of the apples evenly over the bread chunks, cover with the remaining bread and sprinkle with remaining brown sugar. Drizzle the remaining syrup from the apples over the bread chunks. Top with chopped pecans. Dollop the top with 1/8" cubes of remaining 2 tablespoons of butter.
- Cover with tin foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the tin foil, rotate the skillet and bake for 15-20 more minutes. ***(I did not cover my Brown Betty in tin foil because my oven doesn't have an upper heating element, you may or may not need to cover your Betty depending on your oven setup).
- Allow to cool slightly before serving but serve warm and preferably with a dollop of fresh whipped cream.