To my mind, brown betties belong to that same class of obscure and creatively-named Early American fruit desserts as crisps, cobblers, and pandowdies. But the key ingredient in the case of a brown betty is not flaky pie crust or rich cake or even dollops of biscuit. No, for a brown betty, you need plain old sandwich bread.
Traditionally, brown betties are made with buttered breadcrumbs, and traditionally, they're mixed with fall apples or fresh applesauce. But there is a whole lot of room for variation here.
You can use whole slices of bread, torn pieces of bread, wheat bread, rustic artisan bread, or even (...shhh!!) Wonder Bread! In place of the apples, practically any other fruit will do. In the mood for pears? Go for it. Have some peach preserves to use up? Yum. Want to get crazy with apricots and cherries? Why not!
Regardless of which particular combination of bread and fruit you bring together, they get tossed with sugar and layered into a baking dish. Bake until those bread crumbs are toasty and you've got a fantastic dessert to bring to the table.
Ready for some recipes? Here you go:
• Apple Brown Betty from Gourmet
• Strawberry Brown Butter Betties from Smitten Kitchen
• Pear and Sour Cherry Brown Betty from the New York Times
• Blackberry Apple Brown Betty from Leite's Culinaria
• Plum Brown Betty from Table for Two or More
• Mango Brown Betty from NPR Food
• Peach Brown Betty from Martha Stewart
• Blueberry and Banana Brown Betty from Food & Wine
P.S. Brown betty leftovers? They make a fantastic breakfast.
Related: Slump and Buckle: Rustic Desserts Make a Comeback
(Image: Stephanie Foley/Gourmet)