Cooking, Food

Apple Brown Betty

I do a lot of apple recipes. There are a couple of reasons for that: one, they are my First Reader’s favorite fruit (except maybe blackberries) and two, they are relatively cheap, easy to find, and non-perishable. I can buy a bag of apples and if I can’t do anything with them for a week, they are fine. We like them for eating, although I usually buy Granny Smith for baking and I don’t care for them as eating apples, too tart for me. But baking with them is wonderful, they are tart, hold their shape, and have a wonderful flavor. I sometimes miss having access to an apple orchard, and the annual cider, applesauce, and apple butter making.

green apple
Seedling apples, very tart but wonderful in baking.

I’ve done an Apple Crisp recipe before on the blog, but we were recently discussing what the differences are between a Crisp, a Crumble, a Cobbler, and a Dump Cake  (not to mention my Dad’s favorite, a Grunt). I had, until we looked it up, forgotten that a Brown Betty was also an option. So what’s the difference? A Dump Cake, of the above, is least likely to be made with fresh fruit, it’s normally made with canned. But all of them can be made with canned or fresh fruit.

Style Top Filling Bottom
Crisp (or Struesel) Struesel Canned or fresh fruit
Crumble Struesel with oats Canned or fresh fruit
Brown Betty Streusel Canned or fresh fruit Struesel
Pennsylvania Dutch Pie Streusel Fruit or Mince Pie Crust
Cobbler Biscuit Dough Fresh or Canned Fruit
Grunt Shortcake dough Fresh or canned fruit
Dump Cake Cake mix Canned fruit
Slump or Buckle Streusel Fruit Cake
Apple Brown Betty
Apple Brown Betty in cast iron

So many similarities, and yet the variations could be near infinite. Like Pancakes.

One thing they do all have in common is the ease of preparation. I made up a huge batch of streusel as I was prepping the Apple Brown Betty, and after I was done, froze the rest of it, so the next time I want streusel all I have to do is scoop some out. I don’t know how long it will last in the freezer, I’ve never been able to test that before it was all used up.

Streusel to Freeze

  • 1 1/2 c butter (very cold. Can even be frozen)
  • 1 1/2 c dark brown sugar
  • 2 c flour
  • 2 tsp cinnamon (add more if your family likes it)
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (add more if you want)

In a food processor with the blade on, combine the sugar, flour, and spices. Pulse a few times, then start adding the butter, cut into 1/2″ thick patties. Put in three or four, pulse a few times, and then add another few. Repeat this until all the butter is in. Don’t over-blend. You want chunks of butter, and they don’t need to be uniform. Place into a ziploc bag and put in the freezer. You don’t need to thaw before using.

Ingredients for streusel
Spices, flour, sugar, and butter: Streusel
Butter pats, very cold. Don’t stack them – they stick!
Preparing apple crisp for baking
A very full thing of streusel and the apples.
Streusel topping
I made the pieces of butter a little small. It still worked just fine.

Apple Brown Betty


  • 4-5 apples, peeled and thinly sliced
  • handful of brown sugar (about 1/3 cup, use less for sweet or very ripe apples)
  • Handful of flour (between 1/3 to 1/2 cup, depending on how juicy the apples)
  • A few pats of butter
  • 1 1/2 c struesel, divided in two.


  • Preheat the oven to 400 deg F and put the dutch oven (mine is cast-iron, flat-bottomed, and about 10" in diameter) in to preheat as well.
  • Peel, core, and slice the apples. We like them peeled, but you can leave the peel on if you wanted. I tend to slice each apple quarter into thirds as I go, but if you have one of those nifty spiral peeler-corers, that works beautifully).
  • In a large bowl, toss the apples with the handfuls of brown sugar and flour. dot the butter in there, too. Add more spices if you like - a teaspoonful or two of Apple Pie Spice (allspice, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg) is nice.
  • Take the dutch oven out and put it on a trivet or the stovetop. With a silicon spatula to spread it, sprinkle in about 3/4 c of streusel and make it even.
  • Put the apples in on top of that, making sure they are settled without too much in the way of air pockets.
  • Put the remaining streusel on top, sprinkling it evenly.
  • Put the whole thing back in the oven for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 deg F and bake for another 35-40 minutes, or until the apples are soft and you can hear the liquids bubbling.
  • Serve while still warm, but make sure you do let it cool. Contains HOT LAVA right out of the oven!
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    Apples tossed to coat with sugar and flour, just like I do for a pie.
    Apples tossed to coat with sugar and flour, just like I do for a pie.

    If you serve this while still warm, the bottom crust comes out beautifully and it is crispy, almost candied. This was so good, even better than my usual crisp recipe. Preheating the dutch oven made all the difference. It’s incredibly easy to do, and it might not look elegant, but it tastes divine.

    Apple brown betty recipe
    First layer in the hot pan – you can see it melting around the edges.
    Apple Brown Betty recipe
    Apples in the pan – second layer
    Apple Brown Betty recipe
    And the streusel topping – third layer
    Apple Brown Betty recipe
    I like mine with whipped cream.
    Apple Blossoms
    Apple Blossoms – because they are beautiful!

    3 thoughts on “Apple Brown Betty

    1. Your apple blossom picture makes a great finishing touch!

      Just a thought: I’ve heard that apple peel contains nutrients, as well as fiber; but a lot of people wouldn’t like the texture. So I made an an experiment for a recent potluck. I peeled the apples, put the peel (a little at a time) in the blender with a little water and lemon juice; then mixed the resulting slurry with the peeled apples and a little extra thickener, and mixed it all together before placing in the prepared pie crust.

      A very discriminating man at the potluck told me that it was “absolutely the best apple pie I’ve ever eaten.” I feel confident that he was being honest in his evaluation, because he once told me, of a cake I had made, “It’s no good. It’s awful.”

      1. That’s an interesting idea – I don’t mind the peels on some kinds of apples, as they are thin, but the granny smith’s are tough. I’ll have to try that – I suspect it adds a lot of flavor back into the filling.

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