Baking Tips

Fall’s Lowest-Fuss Apple Dessert

Got apples and sandwich bread? You're well on your way to apple Betty, the simplest of all fruit desserts.

Published Oct. 24, 2022.

I raked leaves last weekend, which must mean it’s also snuggly apple dessert season.

But as much as I love making apple pie, it takes a whole afternoon. And sometimes even an apple crisp or apple crumble is too much effort.

That’s where Betty comes in.

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The retro preparation, which combines tender, tangy fruit with buttery, lightly sweetened breadcrumbs, is as easy and simple to throw together as can be. And its clean, minimalist profile is a real treat for us purists, who prefer our apple desserts relatively uncluttered with warm spices and seasonings. 

Andrea Geary's version is essentially a baked sandwich of breadcrumbs and fruit.

The top and bottom layers are white sandwich bread blitzed to bits in the food processor with sugar and melted butter. The middle is sweetened apple chunks (a mix of sweet and tart varieties works nicely) enhanced with a little vanilla and nutmeg.

She also throws in blackberries, whose bursts of wine-like acidity really make the filling pop.  

Equipment Review

Apple Corers

We used six new apple corers as well as our old favorite to core bushels of apples.
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The magic happens in the oven, thanks to Andrea’s two-stage method:

  1. For the first hour or so, the baking dish is covered and sits on a lower rack; trapped steam encourages the fruit to collapse and shed its bright juices into the crumbs, which caramelize in the oven floor’s heat.
  2. Then the foil comes off and the baking dish goes back in the oven on an upper rack so that the top layer browns and crisps into a craggy roof. 

This is as simple and cozy as apple desserts get, especially if there’s a scoop of vanilla ice cream alongside.

Apple Betty Recipe

Serves 6 to 8

Total Time: 1½ hours, plus 20 minutes cooling

  • 10 ounces (about 7 slices) hearty white sandwich bread, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • ½ cup packed (3½ ounces) plus ⅓ cup packed (2⅓ ounces) light brown sugar, divided
  • ¾ teaspoon table salt, divided
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • pounds Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 pound Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ounces (¾ cup) blackberries, berries larger than ¾ inch cut in half crosswise
  • Vanilla ice cream or sweetened whipped cream

1. Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 375 degrees. Pulse bread in food processor until coarsely ground, about 15 pulses. Add ½ cup sugar and ½ teaspoon salt and pulse to combine, about 5 pulses. Drizzle with melted butter and pulse until evenly distributed, about 5 pulses. Scatter 2½ cups bread crumb mixture in 8-inch square baking dish. Press gently to create even layer.

2. Combine apples, water, vanilla, nutmeg, remaining ⅓ cup sugar, and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt in bowl. Pile apple mixture atop bread crumb mixture in dish and spread and press into even layer. Sprinkle blackberries over apples (dish will be very full). Distribute remaining bread crumb mixture evenly over blackberries, and press lightly to form uniform layer. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. (Uncooked Betty can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.) Place on rimmed baking sheet and bake on lower rack until apples are soft, 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes.

3. Remove foil and transfer dish to upper rack. Bake until crumbs on top are crisp and well browned, about 15 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and let cool for at least 20 minutes. Serve with ice cream.

Apple-Blackberry Betty

Autumn's unfussiest dessert uses apples and white bread in a totally genius way.
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