This Rum Raisin Apple Brown Betty revives the American classic “Brown Betty” dessert. Inspired by history, this thrifty and simple dessert recipe is sure to please in any era.
It really doesn’t get more authentically American than this. You’ll love the classic flavors in this Rum Raisin Apple Brown Betty but also enjoy schooling your family on this nearly forgotten pudding.
Today I’m bringing you a truly vintage recipe, the Brown Betty! It’s a dessert recipe that hails from Colonial times but its true provenance is lost to history. Maybe that’s because back in the old days, cooking was very regional. Names and ingredients varied from state to state, and over time different dishes developed. So lots of simple apple puddings started with the same ingredients: stale bread, apples, butter and sugar. You might call it an apple pandowdy, a cobbler or a crisp… all relatives to the Brown Betty.
Although many online sources credit the first printing of the Brown Betty recipe to the Yale Literary Magazine printed in 1864, I found a “Brown Betsey” recipe in the Every Lady’s Cook Book from 1856. Here Mrs. T. J. Crowen calls for a pudding made with rich apples, eggs, stale bread, nutmeg, butter and sugar. But she goes on to say that the eggs can be omitted.
Mrs. Rorer’s Philadelphia Cook Book: A Manual of Home Economics uses layers of breadcrumbs and tart apples topped with water, molasses, and brown sugar while The Unrivaled Cook-book and Housekeepers Guide includes raisins and cinnamon.
I could go on because no two historic recipes were exactly the same. My version is based on all this vintage inspiration but keeps this hasty pudding simple. That’s what I love about the Brown Betty. It’s thrifty because it uses stale breadcrumbs and it doesn’t require any fancy techniques. I did use a little creative license and replaced the molasses with spiced rum. It still imparts that deep sugary flavor, but with more pizzazz.
This Rum Raisin Apple Brown Betty is also super duper fast to make and I bet most of you already have the ingredients in your kitchen. It’s an easy layering of Granny Smith apples, breadcrumbs, brown sugar, cinnamon, raisins and a little rum and lemon juice.
You can make this dessert in a simple 8 by 8 baking dish, but it’s also super cute in little cast iron pans. I recently found these #3 skillets at my local indoor flea market. Don’t let the number fool you, because they are really about 6 inches across, so just the right size for an indulgent dessert for one or for sharing with two or 3 people. And goodness don’t forget the ice cream! Just like most pies, cobblers and hot puddings, ice cream makes this Rum Raisin Apple Brown Betty extra special.
So as you’re
stressing over getting ready for Thanksgiving, know that sometimes the best dessert, and maybe the most authentic, is as old as America itself.
This update to the classic American dessert, the Brown Betty, is thrifty, tasty and very easy to make.
- 2 oz spiced rum
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 3 large Granny Smith apples
- juice of one lemon
- 4 TB salted butter plus more for pan
- 3 cups stale breadcrumbs
- 2/3 cup brown sugar
Preheat oven to 350F
Combine rum and raisins and set aside to soak.
Peel and core apples and then slice them very thinly
Place apples in lemon juice and toss to cover
Slice butter into paper thin slices
Butter the bottom and sides of your baking dish(es)
Cover the bottom of the pan with 1/3 of the the breadcrumbs.
Top breadcrumbs with half the apples and raisins and a third of the brown sugar and butter.
Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon
Add another layer of breadcrumbs and repeat the above two steps
Top with the remaining breadcrumbs, brown sugar, butter and another sprinkle of cinnamon
Finally drizzle the leftover rum over the pudding
Bake for 50-60 minutes until apples are tender and top is a golden brown
Serve warm with ice cream
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