One of the reasons I enjoy old cookbooks is the cozy factor. The name “Apple Brown Betty” absolutely oozes “cozy”, so I was excited to give it a try. Unfortunately, I can’t recommend it to the rest of you, unless you’re on the search for a really plain dessert that’s not sweet or rich. Or good.
I discovered that apple is just one variation of “Brown Betty”. While apple was probably the most popular flavor, the Brown Betty can be made with other fruits. It’s basically bread crumbs browned in butter (hence the “brown”) layered with fruit and a bit of sugar. Before baking, hot water is poured over the top. The result is something similar to a crisp, but not nearly as delicious. Maybe, in a time before people ate so much sugar, this dessert was considered sweet.
To my modern palette it seemed like a pretty sad dessert. I imagine the inventor was tired of eating plain apples all winter, so he or she tried to improve upon them, but all he had was some dry old bread and a bit of butter. Somehow it seemed good.
With the bounty from my apple tree ripening more each day, I had plenty of apples to try something else. Apple Dumplings made up for the disappointment incurred by the Apple Brown Betty. Apple dumplings are just what one would hope them to be- cinnamony,nutmeggy apples wrapped in a tender dough. They are baked in a fragrant syrup and served warm. Yes, you have to roll out the dough. but this dough is very forgiving. You can do this. You must do this.
History: According to a site called “The New Agrarian”, the apple dumpling has been around since at least the 18th century. Originally they were boiled. Today’s apple dumplings are baked.
Time and Effort: Takes about an hour to prepare plus baking time of 35 minutes. It’s a little fussy, and requires making a syrup, rolling out dough as well as paring and coring the apples.
Worth Adding to your Repertoire: Beyond a doubt!
Apple Dumplings from “Better Homes and Gardens” 1947 Cook Book
2 cups sugar 2 Cups flour
2 cups water` 1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg 2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 Cup butter 3/4 cup shortening (I used Crisco brand coconut oil)
6 apples 1/2 cup milk
Make syrup of sugar, water, cinnamon, and nutmeg; add butter. Pare and core apples; cut in fourths. (That is the directions of the original recipe. I just pared and cored the apples and left them whole. That worked just fine.)
Sift flour, salt, and baking powder; cut in shortening. Add milk all at once and stir until moistened. Roll 1/4 inch thick; cut in 5-inch squares. Arrange an apple on each square; sprinkle with a bit more sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg; dot with butter; fold corners to center; pinch edges together. Place 1 inch apart in greased baking pan. Pour over syrup. Bake in moderate oven (375) for 35 minutes. Serve hot with cream. Makes 6 dumplings.