Apple and Blackberry Brown Betty

Oh, Brown Betty (Bam-ba-Lam)
Whoa, Brown Betty (Bam-ba-Lam)
She really gets me high (Bam-ba-Lam)
You know that’s no lie (Bam-ba-Lam)

It is very hard to bake something when the only thing flying around your head is the line “Brown Betty, Bam-ba-Lam”. I appreciate that I have slightly misquoted the song there but with every time I peeled an apple or whizzed up some breadcrumbs, that was the only thing I could think!

I bought myself a lovely new traditional enamel pie tin the other day but it’s shape was sort of screaming out for a crumble. I do like crumble but I also think it can be quite boring. This could be because I always make crumble because I start with ambitions of apple pie, contemplate making and rolling out pastry, remember that I’m incapable of doing so without making something that resembles lace, and then settling for crumble because it’s easier! Also I think with crumble, you have to be so careful because you get those weird areas where the crumble is too thick and it can become like a brick and sometimes, it just sort of explodes into a powdery thing. You can get the impression here that I’m rather ‘over’ crumble at the moment and I’d seen recipes online somewhere for Brown Betty which seemed like a crumble but only more exciting.

It was the favourite pudding of Nancy Reagan and appears to originate in the deep south of America and must be related somewhere in deep history to the crumble. Historically, one of the first mentions of Brown Betty is from 1890, “This recipe was part of the winning essay for the $500 American Public health Association Lomb prize on practical, Sanitary, and Economic Cooking Adapted to persons of Moderate and Small Means, which became a book of the same title by Mrs. Mary Hinman Abel. It was part of a series of menus to feed a family on thirteen cents a day. Mrs. Abel may have carried the recipe into use the the New England Kitchen, an experimental Boston restaurant aimed at “improving” the food choices of the poor.”

There seem to be conflicting recipes where some have layers of the crumb and then layers of the fruit and some are just topped with the crumb which is what I did. Some recipes use cake or Graham crackers, which appear in a lot of American recipes and I believe are like a digestive, and then the majority seem to use breadcrumbs. I used breadcrumbs as we had some stale sourdough in the bread bin and sourdough does make brilliant breadcrumbs. I also went up to the top of the garden in the semi-dark and in the rain to pick some blackberries for this, there weren’t a huge number but there seem to be some waiting to ripen on the branches.

I found this recipe on the internet and I’m not entirely sure where but I think it’s very open to your own interpretation and plums seem to appear a lot which suits this time of year as there are so many overripe plums falling off the trees.


Messy but Nice!


Apple and Blackberry Brown Betty

makes enough for about 4.

  • 100g stale bread
  • 150g brown sugar (the original recipe called for 200g but it was painfully sweet so I’ve lowered it!)
  • 80g soft butter
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 6 large cooking apples
  • a handful of blackberries
  • 4 tbsp caster sugar
  1. Peel and core your cooking apples and slice into chunks about the size of a medium thumb! Place these in a saucepan on a medium heat with about 200ml of water or until the apples are just covered and cook until soft. Drain in a sieve and add the caster sugar.
  2. Tip these into your dish or tin along with your blackberries.
  3. I used a magimix at this point, you could use your hands but a magimix would save you vast amounts of time. The decision is yours. If using a magimix, whizz the bread to a medium sized crumb. Add the brown sugar, spices and the butter and whizz again until they have formed a chunky crumb. If you are doing this by hand, break up the bread into small breadcrumbs, rub through the sugar and the butter and spices until they are blended much like a crumble.
  4. Layer the crumb over your fruit in the tin and bake in an oven at 180C for 20 minutes or until the top is crisp and brown.


the few blackberries I could find

The important components

softening the apple

Ready for the topping

Adding butter to the crumbs and sugar

the finished crumb

Crunchy topping

ooh crunchy



Serve with lashings of double cream!





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