A brown betty is a fruit dessert that is similar in concept to a cobbler. It has fruit baked underneath a sweetened topping, usually made of bread or cake crumbs. There are tons of variations on this dessert, mostly centering on how the fruit and topping ingredients should be combined, whether layered or mixed. I’ve had brown bettys that looked just like cobblers and ones that look just like cakes. This is my “standard” version, made with bread crumbs and fresh fruit. It has just a few ingredients and is even easier to make than a cobbler or crisp.
I start out with some fresh bread, preferably challah, brioche or something else that is a little bit rich (like hawaiian bread) and pulse it in the food processor to make bread crumbs. In a recipe of this size, I use at least two cups of bread crumbs, but this doesn’t need to be exact and the recipe will work just fine if you add in another half cup or so. The bread crumbs are mixed with brown sugar and a little bit of melted butter. The butter adds some flavor and ensures that the bread toasts up nicely in the oven, but there isn’t enough to bind all that bread together, as might happen with a crumble topping. The bread mixture goes on top of sliced, fresh fruit and everything goes into the oven to bake.
The brown betty is slightly crisp on top and a lovely golden brown when it comes out of the oven. The brown sugar in the topping adds just the right amount of sweetness (so you still known you’re eating a dessert and not just fruit and toast!) and goes oh-so-well with the fruit. The fruit really shines in this dish. This one uses nectarines and cherries, but all stone fruits (peaches, plums, etc.) are fantastic, especially when in-season fruits are at their peak. It is light, flavorful and not too heavy or filling, perfect for summer dinners. Serve it as-is, or with vanilla ice cream.
Cherry Nectarine Brown Betty
4 medium-large nectarines
2 cups cherries, (fresh or frozen; I used Morello)
2 cups bread crumbs, either challah or brioche
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350F.
Slice nectarines into 6ths, removing the pits. It is not necessary to peel the nectarines.
Combine nectarines and cherries in an 8-inch square baking dish.
In a medium bowl, stir together bread crumbs and brown sugar. Drizzle melted butter and vanilla over crumbs and mix with your hands until thoroughly combined (a spoon is acceptable as well). Sprinkle topping evenly over fruit in baking dish.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, until fruit juices are bubbling. Tent pan loosely with aluminum foil if topping gets too dark in the last 10 minutes.
Let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.
Serve as-is, or with vanilla ice cream.