If the gosh darn gee whiz wholesomeness of the name alone doesn’t get you (I mean, come on – apple betty! Paging June Cleaver…), maybe the brown sugar shortbread base piled with spiced apples, gingersnap cookie crumbs and a wash of melted butter will.
If you think something like this sounds awesome, that’s because it is. Awesome. The shortbread is rich and warm and, thanks to the brown sugar, tastes almost like caramel. The apples roll around in a bit of sugar, ground cinnamon, cloves and ginger, get a shot of citrus juice and vanilla, and are then buried in a mess of spicy gingersnaps and doused with smooth, liquid butter, which, of course, permeates the entire betty with a round richness that’s just so good you could cry. You could cry, people.
But, instead of crying, you’ll probably ask yourself what the hell apple pie is even doing here anymore, and deftly cut yourself another slice. Of the easiest and most delicious apple dessert you’ll make this fall: a betty.
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine, September 2000
Since I came across this recipe a week ago, I’ve made it twice. Two times. In one week. Apple betty and I made our debut at a fun family dinner in Philadelphia, and we were applauded so thoroughly I thought I’d bring her out again to celebrate the recent engagement (!) of my dear friends Jenny and Steve. Betty didn’t disappoint on her second outing, even though I used graham cracker crumbs instead of ginger snaps.
- 1 1/2 – 2 cups homemade or store bought gingersnaps
for shortbread base:
- 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
for apple filling:
- 1 1/4 sticks (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter
- 2 lb tart apples (I like Granny Smith, Golden Delicious or McIntosh)
- 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- juice from 1 lemon
- juice from 1/2 orange
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup granulated sugar, divided
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
To make shortbread: Pulse the flour, brown sugar, and salt in a food processor until combined. Add the butter and pulse until small lumps form (the dough will not seem to fully come together, but will look sandy). Sprinkle the dough into the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking dish and press evenly to form the base of the apple betty. Bake in the middle rack of the oven for about 20 minutes, or until lightly browned.
While the shortbread bakes, grind your gingersnaps and prepare your filling. Place gingersnaps in a food processor and pulse until they look like bread crumbs. Peel, core and slice apples into 1/4-inch slices, and place in a large bowl. Sprinkle apples with 1/3 cup of sugar, ground cinnamon, cloves and ginger. Squeeze citrus juices on top of apples and add vanilla extract. Stir apples with clean hands or a spoon to evenly coat with sugar, juice and spices. In a separate, smaller bowl, stir together flour and 2/3 cup sugar.
Melt the 1 1/4 sticks butter on the stove top or in the microwave.
When the shortbread is out of the oven and still warm, sprinkle it with half of the sugar/flour mixture. Layer the apples, then the remaining sugar/flour mixture, and top with an even sprinkling of ground gingersnaps. Drizzle the melted butter on top of it all, and