Bettys: Elegant and Useful Baked Fruit Dessert

What is a Betty? Besides being a pretty name, it is a baked fruit dessert layered with crumbled baked goods, like bread or cake crumbs. Bettys have been around a long time. Ida Bailey Allen in Cooking Menus Service from the 1920s wrote how useful they were as a creative way to use up leftovers.

“Bettys” may be made with practically any kind of juicy fruit, either one fruit or a blend. It sometimes happens that one has what might be described as “a little o’ this and a little o’ that” in the refrigerator, yet not enough of any one thing to make a dessert by itself, so why not put them together? A few good combinations are: blackberry and apple, rhubarb and strawberry, cherry and rhubarb, currant and raspberry, apple and pineapple, plum and rhubarb. Any of these may be used by themselves as may peaches, apricots, or cranberries.

Then, too, “Bettys” may be made with bread crumbs, rusk crumbs, or stale cake crumbs, and they may be prepared in little individual dishes just as well as in one large baking dish.

So, by Allen’s simple definition, Bettys are probably the most useful and elegent way to use up and serve any kind of fruit, as leftovers or fresh, singly or in combination, and layered with just about whatever baked goods you have in the bread drawer.

Her recipe for Cherry Betty includes a handful of ingredients, and is adapted below. Look for different varieties of cherries when at the Farmer’s Markets when they come into season for a little variety.

Cherry Betty (1920s Recipe)
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  1. 3 cups cherries, stoned and quartered
  2. 2 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs
  3. 1 cup sugar
  4. Grated lemon rind from one lemon
  5. Fresh squeezed lemon juice from a half a lemon
  6. 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
  1. Make the topping and set aside: Mix 1/2 cup bread crumbs and the butter and reserve. Preheat oven to 370 degrees.
  2. Mix the lemon rind and lemon juice with the cherries. Put a layer of cherries on the bottom of an oven-safe casserole. Top with a layer of sugar, then a layer of bread crumbs. Repeat using the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Sprinkle the topping mix evenly over the top, cover, and bake for about 30 minutes. Remove the lid, and place back in the oven and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes until browned and bubbly.
  4. Serve warm with homemade vanilla ice cream.
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