A brown betty is a spiced fruit dessert with buttered breadcrumbs or cake-crumb topping that turns golden brown as it cooks. It is similar to a cobbler or a bread pudding. The most popular Brown Betty uses apples, but this one uses pears.
A Brown Betty dessert is unfavourably mentioned in J. D. Salinger’s 1951 classic novel The Catcher in the Rye where it is described as typical unpleasant boarding school fare. My daughter, Zoe, will like this reference since she was recently quoted and pictured in the national press about The Catcher in the Rye. Click here for the article.
Pear Brown Bettys
1 (1 lb) loaf sourdough bread, crust removed, bread torn into small pieces
6 Tbs unsalted butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 cup apple cider
2 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
8 (about 3 3/4 lbs) Bartlett pears
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place bread on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake, stirring halfway through, until golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool completely. Transfer to a re-sealable plastic bag; seal bag. Coarsely crush with a rolling pin so that the largest pieces are the size of peas.
Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Remove from heat. Stir in breadcrumbs, sugar, spices, salt, 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cider, and the lemon juice. Let stand 10 minutes.
Peel pears; cut into 1/2-inch chunks. Place a heaping 1/2 cup pears in each of 6 small (5-inch) pie plates or ramekins. Top each with 1/4 cup breadcrumb mixture; drizzle each with 1 tablespoon cider. Top with remaining pears, then with remaining breadcrumb mixture.
Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper; cover with foil. Bake 30 minutes. Uncover; bake until topping is browned and juices are bubbling, about 15 minutes. Let cool on sheet on a wire rack 15 minutes before serving.