The Baffled Bakeshop and the Mystery of Brown Betty

When I arrived at work, I found one of my co-workers starring perplexedly at the dessert menus for the next day’s banquets.  “I don’t know what this is,” she said vacantly from somewhere lost in bakeshop ether.  I scanned the list.  At first glace, everything appeared to be routine.  There were peanut butter tarts, chocolate cream tarts, brownies, cookies, strawberry shortcake….and then I saw it.  Brown Betty.


“I don’t know what this is,” I parroted.  


Searching to be helpful, I shared that a Brown Betty is actually a type of classic English teapot.   Tea runs in the veins of my family and the “Brown Betty,” has become, a sort of strange quality standard of expectable tea brewery vessels.


My tidbit of information was received with a blank gaze.  I hoped she didn’t think that I believed a teapot would actually be listed on a dessert menu.  Sometimes, as an extern, you’re assumed to be half-baked, if you will.  One has to be careful with her use of irony…


As it turns out, a Brown Betty does not exclusively refer to a teapot (go figure).  The next day, a recipe was flung in my face and “The Mystery of the Brown Betty” unveiled itself (I think that might have been the title to a Nancy Drew novel). Following instructions, I cubed bread, toasted it in the oven, peeled and sliced apples, melted butter, gathered a bit of orange juice and cinnamon and sugar…and that was basically it.  (There was some toil involving the apple peeler/corer, but I’ll save that for a rainy day, although I do believe the contraption to be a death trap.)  In essence, I concocted a toast and apple casserole.  Everyone took a nibble.  It was rather delectable.  Then again, how can you go wrong with toast soaked in gobs of butter?


I went on to do more research and found that J.D.Salinger mentions Brown Betty in, “The Catcher in the Rye,” when Holden Caulfield describes food at his boarding school.  Holden complains, “You always got these very lumpy mashed potatoes on steak night, and for dessert you got Brown Betty, which nobody ate, except maybe the kids in the lower school that didn’t know any better-and guys like Ackley that ate everything.”   Well, let me tell you, J.D.Salinger was highly mistaken.  Brown Betty is delish.  No angsty teen can tell me otherwise.  


At the end of the day, we cracked the Mystery of the Brown Betty, no teapots were served for banquet, because I now know that Miss Brown Betty not only makes a stellar cup of earl grey, but also provides wholesome, apple-y goodness.



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3 responses to “The Baffled Bakeshop and the Mystery of Brown Betty

  1. Jules

    Yes! I have had a Brown Betty before, and also have a recipe. That is for sure the only tidbit of dessert that I knew before you 🙂 I loved this entry because you told the others that Brown Betty is also a teapot. Because I would have thrown that in, too. Everyone should know that piece of trivia.

  2. dick

    As a born and bred Midwesterner I was raised on these except in my small town they were called Apple Brown Betty. Love them. If you use really good bread there is nothing better. True country comfort food.

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