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What is a Betty? Homespun Fruit Desserts from Crisps to Cobblers

What is a Betty? Homespun Fruit Desserts from Crisps to Cobblers

August 26, 2014
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If you have ever opened your Grandma’s recipe box, you may have wondered what a “Betty” is. Vintage fruit desserts, like Betties, are being updated today, though they still reflect the classic fruit dessert recipes of yesteryear. The recipes are easy to make and showcase the fruits in season. They make a wonderful dessert to serve friends and family at the end of a meal or as a treat with coffee or tea in the afternoon.

Let’s explore the variety of these classic desserts. You may want to make one of these desserts with the fresh fruit of the season.


The unique characteristic of a Betty is that fruit is layered between or on top of small bread crumbs or cubes. Any type of bread, including cinnamon raisin bread, can be used. The dessert is made like a crisp but, instead of a streusel topping, buttered bread crumbs are used. Pears and rhubarb are combined in this home-style comfort food dessert Pear Rhubarb Brown Betty.


This baked fruit dessert, sometimes referred to as a crumble, has a crumbly streusel-like topping. The topping mixture is sprinkled over the fruit mixture before baking, and the topping melts slightly into the fruit as the dessert bakes. An all-time favorite is Old-Fashioned Apple Crisp, but Streusel-Topped Peach Crisp is wonderful, as is Warm Pear Crisp.


Classic cobblers resemble a deep-dish fruit pie with a dense biscuit-like crust over the top and a fruit filling underneath. Some cobbler recipes feature the biscuit crust completely covering the top of the cobbler, while with other recipes, the biscuit topping is dropped by spoonfuls, allowing some of the fruit to show.

Berries, peaches, pears and apples all are favorite fruits to use in cobbler desserts like Southern Berry Cobbler. Though the summer season is when you will want to use fresh fruit in a cobbler, you can also choose to make Easy Fruit Cobbler. It calls for canned fruit filling, which simplifies the recipe and can be made in any season. Also try Peaches & Cream Cobbler, or Peach & Rhubarb Swirl Cobbler.


A pandowdy is a variation of a cobbler in which the fruit is usually topped with a rolled sweet crust laid on top of the fruit as in this recipe for Double Berry Pandowdy. “Dowdying” refers to pushing the crust down into the fruit before serving, giving it a plain or “dowdy” appearance. Some pandowdy recipes put the crust on the bottom and then invert the dessert to serve it. Try Apple Pear Pandowdy for a sweet & tart twist.


This dessert features a cake batter that is poured into a single layer 8x8-inch or 9x9-inch baking pan. Berries are added and “sink” into the batter during baking. When the cake is baked, it has a “buckled” appearance. Sometimes the top of the cake is covered with a streusel to disguise the uneven appearance. This Streusel Blueberry Coffee Cake is great with fresh or frozen berries.


This simple and summery fruit dessert is made of fresh fruit, such as berries, and layered with whipped cream. This Strawberry Rhubarb Fool is a refreshing summer treat.

Summer is the perfect time to make a vintage dessert. Capture the flavors of the season with these nostalgic recipes. Once you have mastered these desserts…experiment and combine other fruits or ingredients, and make it your own!

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Thanks for the great information! It really cleared up what I am really baking in it's origins and I love that!

Posted September 22, 2014 by KImberly