Saturday, October 5, 2013

Apple and Pear Brown Betty (or something)

Up the apples and pears, and across the Rory O' Moor,
I'm off to see my dear old Trouble and Strife.
On the Cain and Able, you will always see
A pair of Jack the Rippers and a cup of Rosy Lee.
What could be better than this?
A nice old cuddle and kiss,
All beneath the pale moonlight.
Then some Tommy Tucker and off to Uncle Ned.
Oh, What a luverly night tonight.

My mother loved music hall songs like the one quoted above, and I can never think of apples and pears together without turning them into stairs. Although she grew up in Birmingham, far from the sound of Bow bells, my mother always loved Cockney rhyming slang, and learned about a million of these popular songs from her grandfather, who was by all accounts a bit of a lad. My mother would have called this dish a Brown Betty,  and it is in the fine tradition of crumblescobblerscrisps, and other versions of baked fruit with some type of crunchy topping. This one came about because I had an urge to bake, a plethora of apples and pears - doesn't that roll trippingly off the tongue? - but very little else to work with.  Although my mother's version would have used a ton of butter and fine, homemade breadcrumbs (if a jar of wheat germ ever saw the inside of her kitchen cupboard, it could only have been because I was still at home), I think she'd have applauded my ingenuity and thrift in producing a dessert for five people with little more than a handful of slightly overripe fruit. Whatever you choose to call it, this is one of those ridiculously easy dishes that come together quickly and never fail to please. And since it's not too sweet, it's as suitable for breakfast tomorrow as it is for dessert tonight, so Bob's your uncle!

Apple and Pear Brown Betty 
~ 5 large, unpeeled apples, cut into approximately 1" cubes
~ 5 large, unpeeled pears, cut into approximately 1" cubes
~ 1/2 cup each: wheat germ, all purpose flour, finely chopped walnuts
~ 1/4 cup brown sugar
~ 1/2 tsp. each: salt, cinnamon
~ 1/4 tsp. each: ginger, nutmeg
~ 1/4 cup very cold Earth Balance (or other vegan margarine)

~ Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit and coat a 9 x 13" casserole with cooking spray.
~ In a mixing bowl, sift together the wheat germ, flour, sugar, and spices. Chop the margarine and add to the dry mixture. Mix together until it forms a texture like soft crumbs (full disclosure: I just get right in there and do this part with my fingers).
~ Place the cubed fruit in the greased casserole and arrange the topping over it evenly.
~ Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake about 20 minutes more, until the fruit is soft and the topping is golden brown.
~ Serve hot with vanilla ice cream, yogurt, or - best of all - custard.

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