My memories of this sport come from my Grandpa Frank who loved the St. Louis Cardinals (his hometown) and my sister, Barbara who was right there in his living room watching the games. Admittedly, I'm not a die-hard fan, but I loved to have him explain plays to me and see his face when his team played well. Now, I love watching our grandson, Ari, embrace the sport to the point he asked a waitress to turn the channel so he could watch a game...he's only two:) Tonight, his daddy posted on Facebook a video of Ari hitting the ball and running the bases and I can't wait to play this American "pastime" with him in the backyard when I fly there this week.
Along with baseball, apple pie is just as American, so today I baked a version that is called Apple Betty Squares. Apple Brown Betty is a dessert that is thought to date back to colonial times and is similar to a cobbler or bread pudding. It's a simple dessert, made with fruit (usually apple) with sweetened bread crumbs on top. Even J.D. Salinger mentioned Brown Betty dessert in his novel, Catcher in the Rye, stating "it's a typical unpleasant boarding school fare." That's far from being true, and for me, this version made into a bar cookie would even change his mind!
Apple Betty Squares
(This recipe is from Gourmet magazine/September 2000)
3 slices of firm white sandwich bread, torn into quarters
For shorbread base:
3/4 c (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 c packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
For apple filling:
1/2 c + 2T (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
2 lb tart apples (I used 4 Granny Smith apples)
2/3 c granulated sugar
2 T all-purpose flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cardamon
Preheat oven to 350F-degrees
In a food processor, pulse the bread to fine crumbs. Spread in a shallow baking pan and toast in the middle of the oven, stirring once, until golden, about 5 minutes.
Make the shortbread layer:--Place the flour, brown sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse to mix. Add the cubed cold butter and process until it begins to form small lumps. Sprinkle base into a 13 x 9-inch baking pan and press evenly onto bottom. Bake in middle of oven until golden, about 20 minutes.
Peel, quarter and core apples, then, slice quarters crosswise. In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, flour and spices and set aside.
Assemble the squares:
Sprinkle half of the sugar mixture over the hot shortbread. Place the apples on top and then sprinkle the remaining sugar over them.
Top with the toasted bread crumbs, then pour the melted butter over top.
Bake in the oven for 50-55 minutes until golden brown. (Hint: to keep the bottom of the shortbread from browning too much, place the 9 x 13-inch pan on a sheet pan.) Cool 20 minutes in the pan on a rack before cutting into squares.
These squares are great on their own, but with a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream; well, Yum. Enjoy!