For the best betty, we consulted SAVEUR contributor Marion Cunningham, author of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook (Knopf, 1990). She passed this along with the advice that you won't need the lemon juice if your apples are flavorful.
Apple Brown Betty
Tart, sweet, and simple — "Betty" definitely got this classic American dessert right.
Yield: serves 6
2 cups fresh dry bread crumbs
5 tbsp. melted butter
1 1⁄2 lb. tart apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼" slices
1⁄2 cup brown sugar
1⁄2 tsp. cinnamon
Juice and grated rind of ½ lemon (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°. Butter a 1½-quart casserole or a 9" baking dish, preferably with a lid.
Lightly toss crumbs and melted butter together in a medium bowl. Spread about one-third of the crumb mixture in the baking dish.
Combine apples, brown sugar, cinnamon, and lemon juice and rind (if needed) in a medium bowl. Fan out half the apple mixture over crumbs. Add another layer of crumbs, a layer of the remaining apples, and a final layer of crumbs.
Pour in 1 cup hot water. Cover with lid or with foil, and bake for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake 20 minutes more. Serve with heavy cream.