Beat the Wheat: Gluten-Free Blackberry-Nectarine Crumble
There is something so special about that first weekend at the farmers market when stone fruit and berries are at their best. Forget the solstice; nectarines and blackberries at the farmers market means summer is officially here.
Summer is a happy time for people who have celiac disease — or at least it feels that way. Fruits and vegetables are abundant, and dessert options somehow become easier to navigate when there are fewer cakes and floury things, and more fruit-based sweet treats. I grew up eating lots of pies, cobblers and crumbles for dessert. I like raw and baked fruit on its own, but darn it if there isn't something special about a cobbler or a crumble. Thankfully, converting crumble and cobbler recipes to gluten-free is really easy to do, and they actually taste better when you pair different flour and grain combinations with different fruits. I like being the mad-scientist lady experimenting with flavors and textures to see what might make a great crumble topping for cherries, berries, peaches, plums and other fruits.
My favorite fruit crumble combination is blackberries and nectarines with corn and almond. Why? Because not only are those probably my two most-favorite fruits, the polenta-almond flour topping makes this otherworldly. It's not overly sweet, and it's a beautiful, satisfying way to end a meal.
The biggest praise of all for this dessert came last summer in the form of a small bruised lump on my arm when one of my closest friends took a bite of it and punched me on the arm because we are the playful punching kind of friends instead of the huggy-kissy type of friends. He had been bracing himself for what he thought was going to be a gross "nice try, Carol" gluten-free dessert that he'd have to pretend to like, but then wash away on the ride home with a takeout scoop of gelato. Instead, he took one bite and whacked me in delight. I wore that bruise as proudly as a chef bears burn scars over a job well-done.
The complementary flavors of the polenta and almond flour with the orange-blossom-water-scented fruit set this recipe apart from all the others. If you need to alter this to address a nut allergy, you can use a combination of ground pepitas and brown rice flour instead of the almond flour.
Combine fruit and its related ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Stir well to distribute the liquids and sugar. Let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
In a food processor, combine all the dry ingredients for the crumble and pulse 5 to 7 times to combine.
Add the butter to the flour mix and pulse 10 times until the mixture becomes the consistency of wet, almost-gravelly sand.
Distribute the fruit evenly in a small casserole dish (approximately 8 by 10 inches) sprayed with cooking spray, and leave about 3/4 inch of room on the top for the crumble. But don't put the crumble on just yet.
Place the baking dish on a sheet tray or cookie sheet in the oven (to catch any juice that might bubble over) and bake just the fruit for 25 minutes, until it begins to bubble around the edges.
Remove from oven, spoon crumble mixture evenly on top, completely covering all the fruit, and return to the oven for another 25 to 30 minutes until the topping has begun to brown.
Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Note: Keeps at room temperature (covered) for a day or in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.