Fruit crumble is usually pretty straightforward: combine flour, sugar, and butter and you've got a perfect streusel topping, right? But what happens when you can't eat regular flour, sugar, or butter (or nuts)? Suddenly, making a really good fruit crumble might not be so simple after all. Faced with such a predicament, I started experimenting with gluten-free and vegan ingredients (and eating many, many servings of crumble in the process!) until I finally came up with my new go-to, allergy-friendly crumble recipe.
Traditional fruit crumble or crisp is a loose and forgiving dish. You can make it with just about any fruit from apples to berries to plums, sweeten and spice them to taste, and top them with a rustic crumb. This gluten-, nut-, dairy-, and refined-sugar-free version has some wiggle room, too, especially in the fruit filling. The topping, however, is a bit more particular — though not at all complicated.
Developing a good topping was surprisingly tricky and involved more gluten-free flours, vegan fats, and alternative sweeteners than I care to remember. Some were too heavy, others too light, dry, or not versatile enough to meld with different kinds of fruit. Just as I was about to give up, I hit the sweet spot with this topping. It's slightly crunchy, slightly moist, and just rich and sweet enough to feel like a real dessert while allowing the fruit to be the star.
Here's the final formula: nutty sunflower seed flour, oat flour, and oats; dates for sweetness; and coconut oil for buttery texture and flavor. As far as I know sunflower seed flour (sun-flour!) is not available in stores, but it's easy to make at home using a food processor, coffee/spice grinder, or blender (I use a Vitamix). Not only has this crumble satisfied my tastebuds, but non-allergy-challenged folks have complimented it as well. Win-win.
Note: the crumble you see here includes chopped strawberries (4 cups) and rhubarb (2 cups), flavored with the zest and juice of a small blood orange, a vanilla bean, and a minimum amount of pure date syrup. It made a luscious spring dessert and breakfast!
Allergy-Friendly Fruit Crumble with Oats & Dates
6 cups fruit, diced
1-3 tablespoons arrowroot starch or cornstarch, depending on juiciness of fruit
Sweetener of your choice, to taste (optional)
Zest of 1 lemon or orange (optional)
1-3 teaspoons lemon or orange juice, to taste (optional)
1 vanilla bean, scraped, or 1 teaspoon spice like cinnamon or ginger (optional)
2/3 cup sunflower seed flour (see Recipe Notes)
1/3 cup gluten-free oat flour
3/4 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
2/3 cup gluten-free rolled oats
2/3 cup dates, pitted and finely chopped
1/2 cup coconut oil, room temperature
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Toss the fruit with the arrowroot starch or cornstarch and any optional flavorings. Pour the fruit filling into an 8"x8", 9"x9", or equivalent sized baking dish.
→ For more detailed fruit instructions, see How To Make a Fruit Crumble with Any Kind of Fruit.
Thoroughly mix together the sunflower seed flour, oat flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon (if using). Stir in the oats and dates and use your fingers to break up any large date chunks. Add the coconut oil and use your fingers or a fork to work it into the dry ingredients, forming large crumbs. Spread the topping evenly over the fruit.
Bake for 30-35 minutes until the fruit juices are bubbling around the edges. At around the 20-minute mark, check that the crumble is not browning too quickly; if necessary, lightly cover the dish with aluminum foil and then remove the foil for a minute or two at the end.
Let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. Coconut whipped cream makes a delicious accompaniment.
- To make sunflower seed flour: Grind raw (or soaked and dehydrated) sunflower seeds in a food processor, coffee/spice grinder, or high-performance blender such as a Vitamix. Pulse until the sunflower seeds have a flour-like consistency and avoid over-grinding, or you may end up with sunflower seed butter. Periodically sift the flour through a flour sifter or fine-mesh strainer and repeat until all the seeds are finely ground. Store flour in the refrigerator or freezer. (1 cup of sunflower seeds makes about 1 cup of flour.)
- Green specks? Don't be alarmed: In some cases, you may notice tiny green specks in the crumble topping. This is a result of chemical reaction between the sunflower seeds and baking soda, and it's perfectly safe to eat. I noticed it in some batches and not others, probably related to how evenly the baking soda was dispersed.
(Images: Emily Ho)