Crisps, crumbles, cobblers, buckles, slumps, and grunts. (No, I didn’t make up that last one — the grunt actually exists!) To me there’s no better sweet treat than warm, tender fruit bubbling with juices and crowned by a buttery, crumbly top that’s baked to a golden brown. And there’s always a new and interesting combination to be tried: stone fruits, berries, rhubarb in spring and summer; pears, apples, quince in fall and winter; fresh and dried spices, citrus zests, different types of flours, nuts and seeds in the topping. Add a dollop of yogurt, creme fraiche, coconut cream, or of course ice cream, and you’ve got a swoon-worthy dessert on your hands.
A couple of weeks ago I had the awesome opportunity to work with a couple of fellow Natural Gourmet school alums cooking for a weekend yoga retreat. This was a dream come true for me, since yoga and cooking are basically my favorite things in the world. And as a bonus to working in the kitchen, I got to eat a lot of really good food — meals that were healthy and balanced, as well as satisfying and incredibly delicious. Silky root vegetable soups, creamy brown rice risotto, hearty kale chickpea stew, crisp and refreshing salads at every meal. Natural foods chef heaven.
In the mornings, over cups of coffee and fresh-squeezed juices, recipe requests poured in from the yogis for the latest dishes they had tasted. Over the course of the weekend the most in-demand recipe was for a pear-cherry crisp, made gluten-free with a GF all-purpose flour blend and almond flour in the streusel topping. I decided to recreate it this weekend for mr. yogi and me, taking it in a slightly more tart direction by replacing the cherries with cranberries (I can’t get enough of cranberries this time of year), and with coconut flour in place of the gluten-free flour blend in the topping.
In addition to orange zest and juice, coconut sugar, cinnamon, and ginger, I also added a bit of orange blossom water to the pear and cranberry filling. It bumps up the citrus flavors and adds a fragrant, floral element that goes nicely with fruit (try it in salad dressings, too – fantastic).
Arrowroot powder is my thickening agent of choice in fruit desserts like crisps, pies, and tarts. Unlike wheat flour or cornstarch, arrowroot is gluten-free and grain-free (made from the dried and powdered root of the tropical arrowroot plant), high in calcium, easily digestible, and soothing to the gastrointestinal tract.
|Getting the streusel going: clockwise from left, coconut palm sugar, coconut flour, blanched almond flour.|
Coconut and almond flours are high in fiber, low in sugars, and good sources of healthy fats (though coconut flour has been partially defatted, some fat remains) and protein, all of which help to stem the blood sugar spike that occurs when ingesting sweets. Coconut flour is also a good source of iron (just 2 tablespoons provides about 10% of our daily requirement) and almond flour is a good source of calcium, iron, vitamin E, and magnesium (the ‘relaxation’ mineral). Using coconut palm sugar, which has a lower glycemic index than white sugar, also makes the crisp somewhat more friendly on the waistline.
Even though the crisp is otherwise grain-free, I like the hearty texture of rolled oats in the topping; you can easily leave them out, in which case I suggest doubling the amount of chopped almonds. If you’d like to veganize, chilled coconut oil can be substituted for the butter.
Fresh from the oven … bubbling, browned, buttery and oh-so-tempting. As you can see, this is a crisp that doesn’t skimp on streusel — it’s thick, nubbly, almost volcanic-looking.
Warm pear + cranberry crisp with a dollop of thick, tangy Greek yogurt (flavored with a touch of orange blossom water) and a few shreds of orange zest for a pop of color. Sweet-tart fruit dessert perfection. Get your spoon ready and dig in!
Gluten-Free Pear + Cranberry Crisp
Serves 4 to 6
2 pounds pears (about 5 medium – I used a few Bosc and a couple of Bartlett), peeled, cored, and diced
8 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries (about 2 cups)
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon orange blossom water (optional)
1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons arrowroot powder
pinch of sea salt (about 1/4 teaspoon)
1 cup almond flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill blanched almond flour)
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 stick + 2 tablespoons cold, unsalted organic butter, cut into cubes (or 2/3 cup chilled coconut oil)
1/3 cup roughly chopped almonds
1/2 cup rolled oats (optional – if omitting, double the amount of chopped almonds)
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon orange blossom water (or freshly squeezed orange juice)
grated orange zest, to garnish
Heat oven to 350 F.
In a large bowl combine pears, cranberries, orange zest and juice, orange blossom water, sugar, spices, arrowroot, and salt. Stir to combine and set aside.
In the bowl of a food processor add almond and coconut flours, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Pulse a few times to combine. Add butter and pulse until the mixture comes together and has a cookie dough-like consistency; not too sticky, but moist enough to stay together when you squeeze a bit in your palm. Turn mixture out into a bowl and stir in chopped almonds and oats.
Transfer fruit to a 9-inch pie dish (or other baking dish), and top with the streusel mixture, evenly distributing it over the fruit. Bake for about 1 hour, until juices are bubbling and streusel is lightly browned.
In a small bowl combine Greek yogurt with orange blossom water, stirring until smooth.
Serve crisp warm or at room temperature with a dollop of orange blossom yogurt and a grating of orange zest.