Grain-free rhubarb strawberry crumble with almond cardamom topping

Some people are powerless to resist rhubarb’s rosy glow at the markets this time of year, and I am one of them. So for a few short weeks each spring our infuriatingly endearingly compact apartment fridge is home to a half dozen or so of these tart and unwieldy stalks at any time, taking up valuable space in the crisper drawer until I decide what to do with them.

The thought always crosses my mind that I should make something different or creative this time around — a mustard, perhaps? or a savory roast of some sort? — but at the end of the day what we really want, if we’re being honest, is a rhubarb strawberry crumble (or crisp, or cobbler, or buckle — I’ll leave the semantics to the experts).  A pie would be nice, too, but I don’t really have the patience required for pastry. Messy, crumbled toppings are more my style.

This time I decided to mix things up just a little bit by making the crumble gluten-free and grain-free, with almond flour replacing all-purpose wheat flour in the topping. To do away with the usual thickeners in the filling (flour or cornstarch) I included a small amount of apple, chopped into little cubes. The pectin in the apple provides just enough natural thickening power to give body to the strawberry and rhubarb juices without making the filling gooey or gloppy.

Playing up the tart, floral notes of the rhubarb, the crumble is sweetened with honey (to veganize, replace the honey with a liquid vegan-friendly sweetener such as maple syrup, agave, or coconut nectar) and spiked with elderflower liqueur. The liqueur is optional, but I think it really complements the fruits’ flavors and plays nicely with the cardamom in the crumble topping.

We ate the crumble still slightly warm with melting orbs of vanilla ice cream (no complaints there) and a scattering of edible flowers, and the leftovers made for a delicious breakfast the next morning topped with a dollop of Greek yogurt.

Rhubarb strawberry crumble with almond cardamom topping
Gluten-free, Grain-free, Vegan-adaptable (replace honey with agave syrup, maple syrup, or coconut nectar)
Serves 4 to 6

10 ounces strawberries (about 2 cups), fresh or frozen
6 rhubarb stalks, trimmed and cut into approx. 3/4-inch pieces (about 10 ounces / 2.5 cups)
1/2 small apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon honey, divided
1 tablespoon elderflower liqueur, such as St Germain (optional)
grated zest of 1 lemon (about 2 teaspoons), divided
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1.5 cups almond flour/meal (I use Bob’s Red Mill blanched almond flour)
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup virgin coconut oil, softened
1 tablespoon honey

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease an 8×8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish or an 8-inch pie plate with coconut oil.

Combine strawberries, rhubarb, apple, and 1/4 cup honey in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until rhubarb begins to break down, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in liqueur, 1 teaspoon of the lemon zest, and vanilla extract.

In a large bowl combine almond flour, cardamom, salt, and remaining lemon zest. Toss well to combine. Stir in coconut oil and remaining 1 tablespoon honey (easiest to do with clean hands) until the mixture resembles wet sand.

Spoon the rhubarb mixture into the prepared baking dish. Distribute the almond topping evenly over the top of the fruit. Bake at 350F until bubbling and lightly browned, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

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