If you’re not familiar with crumbles then you are in for a treat! Blackberry and apple crumble is one of my favourite old fashioned British puddings that takes me straight back to my childhood. This is a gluten-free version that is every bit as good as the original, and by using dairy-free butter, it is also vegan (or plant-based). It takes only a few minutes to throw it together, then let it bubble gently in the oven while you eat the main course. You’ll be rewarded with a delicious fruity dessert of pure comfort in a bowl.
At this time of year I always feel a little bit homesick for England. I adore all the different seasons back home but I especially love the transition from summer to autumn. Watching the leaves changing colour, the kids playing with conkers and swishing their feet through the piles of dry leaves as they walk, the weather turning a little bit colder and starting to pull out thicker jackets for the crisp early morning school drop off, and having the unexpected pleasure of finding dark, juicy blackberries in the bushes as you walk along any country path.
Here in Doha it is still baking hot and there’s no chance of going for a walk and even less chance of finding blackberries in the bushes but at least in my little kitchen, I can re-create the smells and flavours of home by buying a pack of frozen blackberries and making this delicious gluten-free blackberry and apple crumble.
For those that haven’t tried crumble before, how can I describe it? It’s like a pie but instead of pastry on top, it has this crumbly mixture that has the same sweet buttery flavour as pastry but with a looser texture. The best crumbles are gooey on the bottom (from soaking up the juices from the fruit underneath), and crispy on the top, and fall into little crumbly chunks when you cut your spoon into it. I think most people prefer it to plain pastry which seems rather boring in comparison. Home cooks almost certainly prefer it because it’s a doddle to make compared to the more pernicious pastry!
- Oats - I’m really particular about crumble and, for years, I was a purist and absolutely could not stand oats in a crumble. However, over the last few years I’ve softened a bit and now I have to admit that I think the addition of oats really adds to the flavour in a delightful earthy way. To make the topping gluten-free, I have used (gf) oats combined with arrowroot powder (which has many purported health benefits and is easily digested) and ground almonds (for good fats and a rounded flavour). If you are coeliac, make sure to buy the gluten-free oats. It's not that oats themselves have gluten in but it's the way that farmers rotate crops when farming so the non-gf oats may be grown in a field where wheat grew the previous year and this sometimes results in the oats containing a little bit of gluten. The gf oats, however, are grown in fields that haven't had wheat growing in them, so they are completely free from gluten.
- Vegan butter - For authenticity, I have used vegan butter to replace dairy butter. However, I have also made this a number of times with coconut oil which tastes equally delicious! I think it gives a lovely rounded flavour that balances well with the tart apple and blackberry filling.
- Apples - You would normally use cooking apples for any kind of cooked apple pudding in the UK but for years now I have used regular eating apples with no discernible drawbacks except that less sugar is needed to sweeten them up. I think cooking apples were used in the past because of their abundance in British gardens and the inability to use them for anything else because they were so sour. Nowadays, most of us live in smaller houses that don’t have apple stores in the garden sheds so we are less likely to have spare cooking apples hanging around needing to be used. I find using regular eating apples (that I always have in abundance in my kitchen), means that I can choose to make an apple pie or apple crumble at the drop of a hat, without needing to go to the shops first!
- Blackberries - if you are not lucky enough to have blackberries growing in abundance in the countryside around you, just buy a pack of frozen blackberries and they will be just as good! Frozen fruit is actually as nutritious as fresh because they are usually frozen immediately upon picking so they don't have time to degrade and lose their nutrients.
- Sugar - I use dark muscovado sugar because I love the deep caramel flavour of the sugar and I think, if you must eat sugar and everyone needs a little sweet treat now and then!), at least make sure it's in its least refined state so that you can get a little goodness in the package too!
This recipe is so simple.
- For the filling, just chop the apples (I don’t even bother peeling them!), mix them in a bowl with the frozen blackberries and seasonings and pour into an oven-proof dish.
- Then make the crumble mixture by weighing everything into a bowl and rubbing the vegan butter into the rest of the ingredients so that it goes to a one big clump of mixture. (Or you could quickly whizz it in a food processor for a few pulses - or Thermomix for 20 secs / sp. 5). Note, the vegan butter will melt as you are mixing it so you won't be able to get the breadcrumb consistency that you might be used to with non-vegan pastry or crumble. Don't worry. Since this is gluten-free crumble, you don't have the gluten to make the crumble tough, so it doesn't matter and it will taste fantastic!
- Next you add the crumble mixture on top of the fruit mixture, spread it out to the edges in an even layer and sprinkle over some cinnamon and sugar on top. Then bake in the oven at 180°C for 40 minutes until golden.
Traditionally, this is a Sunday lunch family-style pudding that is served with custard, cream or ice cream. There are so many good vegan creams and ice creams available but if I'm making a real special effort, I might use some some slightly sweetened cashew cream.
- Flours - If you prefer, feel free to swap the arrowroot and ground almonds for a plain gluten-free flour mix (something like the Dove’s Farm plain gluten-free flour will work well). Crumble (and pastry for that matter!) doesn’t actually need gluten. In fact, when you make it with normal wheat flour you have to be careful not to handle it too much so as not to develop the gluten. So, the gluten-free version is actually easier to make and makes for a better more crumbly crumble!
- Fruit - If you want to stick with tradition and use cooking apples instead of regular eating apples, you will need to add a tablespoon or so of sugar to the apple and blackberry mixture to counteract the sour flavour of the cooking apples. Also, if you don’t like blackberries, by all means leave them out and just substitute with more apple to make it into a plain apple crumble instead!
This gluten-free blackberry and apple crumble is a great pudding for making ahead. You can make it up to the point of assembling the crumble and then keep covered in the fridge for a few hours until you’re ready to pop it into the oven. Alternatively, you could make each of the filling and crumble mixtures a few days in advance and keep them separate in the fridge and then assemble and bake on the day.
If you are lucky to have leftovers, pop it in the fridge (covered) and re-heat in the oven or the microwave (it will still be utterly delicious but note that the topping will not be crispy if re-heated in the microwave). It will happily keep for a few days in the fridge.
Recipe Card 📖
Gluten-Free Blackberry & Apple Crumble (Vegan)
- 2 regular eating apples 225g, cored and cut into large cubes (about 1cm)
- 200 g blackberries frozen blackberries are fine too!
- 1 tsp dark muscovado sugar
- 1 tbsp water
- 90 g oats
- 50 g almond flour
- 60 g arrowroot powder
- 75 g dark muscovado sugar
- 150 g vegan butter or coconut oil
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- pinch of salt
- Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and grease an oven-proof dish with a little vegan butter or flavourless oil.
- Weigh out the filling ingredients and mix together in a bowl. Leave to macerate for a few minutes while you make the crumble mixture.
- Weigh out the topping ingredients and mix together, gently rubbing the dry ingredients into the butter so that it is well mixed. Don’t worry too much if there are a few lumps of butter as it won’t affect the crumble overall. (You could also do this step in a thermomix by setting it to 20 secs / sp.5 REVERSE)
- Pour the filling into the prepared dish and then distribute the crumble mixture over the top. Sprinkle with a little sugar and ground cinnamon.
- Put the dish in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes until the topping is browned and the purple juices from underneath are bubbling up from the sides.
- Leave for a few minutes to cool very slightly before you serve.
- Serve with lashings of cream or ice-cream (vegan).
- This is a very adaptable recipe and you can substitute the fruits or, use a plain gluten-free flour mix in place of the arrowroot and/or the ground almonds. See blogpost for full notes about the recipe and substitutions.
- Do not expect the mixture to go into a breadcrumb texture like non-vegan crumble or pastry. The vegan butter or coconut milk both melt too quickly and do not hold together to make the breadcrumb texture. It really doesn't make a difference once it's cooked though since you don't have the gluten from normal wheat flour that is what makes it become tough.
If you like this recipe, you may like these other delicious vegan and gluten-free dessert recipes too:
II’d love to know how you get on with this recipe. Let me know what you think in the comments section below and please give it a ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ star rating too! Thank you!