Sixteen years and a lifetime ago, when I finished cooking school in San Francisco, I did an externship at Greens restaurant. I was a pastry assistant (which meant hanging with the sweet pastry chef in a still and quiet 5am kitchen). Working “the line” during dinner service did not appeal, so I felt lucky.
Keep it Easy
I’m a lazy pastry chef, though. Complicated cakes that require multiple steps and frosted layers are not my thing. To my delight, I spent my days making endless vats of homemade ice cream, galettes, dessert sauces, fruit crisp and cobbler. Just my type of desserts.
Give me a warm berry crisp any day. Even better if it has a crunchy pecan topping and is gluten-free. I can’t find my recipe notes from working at Greens (total tragedy, but I’ve moved five times since then so it’s no surprise). This recipe is the closest I can get to what we made there.
Tips and Tricks
To cut down on the amount of bowls to clean, mix the berries directly in the baking dish and make the topping in a mixing bowl. Feeding a house full of weekend guests? You can easily double or triple this to feed a crowd. And when it’s packed with bursting blackberries, blueberries and strawberries, it’s perfect for backyard celebrations.
If your berries are at the height of flavor, omit the sugar, arrowroot powder and lemon juice in the filling. Those tricks of the trade are added to enhance the flavor of the berries and add a sweet-tart filling, but you have permission to skip that step if your berries are delicious on their own. The topping is made from gluten-free old-fashioned oats (I use Bob’s Red Mill) and coconut flour tossed with the spices, pecans, butter and vanilla. The trick is to use freshly grated nutmeg (use a small nutmeg grater). Tempted to use the pre-ground stuff? Just omit it altogether and add a touch more cinnamon.
Last but not least, incorporate all the dry ingredients into the butter to create a crumbly topping. Those pockets of buttery goodness will get golden and crisp in the oven, the perfect landing for a big scoop of good old-fashioned vanilla ice cream. If it happens to be homemade, even better.
Gluten-Free Berry Crisp
Yield 8 servings
Top this fragrant crisp with a dollop of fresh whipped cream or, better yet, vanilla ice cream. Substitute any berries you prefer, raspberries and boysenberries are also delicious here.
- 1/2 cup gluten-free old-fashion oats
- 1/2 cup coconut flour (or gluten-free flour such as Cup4Cup)
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/3 cup chopped pecans
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- Generous pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 6 tablespoon (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2- inch cubes
- 1 1/2 cups blueberries
- 1 1/2 cups blackberries
- 3 cups quartered strawberries
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon arrowroot powder
- 1/2 lemon, juiced ( about 2 tablespoons)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a medium-size mixing bowl, combine the first seven topping ingredients. Sprinkle the vanilla extract on top and add the butter, mixing it in with fingertips or a pastry blender until topping comes together. There should not be any bits of flour or brown sugar left in the bowl; you should be left with creamy crumbles of topping. Set aside.
Combine all the filling ingredients in a medium-size mixing bowl or directly in an 8×8 baking dish; stir to combine.
To assemble, once berry mixture is in the baking dish, sprinkle the topping evenly on top. Bake until the topping is golden brown and the filling is bubbling around the edges, about 45 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.