There’s a story Minnesotans re-create every fall. It goes like this. Put on your favorite flannel shirt, grab your jacket (ok, your gloves and hats too, because it’s MN), maybe your garden boots and warm socks, a hot drink, and drive outside the city to your favorite apple orchard with your chosen people. Perhaps you go on a hayride, take a picture at the wooden photo-op display, sit on a hay bale, pet a goat, pick out a pumpkin, or grab a few pecks of your favorite apples. If you are me, there’s never anything to eat that’s Celiac safe, but none of this matters when you know you’re going to make this gluten-free apple crumble!
I KNOW this happens from here to California, but it feels like the perfect North Coast event to end our season of opportunity here to eat what we can grow and to usher in the NEED for sweaters, hats, and flannels, beyond just fashion.
What’s the difference between an apple crisp and an apple crumble?
Apples, butter, sugar, oats? Are crisps and crumbles created equal? I voted once, and all the people said a resounding no! I agree. For the last ten years, this recipe for gluten-free apple crumble has been the recipe we want every single time. So much so that we’re left missing this one when we don’t. And it’s technically a rule breaker by adding oats.
Crumbles usually have flour, butter, sugar, and a more clumpy topping, like my Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble. This recipe adds oats without replacing the flour, and I think it welcomes the texture! Baked apples get super soft (and I like them that way), but this topping holds up under all that goodness and creates an oatmeal cookie-like crunch on top. A crisp might have a thinner topping, could contain nuts, has little to no flour, and is less clumpy. We think this recipe is the best of both worlds!
Can this gluten-free apple crumble be too sweet?
In our family’s opinion, yes, it can! I feel this is as good of a place as any for a PSA: THE BURSCHES EAT SUGAR. Somewhere along the way, we stopped using soooo much sugar, but less does not mean zero, ok? You can like sugar and eat less of it, and both can be true. And over time, most of us found we don’t love the taste of overly sweet desserts. Is anybody with me? Especially regarding things like chocolate (dark please) and baked fruit.
I like this one a little more naturally sweet, so we taste the apples, not the sugar burning in every bite. You can adjust it how you want it depending on the apples you choose. The recipe below is on the sweet side, so I taste my apples and sometimes use less sugar in the apple mixture and the crumble. All you have to do is make it once, and adjust. See the FAQ below for more info on apple varieties and sweet scales.
When do you serve this gluten-free apple crumble?
Right this minute! Or that birthday party for Cole or Ella, the fall season when some friends moved, our yearly Halloween gathering with apple crisp in mugs, that Friday night at the cabin, or a treat to share with someone needing a little love and nurture in the form of food. All of these worthy moments have been elevated with this comforting crumble.
This melancholy recipe makes a mark along with the season that is shifting. Make it for this reason only, a celebration of autumn that often feels short-lived here in MN.
Whenever my kids ask for this recipe rather than a cake for their fall birthdays, it warms my heart. I love comforting foods and hope they might one day make this recipe and remember something good about a moment, a relationship, or a nudge to create that home wherever they are and whoever they are with. 🧡
Best ways to top and serve a warm apple dessert:
Oat-ly’s Frozen Vanilla Dessert – this is our current #1 ice cream choice for taste! It’s dairy-free and vegan. But I started using it because it’s gluten-free and uses certified gluten-free oats, which is necessary for Celiac Disease. It’s very creamy, not too sweet, and just right for a dessert topping!
Alden’s Organic Vanilla Ice Cream – Alden’s delicious vanilla is organic and gluten-free. Additionally, it uses the GFCO to certify its gluten-free products with strict guidelines for cleaning and protocol. The ice cream is creamy with a subtle vanilla flavor that tastes real and not artificial. We love this ice cream when we can find it, and often it’s a toss-up for our first choice.
Maybe you’re saying, I’ve already made an apple crisp or crumble this fall.
I say, throw caution to the wind with those leaves you haven’t raked, and make it, one more time!
Freshly sliced apples, lots of cinnamon, brown sugar, and lemon juice bring the sweet and tart balance together. Perfectly.
Let’s make it!
Gluten-Free Apple Crumble
- 4-5 pounds of slightly tart baking apples – like Granny Smith, Cortland, or Haralson
- 3 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon of cinnamon
- 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar – use less if apples are sweeter!
- Preheat oven to 375°.
- Butter a 9×12 baking dish or individual dishes, on bottom and sides.
- Peel apples, quarter them, and slice each quarter into 3 chunks or slices.
- Toss apples with 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, then sprinkle with cinnamon and 1/3 cup brown sugar and stir to combine. Set aside.
- Mix 1 cup brown sugar, oats, and gluten-free flour with a spoon.
- Next, add cold cubes of butter individually to the bowl, not in clumps. Smash each cube of butter into the oatmeal mixture with your fingers until it all starts to come together into chunks of cookie dough-like form.
- Place your prepped apple mixture into the prepared baking dish or dishes.
- Next, crumble your topping onto the apples, pressing and creating a top for each baking dish. As you pick up the topping, gather extra crumbs in the bottom of the bowl and continue to mix into butter clumps as needed. Spread evenly over your apples by pinching off pieces, pressing down lightly as you work to fit all the crumble on top.
- If you are using individual baking dishes or ramekins, put them on a baking sheet for easy removal from the oven and to catch any drips.
- Bake for 50-55 minutes or until the topping is bubbly and lightly browned on top.
This post contains affiliate links to products I know and love. I recommend any of them for this recipe!
Baking Apple Desserts: Frequently Asked Questions
When I’m at an apple orchard, I look for Haralson, Regent, Fireside, or similar. If I’m mixing it up with a combination of apples, I’ll add Cortland as a personal preference or anything a little more sweet but still firm. If you are at an orchard, taste before buying if it’s available. It’s so helpful to find your preferences and learn what tart, sweet, crisp, mellow, and tangy mean!
When making a baked apple dessert from store-bought apples, I’ll look for anything locally grown available or stick to the bright green Granny Smith apples. They are tart but bake great!
When making applesauce or apple butter, I often use something sweeter like Cortland and my favorite, the Minnesota Honeycrisp apple. No sugar is needed as most apples are sweet. You can bake pies and crumbles or crisps with sweeter apples, but sweeter=softer. Adjust your baking time and know that softer apples cook even softer!
Taste your apples before baking. The sweeter the apple, the less sugar is needed. I will cut sugar by as much as a fourth or even half when using sweeter or softer apples. If your apples are tart, follow the sugar recommended in this recipe and adjust to your liking the next time you make it.
Sometimes I’ve ended up with a baked dessert that is a little tart, and I’ve found that a delicious vanilla ice cream or sweetened whipped cream is the perfect combination.
Guess what? I have found that the perfect addition to a dessert too sweet is, again, a not-too-sweet vanilla ice cream or unsweetened whipped cream for a topping. And when in doubt, a cup of dark coffee always does the trick. 🙂
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Last Updated on October 21, 2022 by Heather Bursch