strawberry rhubarb almond crumbles

Update: This post and recipe was originally published in 2015. I have updated it to reflect new information and helpful content!

As we inch closer to springtime, these strawberry rhubarb almond crumbles are all I want for a dessert. Nothing sings spring to me like strawberry rhubarb and the disappearance of snow for good. And even if I have to make this gluten-free daydream from store-bought berries and frozen rhubarb in a raging April snowstorm, I’ve been known to do it!

individual strawberry rhubarb almond crumbles in a white dish next to fresh rhubarb on a marble counter

No worries, though. Soon enough, the strawberry growing season in Minnesota will be here. And when it arrives, I’m going to be ready, how about you?

booty shaped strawberry freshly picked for making strawberry rhubarb almond crumble dessert

Where to pick your berries this spring?

While I don’t grow cute baby bootie-shaped berries yet, many farms around the Twin Cities do, and they open their berry fields for picking. Strawberries in June, blueberries in July, and raspberries anytime from July into the fall. I mark my calendar for the end of May and early June to check the farm updates from one of my favorite spots, Berry Hill Farm.

5-year-old picking strawberries at a farm for strawberry rhubarb almond crumbles

My skills for timing farm-to-table have progressed. In years past, I would excitedly check into picking options only to find out the season ended the day before. Facepalm. Stores rarely provide berries that look and taste quite like this.

Until that one year when the berries and Bursch luck aligned. Since this day below in 2015 with 5-year-old Evie, it’s been on my radar early.

My first recipe revision for this old favorite dessert came after this load of berries in 2015. I finally had enough information (a.k.a. suffering) to advocate for my gluten allergy, but I hadn’t tried making this recipe gluten-free. I had enough berries to keep the experiments going with this June day’s haul until the topping was right.

three individual crocks with strawberry rhubarb almond crumbles ready for baking

Speaking of, it’s a toss-up of what this recipe is about. Is it the warm berries + lightly sweetened but tart rhubarb or the buttery almond cookie crumble? Well, we think all of the above.

big bowl of strawberries and rhubarb with spoon dishing up individual dessert dishes on marble counter

What’s the best gluten-free flour for making strawberry rhubarb almond crumbles?

This dessert topping is more like an almond shortbread cookie than other dessert toppings I’ve made with oats. This almond crumble recipe works with any gluten-free flour and doesn’t require any added binders like xanthan gum, guar gum, or psyllium husk powder to bake well. I’ve tried the following flours with success in this crumble topping recipe:

(This list of five gluten-free flour options contains affiliate links. I have tried them all, and I recommend any of them for this recipe.)

Is almond paste gluten-free and Celiac safe?

The ingredient almond paste was the quandary in making this almond crumble gluten-free and Celiac level safe. I LOVE the texture and taste of processed almond paste when it’s worked into a dough. But the messaging from the product and FDA regulations have been confusing. Having a gluten allergy requires that part of my life is trying to nail down if a food is safe or not, then weighing the risks. The work is exhausting but expected and worth it because the consequences are rough. But when people who care about you are trying to be supportive but haven’t understood the nuances or done the research, it can feel daunting for them and you to try or re-try.

In the case of almond paste, I have two boxes of almond paste in my house right now, and they are from the same brand; I bought them one week apart from Whole Foods, and they say two different things in the ingredients! Can I say crazy-making?

two open boxes of gluten-free almond paste sitting on marble counter
Almond paste box A on the left, and almond paste box B is on the right.

Last week a friend told me she used Odense’s gluten-free almond paste in some delicious almond cookies she made. I immediately found the box on the left and purchased it from Whole Foods. On the box of almond paste above that says GLUTEN-FREE on the bottom, the label says,

  • Ingredients: almonds (45%), sugar, invert sugar syrup, water, invertase (a natural enzyme to preserve moisture.) Contains Tree nuts (almonds).

I made my strawberry rhubarb almond crumbles with this box and loved the flavor, texture, and buttery crumble. Win-win!

To finalize my recipe testing with almond crumble, I bought box B, thinking this would be the last try, but this box was different.

almond paste ingredients on box used to make strawberry rhubarb almond crumbles

I purchased it at the same Whole Foods, same Odense brand, but the box says, GLUTEN-FREE* on the front. On the back, the label says,

  • Ingredients: Almonds (45%), sugar, glucose syrup (from wheat), water, invertase (a natural enzyme to preserve moisture). Contains tree nuts (almonds), wheat*.

The word wheat in any ingredient list does not feel safe. What is this? Are they the same? And why the difference? Well, I dug in a little further.

Here’s what the FDA says on gluten-free labels and Celiac safe ingredients for products like almond paste!

I reached out to Odense and the owner Chuck Landrey emailed me back right away. This was Landry’s response to my query about the two different labels and ingredients:

“Both items are entirely gluten-free. We simply have to use the FDA’s wording regarding being “less than.” The fact is our lab tests confirm zero gluten in the product.  We started using invert sugar syrup because it delays the crystallization of the sugar syrup which causes the almond paste to harden (and become unusable). The box you have with invert sugar is the newer box. “

Chuck Landrey, Andre Prost, Inc.

While Landrey’s response gave me more confidence in using Odense’s almond paste, I looked up the FDA requirements around gluten-free labels, and I was reminded that it’s not a label that can be thrown around like “natural” is. Wheat, rye, barley, or other crossbreeds of these grains cannot be labeled gluten-free, and any ingredient derived from these grains cannot as well unless they’ve gone through extensive processes to remove the gluten and test under 20 ppm.

The rule specifies, among other criteria, that any foods that carry the label “gluten-free,” “no gluten,” “free of gluten,” or “without gluten” must contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. This level is the lowest that can be reliably detected in foods using scientifically validated analytical methods.

FDA U.S. Food & Drug Administration

What does this mean for me, friends, and personal chef clients related to my comfort level or risk tolerance? The Celiac Foundation agrees that glucose syrup does not need to be avoided as it’s had the wheat removed to these regulated levels. Double yay! But now that I have worked on all the options, what do I like the best?

Store-bought almond paste vs. homemade almond paste?

  1. Store-bought almond paste – this more processed and pulverized paste is smooth in texture, has a slightly more robust almond extract-like flavor, and is a bit sweeter than all the options.
  2. Homemade almond paste using organic almond flour – this combination is more smooth than blanching almonds (which I’ve done!) and achieves a comparable version to the store-bought almond paste. I get my alternative flours mostly from Nuts.com. They are not a gluten-free facility (no brands I’ve found are!), but they are committed to safety by using a dedicated gluten-free production line in a separate warehouse area.
small piles of raw almonds, blanched almonds, almond flour, blanched almonds pureed, and almond paste on marble counter for strawberry rhubarb almond crumbles

My verdict? For this recipe, I will probably more often choose the homemade almond paste made with almond flour (center in pic) if I have it on hand. It combines with the butter for a smooth cookie melted top, and since I’m already using my food processor, this is an easy dump and blend method. If I’m using almond paste for anything else or have that instead of flour, I’ll grab a box of Odense with much more ease now that I understand the label.

With no further ado, let’s get baking!

Strawberry Rhubarb Almond Crumbles

My family loves these individual strawberry rhubarb almond crumbles warm (not hot) and a la mode to go with every sweet and slightly tart bite.
Print Recipe Pin Recipe
individual strawberry rhubarb crumble on a blue floral napkin lined plate and cup of coffee
Prep Time:30 mins
Cook Time:25 mins
Resting Time:15 mins
Total Time:1 hr 10 mins

Ingredients

Fruit Filling:

  • 2 1/2 cups fresh strawberries hulled and cut into bite-size pieces (Cut small strawberries into fourths and large strawberries into eighths.)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh rhubarb sliced into small bite-sized pieces to match the berries
  • 1/4 cup sugar If you like it more tart, cut the sugar by half.
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons of cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Almond Crumble Topping Made with Almond Flour Option # 1

  • 1/2 cup almond four
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 4 tablespoon unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour (Any gluten-free flour will work in this recipe, does not have to be a cup-for-cup mixture.)

Almond Crumble Topping Made with Almond Paste Option #2

  • 1/3 cup almond paste
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour (Any gluten-free flour will work in this recipe, does not have to be a cup-for-cup mixture.)

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400°.
  • Gently combine prepped strawberries, sliced rhubarb, 1/8-1/4 cup sugar, cornstarch, and lemon juice. Set aside to rest while you make the topping.
  • Make almond crumble using one of the two options below.
  • Divide the berry rhubarb mixture into 4-6 ramekins depneding on depth of dishes. Press and sprinkle almond crumble atop fruit, using all the mixture that you can between the 4-6 servings.
  • Set ramekins on a cookie sheet, and line with parchment paper for the least mess if you have shallow baking dishes.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes until fruit is bubbling and crumble is lightly browned.
  • Let cool for at least 15 minutes to serve warm, not hot. Cool, cover and store in refrigerator if you make it a day ahead of serving. Reheat for 5 minutes or so in a preheated oven.

Almond Crumble Option # 1 Instructions

  • In the bowl of a food processor, toss in 1/2 cup almond flour, 1/4 cup sugar, and all-purpose flour. Pulse about 5 times to combine dry ingredients.
  • Add softened butter and almond extract. Process until just starting to stick together with blade slowing down and dough slightly sticky and coming together into clumps.

Almond Crumble Option # 2 Instructions

  • In the bowl of a food processor, add almond paste, flour and softened butter.
  • Process until the almond paste chunk is cut up and blended with the flour and butter into a dough that is slightly sticky and begining to clump together.

*I used 4 short oval dishes in these pictures. If you don't want the juice to overflow as much, use taller custard dishes.

    Equipment

    4-6 ramekins or oven safe dessert dishes
    1 food processor fitted with steel blade
    1 large bowl

    This equipment section may contain affiliate links to products I know and love.

    Servings :4
    Author: Heather Bursch
    cost: $18
    Keywords: berries, strawberry rhubarb, strawberry rhubarb recipe, summer dessert
    Did you make it? Mention @heatherbursch or tag #shemadeit so we can admire your work!

    Enjoy!

    ~Heather

    Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links, and I will earn a commission if you purchase through these links. I’ve linked to these products because I recommend them, and they are from companies I trust. There is no additional cost to you.

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