gluten-free cherry crumble pie

cherry crumble pie, gluten-free

As I ran down the wooded trail, sunlight on my skin, my thoughts meandered toward the afternoon ahead of me. We had leftover Rainier cherries from our dinner at Dog Mountain Farm. A big bag of Bing cherries waited for me at home, a gift from Northwest Cherries, when they found we couldn’t attend the day-long cherry tour they organized for last week. (We were so sad we couldn’t make it, especially when we saw this post that Jenny Richards wrote about what she did with her 20 pounds of delectable cherries!) The color of those cherries glowed from the kitchen, miles away, as my feet carried me down the trail.

Crumble or pie? I love them both. Pie or crumble? Hm, such a difficult decision.

One of the reasons I love running is that ideas arrive fully formed as I make my way. I saw it before me: a pie crust bottom, a mound of fragrant cherries, and a crumble topping.

Cherry crumble pie.

p.s. I’m honored to say that this pie is being featured on the KCRW Good Food Pie a Day blog.


Cherry Crumble Pie

I’ve been working on our pie crust recipe since I published it back in November. One of the reasons I love baking gluten-free is that I can constantly fiddle and play, taking away eggs and changing flours. (One of the downsides of writing a cookbook is how long it takes to publish one. Some of the recipes in our book will feel old to me by the time they are printed.) Lately, I want to make everything simpler, as few ingredients as possible while still getting the ratio right.

This is my favorite pie crust, by far. We think you’ll like it too.

(Oh, and this dough makes enough for 2 single crusts. You can use half here, then refrigerate the rest and make another pie the next day. Let the dough come to cool room temperature before you use it.)

I posted the idea for this on Facebook, and my friend Kim O’Donnel suggested almond extract instead of vanilla for the flavoring, since cherry pits have a subtle almond taste. And then our friend Carol Blymire recommended lime zest, her secret weapon with fruit. Ladies, we owe you a slice of this pie. Mighty fine.

Finally, some of you have been asking me to post the cup measurements along with the grams in these recipes. I’m not trying to sound mean, but I’m going to keep posting them in grams. There are a couple of reasons for this.

1) This is how I bake. It feels artificial to go back and re-measure the flours when this isn’t what happens in our kitchen.

2) Grams are more precise than ounces. Cups are totally imprecise. Gluten-free baking deserves as much precision as we can give it.

3) Many of you want to substitute different flours for the ones we use, because of allergies or taste preferences. Keeping these recipes in grams makes that substitution much easier.

4) If you really insist on sticking to cups, there are online conversion tools, such as this one.

5) I really, really want you to buy a kitchen scale. Believe me, baking by weight will change your baking life. I’ll do a post soon about this in particular. Every time I go to a thrift store, I see a kitchen scale. You can do it.

Finally, this cherry crumble pie is worth it. Make the leap.

Gluten-Free Pie Crust

115 grams superfine brown rice flour (Authentic Foods makes a great one)
115 grams potato starch
60 grams almond flour
60 grams cornstarch
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
¼ teaspoon guar gum
½ teaspoon kosher salt
115 grams (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and chilled
6 to 8 tablespoons ice water

Cherry filling

830 grams cherries, pitted (we used a combination of Bings and Rainiers)
60 grams Muscovado sugar (or dark brown sugar, if you wish)
½ teaspoon almond extract
juice and zest of 1 lime
zest of 1 orange
3 tablespoons cornstarch

Crumble topping

40 grams superfine brown rice flour
40 grams potato starch
30 grams almond flour
120 grams packed brown sugar
100 grams cornmeal (make sure it’s gluten-free)
50 grams oats (make sure there are certified gluten-free)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
115 grams (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and chilled

Mixing the dry ingredients. Put the brown rice flour, almond flour, potato starch, and cornstarch in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix until they are combined into one flour. Add the xanthan gum, guar gum, and salt and mix again.

Finishing the dough. Add the cubes of butter and mix until it is broken up into pieces about the size of peas. While the mixer is running on low, pour in 6 tablespoons of the ice water. Mix until the dough begins to hold together. Check to make sure the dough coheres but is not too wet. If it is still dry and crumbly, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of water.

Making the crust. Wrap the pie dough in plastic wrap (or in a bowl) and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes. Take it out and roll out the dough between two pieces of parchment paper. This means you won’t work any extra flour into the dough. Roll it out as thin as you can. When the dough has exceeded the size of the pie plate, lift the top piece of parchment paper and turn the dough upside down on the top of the pie plate. Drape the pie dough into place, gently.

If the dough breaks, don’t despair. Simply lift pieces of the dough off the counter and meld it with the rest of the dough. Remember, there’s no gluten, so you can’t overwork the dough. Play with it, like you’re a kid again. Crimp the edges with your fingers.

Poke some shallow holes in the pie crust with a fork, then place the pie plate into the freezer for at least 1 hour.

In the meantime, prepare the cherries and the crumble topping.

Making the cherry filling. Mix the cherries, sugar, almond extract, lime juice and zest, and orange zest. Add the cornstarch and stir well to combine. Set the bowl aside to let the filling build its flavor.

Making the crumble topping. Put the brown rice flour, potato starch, almond flour, brown sugar, cornmeal, oats, and cinnamon into the bowl of the stand mixer. Mix until everything is well combined. Add the butter and mix until the topping begins to clump.

Preheat the oven to 425°.

Blind-baking the pie crust. Take the pie crust out of the freezer and slide it into the hot oven. Bake until the crust is starting to firm and brown a bit, about 15 minutes. Take the crust out of the oven and reduce the heat to 375°.

Baking the crumble pie. Fill the pie crust with the cherry mixture, which will be mounded high above the crust. Pat the crumble topping onto the cherries until the mixture is covered. (Leave a few open patches as airholes for the pie.) Slide it into the oven. Bake for 50 minutes, at which point the crumble topping should be browned. Cover the top of the pie with tin foil and continue to bake until the cherry juice begins to drip over the sides of the pie plate, about 15 minutes more.

Remove from the oven and cool. Ideally, you would let the pie sit for at least 3 hours before you eat it. If that’s not possible (and understandable), just know the pie will be extra juicy when warm.

Serves…well, you decide. It’s a pie.

42 comments on “gluten-free cherry crumble pie

  1. Paula - bell'alimento

    That looks ah-mazing! I didn’t have a dessert for this weekend yet but now I do ; )

  2. Roz

    nom nom nom.
    i’m very Englishly glad you’re phasing out cups.… but why are the cherries still measured in cups!?! all or nothing love!! xx

  3. Mr. Jackhonky

    It looks GORGEOUS! I love me some pie. I love me some CHERRY pie! And the crumb topping is awesome because it helps absorb some of the filling making it less runny.

    Might I make a suggestion? Try using arrowroot instead of cornstarch for the thickener in the filling. 1 to 1 ratio substitution.

    I love cornstarch as a thickener with pies but it can sometimes muddy the flavor and look of a pie filling For some pies (like apple) its not a big deal, but for cherries or berries the clarity and brightness of the fruit really shines through with the arrowroot. Tapioca flour is great too, but arrowroot is just awesome for pie thickner.

    Sure arrowroot isn’t as convenient to get and is more expensive, but I bet you have some floating around the pantry…

  4. Gluten Free Goddess

    This pie looks amazingly delicious!!! I cannot wait to make this at home :) I have just one question. I noticed that use use both xanthan gum and guar gum…any particular reason why? Can I just use one (say xanthan gum) and have the pie turn out well? Just curious. Thanks for this inspirational pie — keep jogging and creating these yummy recipes!

  5. I Am Gluten Free

    Can I tell you how happy I am to see that you didn’t use tapioca starch? I know it’s a common ingredient in GF baking, but I find myself disliking it more and more. I wonder whether we really need to use it at all or could it be easily and successfully substituted? In any case, your pie looks fabuloso! I can’t wait to give it a whirl. I might try it with blueberries, as they are calling out to me. Thanks for the great recipe!

  6. Raewyn

    YUM!!! I look forward to trying this, but no cherries around here in NZ right now, I’m sure I can find a substitute though!! I’m interested in the xantham and guar gum question above… I’m not sure when to use one or other or the both of them… what effect does each one have?? Many thanks for all your sharing!!

  7. melissa

    I don’t know why I never thought of doing a crumble pie. I love crumb topping but I also love pie so I can never decide which to make. Best of both worlds!

    And ditto to the baking scale. It’s changed my life, that and learning baker’s ratios.

  8. JRB Reppert

    YUMMY! Last week, after picking 95 lbs of cherries, pitting & processing them, I made pie with a crumble top crust.

    Question; is there a flour that is a good substitute for almond flour? Along with the celiac, I have anaphylaxis to nut and nut products. It kinda’ cramps my GF style with certain recipes and I have no idea what to use in its place.

  9. cookiecrumb

    It looks beautiful, but — a half-pound of butter in that pie? I suppose I could make changes…
    :)

  10. Mr. Jackhonky

    @Gluten Free Goddess. I’ve never done it, but I’ve been told that when you use guar and xanthan together they work synergetically and the total binding power is more than the sum parts.

    @JRB Reppert Try Soy Flour if you aren’t allergic to soy, or coconut flour (most people who are allergic to tree nuts can tolerate coconut — but check your doctor on that one). Also flaxseed meal imparts a nutty flavor. You can add some along with millet or sorghum flour. Added bonus, flaxseed meal has binding qualities.

  11. Nicole

    I’d like to add a 6th reason for sticking with grams: it makes your recipes accessible to all your readers worldwide. An American cup is not the same as an English cup or an Australian one, so bakers in other regions can unknowingly follow a recipe to the letter and still end up with a flop. Thanks, Shauna, for writing so that everyone can enjoy your food.

  12. Anonymous

    Ok 1st of all, That pie is a thing of beauty! UHMAZING! lol! and 2ndly, Who the Hell would be so rude as to post nasty comments or personal attacks on a life loving food sharing breath of fresh air blog such as this????? Well, I shouldn’t be surprised, some people are nasty.
    I’d like to thank you for making my transition to gluten free a little easier!!!

  13. Jennie

    Baking is all about precision. Unlike savory cooking, which in most cases you can correct missteps as you go, baking is a science. Posting your recipes in ounces or grams is really the best way to ensure readers can enjoy the final product as you intended, so thanks for keeping it real :)

  14. Más allá de 365 sonrisas

    everybody is doing cherry´s recipes! Me too! it´s clear: it´s summer season :)

  15. LaurieA-B

    I’m really glad you are sticking with the grams and encouraging readers to buy a scale; until you actually try a scale, you won’t know how effective and fun it is. For some reason all of us (including me) have to be dragged kicking and screaming to baking by weight, but when you try it you see it’s the best thing ever. I love that it’s so fun; every time I bake I feel a like I’m playing with a delicious chemistry set.

    (OK, the word verification is “crumbool”; can that really be a coincidence? Mmmm… cherry crumbool)

  16. FrèreAndré

    Hello again… I just noted that you have more xanthan than guar… are you certain? feels like they are reversed… but i am glad to see that you are using them in combination. What is about the almond flour that you like? Unless it is produced in your region (and i mean 100miles local)i do not see any justification to go out of my way to use it. In europe, you see chestnut flour, sometimes hazelnuts… and they are more an locally-availability issue then a particular baking characteristic. I see the use more on this crumble top, where the nutty taste may show from the direct top heat, than the previous hamburger buns recipe where its use is quite questionable. unless where you live it is “dirt cheap”…

  17. Shuku

    Cherries are incredibly expensive here, but I know I can get other fruits. And I’m going to do that, when I get a chance — probably when I get back from China at the end of July. Or unless something completely sets off my frantic kitchen sprees (usually stress).

    That said, I think I’d love to try this with pineapple and some of the other fruits we can get locally…

  18. JennC

    I used to have a boss who, when presented with a new idea, suggestion or proposal would say, “Let me run on it”. He would wait until his run after work and said the answer would become clear to him on the run. The next morning you would get your response. :)

  19. Nicolette

    I’m so happy cherries are here in full force. This pie looks like it could be a wonderful addition to the cherry recipes of the season. You did it again!

  20. Allyson

    I am crunched for time so I usually use the WholeFoods brand frozen gluten-free pie crust. I have a bounty of fresh raspberries that is begging for your crumb. Yum! Can’t wait. Thanks again for another great recipe. I love your site, your love for your hubby and child and your generousity in sharing so many great recipes for the gluten intolerant. Cook on sista!

  21. evil cake lady

    god bless you for using grams and muscovado sugar. i love them both so, so much!

    i have a cherry tree in my yard, and everyday i wander out and stare at the fruit. i am pretty sure they are sour cherries but i have been dreaming of a sour cherry crumble ever since the fruit started appearing. now i am dreaming of adding a bottom crust…mmmm

  22. Jenny

    Shauna,
    I’m so excited to see you jumped on the cherry bandwagon too, and I’m honored to have your link to my site. What a surprise that was when I looked at stats today!

    I can’t wait to try your crumble recipe — I want to incorporate a few more GF recipes into my repertoire, and your site is always my first stop (I’m still too timid to try the GF baguettes!).

    A million thanks, Shauna. Your crumble makes me hungry for cherries again, which is tough after 20lbs!

    Happy July 4th,
    jenny

  23. Body Balance

    Who would have thought that living gluten-free could taste sooooo goood! This is fantastic, I’m gonna try some other variations as well.

  24. Georgia Pellegrini

    This cherry pie recipe has tipped the scales! I’m doing it. I’m making one today.

  25. Anonymous

    I must say that pie looks WONDERFUL! The time and effort you put into this blog is an inspiration and this comment is not meant to be negative. Its just that some of do count our calories! I wonder if you know that your pie recipe packs a whopping 5215 calories and 233g of fat in total (based on my calculations)? Thats 652 calories and 29g of fat per slice (assuming 8 slices). Do you think there is any way to tone down the calories a bit? I am wondering if it would be as fabulous without the amount of butter called for?

  26. Dana

    I’ve always wondered how gluten-free pie crust worked. Someone special is totally going to be baked a pie, thanks to you!

  27. Anonymous

    My apologies! When I did the calorie calculations on the pie, I missed that the crust portion of the recipe was for 2 single pies. The total calories for the pie are actually 4138 and the total fat is 172g. That gives each slice (assuming 8 slices) 517 calories and 22g of fat. Still out of my range but better! Any ideas on how to lower that and still have a great pie?

  28. Shauna

    Roz! Thank you for calling me on that. I changed them up for you.

    Mr. Jackhonky (aka Irvin), thank you for the arrowroot suggestion. I thought about it. However, arrowroot is so expensive! In our grocery store, we can only find it sold as a spice, so these three tablespoons would have been $6! I’m trying to think of all the people here. (You and me? We can do differently.)

    For those of you interested in the xanthan vs. gum question, Irvin really answered it for me. I’ve noticed that a combination of xanthan and guar works better than either does individually. I prefer more xanthan to guar because guar is potent. Also, some people really react to it (2 teaspoons in a dish = diarrhea!), so I tend to keep the amount smaller for guar. You should play to find your best proportions.

    Ellen, I’m with you on the tapioca flour. I’ve used it for years, because everyone does. But when it’s one of only a few flours, it feels a little gluey. However, in my AP mix, it seems to work as a binder. I’m still playing with that.

    JRB Reppert, I don’t think there’s a direct substitute for almond flour. It has protein and good fats, as do all the nut flours. I would play with another flour in the same proportion: gluten-free oat (if you can do it), sorghum, millet. If you find the pie feels dry, you could try a bit more butter or an egg.

    Nicole, thank you for what you wrote about readers around the world. That was part of my thinking too.

    Laurie, yes! And crumbool? that’s hilarious.

    FrereAndre, every one of these flours is a taste preference. you can use your own combinations.

    Anonymous, my goodness you did some math! As you wrote in your second comment, the pie crust recipe makes 2 crusts, so I’m glad you took that into account. That being said, I’m not sure what to say. It’s pie. Whether you did a double crust or a crumble topping, you’re going to need butter, in this ratio. If you look at any well-made pie, it’s going to have this proportion of fats. We got more like 12 pieces of this one, so that’s part of it. I had one small slice, two days in a row, and there won’t be any pie for awhile now. You could have a small slice. You could do a pie without a topping. Or you could make another dessert.

    Dana, that makes my day. I hope your someone special enjoys this!

  29. {kms}

    this looks perfect for this weekend and am fascinated to taste it gluten-free. happy 4th! xo.

  30. Anonymous

    I must say, this crust recipe is worth EVERY calorie! I made 2 pies for tomorrow but I am not sure both are going to make it that long!!

  31. Momat32

    I love that you post in grams. I’ve got my scale, inspired by you. Can’t wait for your cookbook and really plunging into this new philosophy of measuring. Stick to your baking and measuring principles!

  32. Anonymous

    haha whoa Smitten Kitchen also did a crumble cherry pie recipe, same day. weird.

  33. Cathleen

    Shauna, I don’t know if you’ve heard but there is this little thing called Google where you can find stuff online. ;-) Arrowroot powder for $2.79 a pound on Amazon! Bingo!

  34. Geertrude

    Oh that looks and sounds delicious! I need to find myself some time to make it!
    And please keep posting grams!
    There is a comment here (by Nicole) that explains why I keep failing when I try out recipes in cups! I have some measuring tools in cups, but I have no idea if they are American, Australian or English…

  35. Becca

    We love the arrowroot from Penzey’s — it makes a glossy thickener for pie filling and also stir-fries.

    I’m planning to make cherry/berry crumble top pie today. Although I prefer my regular pie crust recipe — the dream pastry that Bette Hagman published long ago — only because I have it down to a science and can do it without thinking now. Thanks for the filling and topping recipe Shauna!

  36. EGunn

    I don’t have oats back (yet), but I’ve found that quinoa flakes make an awesome subsitute in recipes like this. =)

  37. Kelley

    Any insight on a good scale? I’ve wanted to get one for a while, but don’t really know anything about them…

  38. Victoria

    I didn’t have guar gum so I didn’t make the lower pastry, just made it as a crumble with the filling and the topping. Super yummy! We’ve had amazing cherries in our gardens this summer (in London), have picked absolutely tons, and this was the tastiest thing they’ve been made into by a long way. Thank you so much. Citrus+almond is obviously the way to go.

  39. Suz

    Just used this crumble with buckwheat groats and soy free Earth Balance to make a topping for apple pie ice cream — YUM.

  40. bob

    Crumble pie? It sounds so obvious!
    I haven’t made a pie in months, probably over a year, and am really missing the relaxing feeling of making the dough. Sounds like it’s pie time! I am looking forward to making a version of this pie for some loved ones soon (no fruit for me for a while).

    I do have a question about the freezer part of the method though. I think you are cooling the pie crust right down, so that when it goes into the hot oven the cold butter reacts to the heat and makes it a beautiful flaky pastry. Is this correct? Yet, when you slide the pie dish into the hot oven, won’t it crack from the temperature difference? Or does this method only work for some pie dishes like ceramic ones (we only have tempered glass such as Pyrex)?