I have Friendsgiving on my mind. Not Thanksgiving and its boring, beige, turkey-mashed-potatoes-and-gravy plates, but the boozy Thanksgiving-with-friends edition that we call Friendsgiving. Friendsgiving features turkey, of course, but also offers many colorful, vegetarian sides and at least two pies. At least.
I’m attending two Friendsgivings this year: one this weekend and one the next, which will be shortly followed by the real Thanksgiving with my family. I’ll be rolling into December in my stretchy pants.
I thought I’d share this pear and cranberry crisp in time for your Friendsgiving(s) and Thanksgiving feasts. No, it’s not pie, but it’s fresh, simple and gluten free. The recipe is based off this summer’s popular strawberry rhubarb crisp. I filled it with fall-appropriate pears (apples would also be great) and tart cranberries, which sweeten up as they bake. I also mixed in some walnuts, brown butter and spices for even more fall flavor.
I wanted to be able to share this dessert with my gluten-free friends, so I searched around for gluten-free topping substitutions. I found my friend Dana’s recipe, which had similar proportions and called for almond meal instead of wheat flour in the topping. So simple!
Now then, to peel or not peel the pears. That is the question. I did not peel my pears. However, I later wished that I had peeled the pears because I found the texture of the skin to be a little distracting. My friends did not. I’ll say it’s up to you, but I would peel the pears if I were you. I think a vegetable peeler would be the easiest way to go about it.
Gluten-Free Pear Cranberry Crisp
- Prep Time: 15 mins
- Cook Time: 55 mins
- Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
- Yield: 6 to 8 1x
- Category: Dessert
- Method: Baked
- Cuisine: American
Honey-sweetened pears and cranberries with a gluten-free oat and almond meal topping. Feel free to substitute apples for the pears if you prefer. This simple dessert is perfect for holidays or any cold day, really!
Pear cranberry (or apple) filling
- 4 large Bartlett pears or Granny Smith apples (about 2 pounds), peeled, cored and sliced into small bite-sized pieces
- 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
- ⅓ cup honey
- 2 tablespoons arrowroot starch or 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Gluten-free walnut, oat and almond meal topping
- 1 cup old-fashioned oats (certified gluten-free if necessary)
- ½ cup almond meal or almond flour
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
- ⅓ cup lightly packed brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons plain yogurt (Greek or regular)
Don’t forget the vanilla ice cream!
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a 9 by 9-inch baking dish, mix together the pears (or apples), cranberries, honey, arrowroot or cornstarch, lemon juice, ginger and cinnamon.
- Optional: brown the butter for a more complex flavor. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Swirl the pan by the handle often so the butter doesn’t splatter. Continue to heat the butter, swirling frequently, until you see little brown flecks in the bottom of the pan (this will take about three minutes).
- In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the oats, almond meal or flour, walnuts, brown sugar and salt. Mix in the Greek yogurt and browned butter (or melted butter). Stir until all of the flour is incorporated and the mixture is moistened throughout.
- Dollop spoonfuls of the oat mixture over the filling and use your fingers to break up the mixture until it is evenly distributed (no need to pack it down). Bake until the filling is bubbling around the edges, the top is turning lightly golden and most of the cranberries have burst, 40 to 55 minutes. Let the crisp rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Serve with vanilla ice cream, I insist.
Make it nut free: Omit the walnuts and use ¾ cup whole wheat flour and ¾ cup oats instead of the almond meal and oats specified above. It will no longer be gluten free. If you want to keep it gluten free, I suspect that you could replace the almond meal with oat flour or more oats (haven’t tried that, please comment if you do!).
Make it dairy free/vegan: I believe you could use melted coconut oil in place of the browned butter/yogurt (use 4 tablespoons coconut oil and add up to 3 more, until the topping mixture is moistened throughout) and maple syrup instead of the honey. I haven’t tried it, though.
What’s arrowroot starch? Arrowroot starch is a great thickener to use in place of corn starch, which is often genetically modified. It’s gluten free, too. Look for it in the baking section of well-stocked grocery stores or buy it online.