Gingered Blueberry-Mulberry Crisp (GF)
Come summertime, blueberries are royalty in North Carolina. Deep navy berries weigh down nearly every branch of these bountiful high-bush varietals. Cup your hand up and around a ripened bunch to gently, effortlessly dislodge 10 or more berries in one grab, letting them tumble down into one of your waiting baskets.
Mulberry trees, though more prevalent in our home state of Wisconsin than here, are equally as prolific. If not more so. Foraging, conversely, is very tedious. A ladder is needed, and given the limited range of which one can safely stretch atop this lofty perch, re-positioning multiple times is also required. It’s no simple task. Painstaking, even, but if you ask me, worth every minute and bead of sweat as you pluck individual berries in the early summer heat.
Turning from white to fuchsia to the darkest purple when fully ripe, mulberries resemble blackberries in both appearance and seedy texture. If you’ve never tasted one, the flavor is similar to their fig cousins, with subtle floral notes of pear and citrus in the background.
There’s also a touch of bitterness behind the layers of sweet mulberry flavor. Here, beneath a crunchy oat-nut blanket, juicy blueberries and spice notes of cinnamon + fresh and dried ginger offer balance.
One great thing about desserts like crisps (and crumbles and grunts) is that structure is not an issue. In fact, that lack of structure — softened fruit beneath a crunchy (or doughy) topping — is the desired, rustic-yet-impressive outcome. For that reason, you’re generally okay to make filling substitutions: try strawberry or apricot in spring; peach or cherry in summer; apple or persimmon in autumn; pear or pomegranate in winter… the list goes on.
As for the topping, consider making a double batch of just that portion of the recipe for the freezer to satisfy a desire for fruit crisp when it strikes. It’s gluten-free, made with rolled oats + almond meal/flour, plus chopped almonds for added texture. Yogurt helps bind and stands in for some of the solid fat, with coconut oil (or butter, if you prefer) rounding it out to ensure a beautiful golden color and rich flavor. You can substitute nuts (e.g., pecans, pistachios), spices (e.g., cardamom, anise, vanilla powder), even choose a different rolled grain (e.g., barley, rye).
Arguably best as a showcase for fruits at their seasonal prime (natural sweetness means less maple syrup needed to sweeten), a frozen fruit stash means you can enjoy this homey dessert year-round with whatever sounds good to you — even quicker and easier if you also keep pre-made topping in the freezer.
What’s in it for me?
With only 40 calories per 1/2-cup serving, blueberries are an excellent source of vitamins C and K, manganese, and provide a fair amount of dietary fiber. More than 80% water, they are also quite hydrating. Blueberries are loaded with anthocyanins, resveratrol, and a variety of other antioxidant phytochemicals that may help reduce risk of heart diseases, age-related cognitive decline, and certain cancers.
Mulberries are good sources of iron and vitamin K, and a 1-cup serving contains roughly 85% of your daily vitamin C. Among the low-sugar fruits, this serving is only 60 calories, and comes with 2 g protein, nearly 3 g fiber + 5% of the calcium DV. Deep purple mulberries are highly ranked for total antioxidant capacity (higher even than blueberries and cranberries), particularly rich in more anthocyanins and resveratrol.
Oats provide more than 10% of your daily fiber needs, and is one of the richest known sources of the trace mineral manganese (nearly 50% of the DV per 1/3-cup serving), that has antioxidant properties and important roles in skeletal development, wound healing, and metabolism.
A rich source of monounsaturated and some omega-3 fats, as well as antioxidant vitamin E, almonds and almond meal are naturally low in carbohydrates. A 1-ounce serving (approximately 23 nuts) offers magnesium, fiber, and protein — roughly 19%, 14%, and 12% of your daily needs, respectively.
Yogurt acts as a binder for the crisp, allowing for the use of less added fat, and brings with it protein, calcium, and probiotics. Maple syrup is used in place of a refined sugar for sweetness, and the double dose of fresh + dried ginger offers a small amount of antioxidant properties.
Eaten from individual plates, bowls, or straight out of the baking dish, warm spoonfuls of gingered blueberry-mulberry crisp are guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. It’s wonderful as an everyday dessert, and also makes a dang fine presentation for guests + events. For an extra decadent treat, top with a dollop more of yogurt or a scoop of vanilla bean or cinnamon ice cream.
Tell me… What fruits do you enjoy best in crisps? Or do you prefer a crumble, grunt, buckle, pandowdy…?
- 3 cups fresh or thawed from frozen blueberries
- 1 cup fresh or thawed from frozen mulberries (or use more blueberries)
- 2 to 3 Tbsp maple syrup, depending on sweetness of berries or personal preference
- 1 Tbsp arrowroot starch, OR 2 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1 Tbsp grated or finely minced fresh ginger
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats, certified GF as needed
- 1/2 cup almond meal or almond flour, lightly packed (see HGN Notes)
- 1/3 cup chopped raw (unroasted and unsalted) almonds or walnuts
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
- 3 Tbsp plain yogurt (either regular or Greek is fine)
- (optional for serving: additional plain yogurt, vanilla ice cream, fresh mint leaves)
- Preheat the oven to 350º F with a rack in the middle position.
- In a large bowl, toss together the blueberries, mulberries, maple syrup, arrowroot or cornstarch, and cinnamon. Transfer to an ungreased 8- or 9-inch baking dish (round or square) or cast iron skillet.
- To make the topping, combine the dry ingredients -- oats through salt -- in a separate bowl. Add the melted coconut oil and yogurt, and mix well with a wooden spoon or rubber scraper until thoroughly incorporated and comes together. (Consider doubling the topping portion to keep in the freezer; see HGN Notes.)
- Pour as much of the topping as you like over the berries, and use your fingers to evenly distribute over the entire top. Transfer any unused topping to a freezer-safe storage bag or container and freeze up to 6 months.
- Place the dish or skillet into the oven and bake 45 to 55 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown and the berry juice starts to bubble up along the sides. Remove the crisp from the oven and let cool 5 to 10 minutes.
- Serve warm on its own, or top with a spoon of yogurt, vanilla ice cream or a couple fresh mint leaves. Store leftovers in the refrigerator, covered, up to 4 days.
The fruit filling of a crisp is very forgiving and adaptable. Substitute any variety of berry for either the blueberry or mulberry, OR swap the either or both for other in-season fruit, such as figs, cherries, persimmon, etc. If you go for pears or juicy stone fruit, like peach, plum or nectarine, increase the arrowroot starch by 1 tsp or the cornstarch by 2 tsp.
Consider doubling just the topping portion to freeze for when a crisp craving strikes. Use what you need for the recipe now, then transfer the remainder to a freezer-safe storage bag or container and freeze up to 6 months.
+ Play around with the spices, e.g., cardamom, anise, vanilla powder, or add 1 to 2 tsp fresh grated lemon, orange or lime zest to the fruit mixture.
+ Use honey as a 1:1 swap for maple syrup.
+ If GF makes no difference, or you just want to try something different, try rolled barley or rolled rye instead of the oats.
+ Make it vegan by replacing the yogurt with a non-dairy yogurt or non-dairy milk -- start with 2 Tbsp, adding more as needed (1 Tbsp at a time), until the topping mixture is moist and slightly holds together.
+ Use any nut and nut flour in place of the almonds (e.g., pecan, cashew, pistachio, walnut), OR make it nut-free by substituting in equal amounts of seeds and seed flour for the almond meal and chopped almonds.
+ Skip the nuts altogether by omitting the chopped almonds/walnuts and substituting the almond meal/flour with more oats or oat flour. To achieve some of the "crisp" that it'll lose, try adding some roasted buckwheat kernels!
+ If you don't have or like coconut oil, use an equal amount of olive oil or melted butter in its place.
+ You can also play around with adding other ingredients into the mix, such as dark chocolate (grated, chunks or chips), cocoa nibs, shredded unsweetened coconut, crystallized ginger, etc.
Recipe adapted from Cookie + Kate.
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