Food & Drink

Vegan and Gluten-Free Dessert: Strawberry Balsamic Cobbler

This summer dessert is so good, you’d never know it’s vegan and gluten-free.

Trish Minton, a pastry chef at Pierpont’s at Union Station, whips up gluten-free and vegan creations in her free time.

One of her first pastry chef jobs was for a grocery store with an organic focus. Her clients would come in asking for their favorite desserts without dairy or gluten, so Minton got creative to solve the problem. Through blogs, she learned lots about gluten-free and vegan baking.

Minton is also passionate about keeping gluten-free baking accessible, especially when gluten-free and vegan products can be costly yet not very tasty.

“I wanted my stuff to be really, really good,” Minton says. “I wanted people to be able to eat something that didn’t have eggs or dairy in it and not say, ‘Oh well, this tastes like it’s vegan.’ I wanted them to eat it and then me tell them, ‘Oh, guess what, it’s vegan’ and have them say, ‘Wow, really?’”

When Minton sees an abundance of an ingredient in Pierpont’s cooler, she whips up a dessert special so nothing goes to waste. Have some strawberries lying around? Try her gluten-free, vegan strawberry balsamic cobbler.

Strawberry Cobbler with Balsamic and Basil

The balsamic vinegar in this seasonal, summery cobbler creates a unique depth and richness to an otherwise light-tasting berry. The basil is not the star of the show here, but it’s a nice flavor-link that ties together the strawberries and balsamic, which together create an almost strawberry-preserves-like consistency after the cobbler has cooled down.

Ingredients for the crust:

  • 2 cups gluten-free, all-purpose flour mix (I use Namaste Foods)
  • 1/3 cup white sugar, plus extra for sprinkling on top of crust
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt (preferably kosher or sea)
  • 12 tablespoons chilled Earth Balance buttery spread, cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened dairy-free milk (I use So Delicious coconut beverage), plus more for brushing over crust

Ingredients for the strawberry layer:

  • 2 pounds fresh strawberries, ends trimmed and berries cut in half
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (aged if you can get it)
  • 2-3 tablespoons finely-chopped fresh basil
  • Zest of one orange
  • 1/4 cup orange juice (orange liqueur if you’re feeling naughty)
  • 2 teaspoons corn starch

Method for the crust:

Before you start making the dough for your cobbler crust, go ahead and spray (or grease) your baking dish. I use a 9-inch pie pan, but a 9×9 square dish or 1/4 sheet cake pan will work also. Preheat your oven to 350°F. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour mix, sugars, baking powder and salt.

With a pastry cutter or fork, cut the butter into the dry ingredients just until little pea-sized clumps start for form.

Add the milk, and stir until everything is well combined, moistened and a large ball of dough comes together. (You might have a few crumbly pieces at the bottom of the bowl, and that’s fine.)

Method for the strawberry layer:

In a medium bowl, toss together the strawberries, sugar, balsamic vinegar, basil and orange zest. In a separate smaller bowl, whisk together the orange juice and starch.

Pour the starch mixture over the berries and stir until combined. Pour berries into the prepared baking dish.

For the crust, you can either roll out it all out to fit the top of your berry layer or simply drop crumbled pieces of dough over the strawberries and allow it to have a fabulous rustic, homemade look.

With a pastry brush or the back of a spoon, lightly spread a bit of the non-dairy milk over the dough and then sprinkle liberally with the sugar. (Coarse sugar, such as raw cane, works best in this application. Not only does the sugar give the cobbler crust a nice, professional appearance, it also gives it a pleasant crunch!)

Bake cobbler in preheated oven just until the berries begin to “bubble” out and the crust just starts to turn brown. Always check your crust with a toothpick to make sure that it has thoroughly baked through.

Allow your cobbler to cool on a wire rack for at least 20-30 minutes, giving your berries some time to thicken up. Serve with ice cream or whipped topping and enjoy!

Chef’s Notes

In the name of all things cobbler, I highly suggest serving this dish up with a few scoops of your favorite dairy-free ice cream or whipped topping. I enjoy mine with So Delicious vanilla ice cream or coconut frozen whipped topping. This dish is best eaten within 48 hours of baking but will keep in the fridge for 3 to 5 days, covered.

If you are not worried about your dish being vegan or gluten-free, simply substitute the gluten-free mix for regular all-purpose flour and use real butter where the recipe calls for Earth Balance.

I do not give a baking time for this dish because everyone’s oven is different and can produce radically different results. Just use the instructions in the recipe as your indicator for doneness. If you have an oven that is prone to browning your food quickly (or you are baking in glassware), drop the temperature down to 325°F.

Keep in mind that the balsamic and basil will intensify in flavor the longer this dish is allowed to “rest.” This dish also tends to get sweeter and richer the longer it is kept. —Lauren Rutherford