Apricot Custard Pie with Cardamom Crumble Crust {Gluten-Free}

I’ve been having some gnarly neck pain in the past couple of weeks that won’t seem to go away despite multiple visits to the chiropractor, creating a more ergonomic work set-up (when the cat will allow me to have the keyboard on my lap instead of him), and trying out different pillows and sleeping arrangements. Still, every morning for the past two weeks, I’ve woken up barely able to move my head. Ugh. Now I truly understand the phrase “pain in the neck.”

Willing to try anything to rid my neck of its kinks and aches, I went to San Francisco’s acupuncture school, which happens to be in our neighborhood. Final-year students work on you for a low fee, and every practitioner I’ve had has been amazing. Yesterday it was a young man named Nic.

I filled out the forms, and under occupation, put “blogger.” I never know what to say when asked what I do for a living. “Bojon” would be a more appropriate answer, but that sometimes warrants a longer explanation than I’m willing to give when I just want to have needles stuck in my neck to make the pain go away, please and thank you.

After the usual chat regarding the color and consistency of various bodily secretions, the practitioner had me lie face-down on a cushioned table. As he stuck metal objects into my neck, he asked about my line of work, inquiring after my favorite thing to make. While I usually dread this question, offering up some waffling answer (no pun intended) such as, “Well, I really love baking anything… I like chocolate… and fruit desserts… and scones…” it’s amazing how having needles poked into ones neck can foster a definitive answer.

“Pie,” I said (only what with my facial features being squished through a padded hole as I lay on my abdomen, it probably sounded more like “pfhaaaiihh”).

“Pie?” he perked up. “You can’t go wrong with pie!”

He went on to say that, to improve digestion, I should be eating well-cooked fruits and vegetables. I took that to mean, “eat more pie.”

Ok, ok. I won’t pretend I made this pie for health reasons. I really made it for Jay’s mom, Mary’s, birthday from the lovely apricots that came in a box from Happy Child, Frog Hollow Farm’s all-fruit CSA. Frog Hollow grows the most flavorful, dense-fleshed apricots I’ve ever tasted, and these were no exception. The tender fruits made the ultimate foil for a tangy custard filling against a buttery crust made from a spiced-kissed oat crumble.

The base recipe comes from The Four and Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book. We brought a couple of them down to Santa Cruz last week for the festivities and to say they were a hit would be an understatement. Much like the grapefruit custard pie from the same book, these elicited myriad questions and fostered lively conversation. “What’s in the crust?” “What’s in the filling?” “These apricots are incredible.” “Can I have the recipe?”

The original calls for peaches, with brown sugar and allspice in the cream cheese and sour cream custard filling, and a combination of cinnamon, cardamom, and allspice in the crust. Since I had apricots to work with, I tweaked the flavorings a little to bring out their delicate flavor. I traded the brown sugar in the filling for blonde cane sugar for a milder taste and color, and nixed the allspice in favor of vanilla bean and a little lemon to brighten the custard and give it a more classic cheesecakey flavor. I loved the cardamom in the crust, so I kept it simple with that as the sole spice and more of it, and I made it gluten-free as well. Then I topped the pie with a sprinkling of cardamom sugar.

This crust is so clever that it’s tempting to use it for everything. It has half the butter of a traditional pie shell, and is almost entirely whole-grain with just a bit of sweet rice and tapioca flours to hold it together. The butter gets rubbed into the dry ingredients until clustery, pressed into the pan, frozen for 15 minutes, and baked – no weights necessary. If it slouches or slumps in the pan, simply press it up the sides with the back of a spoon.

The result is a slice that makes people stop what they’re doing and focus solely on the party of spring flavors going on in their mouth. The crust holds together enough to slice cleanly (especially when chilled), but it crumbles under the pressure of a fork, sandy and buttery like a streusel. The filling is the most thick, rich, tangy cheesecake you’ve ever tasted, though the demure ratio lets the fruit be the star. It’s one of my favorite-ever pies; stupid easy to make and even easier to eat.

While most pies are a pain in the neck to make, this is simple enough to throw together even when you have a pain in the neck.

Thanks for reading! For more Bojon Gourmet in your life, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Bloglovin’, Pinterest, or Instagram, or subscribe to receive posts via email.

Apesh*t for Apricots:

Gluten-Free Apricot Mascarpone Galette
Apricot Crème Fraîche Tart with Honey and Pistachios
Apricot Cherry Fold-Over Pie

One year ago:

Salty Double-Rye Chocolate Chip Cookies
Skillet Custard Cornbread with Berries and Honey

Two years ago:

Spring Vegetable Fried Rice

Three years ago:

Pasta Alla Carbonara with Peas and Pea Shoots

Four years ago:

Rhubarb Streusel Coffee Cake

Apricot Custard Pie with Cardamom Crumble Crust {Gluten-Free}

Adapted from The Four and Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book

Feel free to trade the apricots here for the fruit of your choice; peaches, nectarines, cherries, figs, or berries would all work well. If gluten isn’t an issue for you or your guests, trade the flours in the crust for all-purpose wheat flour. If gluten is an issue, be sure to source oats and oat flour that are certified gluten-free. (I get mine from GlutenFreeOats.com.) To quickly warm your cream cheese to room temperature, cut it into cubes and place it in a bowl near the oven while you make the crust.

All ounce measurements here are by weight.

Makes 1 (9-inch) pie, serving 8

For the Press-In Cardamom Crumble Crust:
3/4 cup (2.5 ounces / 70 grams) gluten-free old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup (1.75 ounces / 50 grams) light brown sugar
2 tablespoons (1 ounce / 30 grams) sugar
2 tablespoons (.5 ounce / 15 grams) sweet white rice flour
2 tablespoons (.5 ounce / 15 grams) gluten-free oat flour
2 tablespoons (.5 ounce / 15 grams) tapioca flour (also called “starch”)
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt (or 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt)
4 tablespoons (2 ounces / 55 grams) cold, unsalted butter, diced

For the filling:
18-20 ounces (510-570 grams) apricots, ripe but firm (or enough to fit snugly into the bottom of the pie pan)
6 tablespoons (3 ounces / 85 grams) blonde cane sugar
seeds from 1 vanilla bean
zest from 1/2 a large lemon
1/4 cup (2 ounces / 55 grams) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (4 ounces / 110 grams) sour cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 large egg, at room temperature

For topping:
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon cardamom

Make the crust:
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350ºF.

Combine the oats, sugars, flours, cardamom, and salt in a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment). Add the butter and work in with your fingers (or with the mixer on low) until the mixture begins to clump together.

Dump the crumble mixture into a 9″ pie pan, and press it evenly into the sides and bottom. Freeze until firm, 15 minutes.

Bake the crust until light golden, 18-22 minutes. If the crust has slumped down the sides of the pan, press them back up with the back of a soup spoon while still piping hot. Fill the crust while hot, or let it cool. (You can wrap it and store it at room temperature for a few days or in the freezer for a month or two.)

Make the filling:
In the same bowl you used to make the crust (or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment), place the sugar, vanilla seeds, and lemon zest. Rub the mixture together between your fingers (or with the paddle on low) until the sugar is damp and the seeds are evenly distributed.

With a wooden spoon (or the paddle on low), work in the cream cheese until smooth, then slowly work in the sour cream until combined. Whisk in (or paddle on low) the lemon juice, salt, and egg until combined.

When the crust has finished baking, pour a thin layer of the custard into the bottom (about 1/4 of the mixture. Halve the apricots and lay them snugly in the shell in concentric circles, starting with the largest apricots on the outside and using the smaller ones on the inside. Pour the remaining custard over and around the apricots. Stir together the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar and the 1/8 teaspoon of cardamom and sprinkle evenly over the top of the fruit.

Bake the pie until the custard is puffed and set and the fruit is bubbling, 25-35 minutes. Let the pie cool completely, at least 2 hours. Optionally chill for cleaner slices.

Serve the pie chilled or at room temperature. The crust is the crispest shortly after baking, but the pie will keep at room temperature for up to 1 day or chilled for up to 3 days.

55 thoughts on “Apricot Custard Pie with Cardamom Crumble Crust {Gluten-Free}”

  1. Wow. Stunning photos. You're so talented! I love the addition of cardamom in the crust. I eat wheat, but this crust is very tempting to make! and the apricots and cheesecake-like filling? Brilliant!!!!

    1. D'awww, thanks, lady. :) You can totally make the crust with wheat flour – the original called for 1/3 cup. I'm so in awe of all the recipes in that book, it's a must-have for bakers.

  2. I hope your 'pain in the neck' goes away soon! It's been way to long since I made a pie, and this one looks amazing! Also the shot of you sprinkling sugar was just gorgeous.

    1. Oh, thank you Kezia – I hope it goes away soon, too. I had way too much fun taking that shot! It's the perfect time of year for pie – everything is so pie-able. Do it! :)

  3. Ouch, sorry about your neck!

    But, wow, those photos are in-cre-di-ble. The sugar-sprinkling one? Man. The internet needs to stop taking pictures of pie, because you've already won!

  4. I love 'pfhaaaiihh,' too, and I LOVEEEEEE your photos. They are SO GORGEOUS!!!
    Did you use that new lightroom technique you posted on FB recently? Love Love Love.
    Hope your pain goes away soon.

    1. Aw, thank you Pang!! We should have a pfhaaaiihh date sometime in SF! Yes, I used that groovy Lightroom edit, though I dialed it down a bit in some photos. So much fun to play with!

  5. Smile. I think pie is definitely a good fix for a sore neck. This looks just delicious. Ryan and I just bought an apricot tree for our front yard. This is perfect timing!

  6. Neck pain is the absolute worst isn't it? I hate the feeling of not being able to move your head from side to side and feeling like you're made of glass. I hope you recover soon and the pie helps!

    1. Yeah, it's my first experience with ongoing neck pain and it really sucks! It gets in the way of everything. Boo! Thanks for the nice note, lady!

  7. Hey, there's definitely nothing wrong with having more pie. :) That cardamom sugar sounds especially amazing! And I hope your neck feels better soon!

  8. Gosh, really sorry to hear about your neck. I think most of us can relate to your plight. This pie is visually very very satisfying. It's lovely. Per the recipe, it has to be a total winner taste wise. Extra bennie that it is gluten free!

  9. hehe! Apesh*t for apricots. Indeed, me too! :D

    I hope this pie, with its well-cooked fruit, helped alleviate any digestive problems; I'm sure that would help neck woes too…it seems as though everything comes back to that wily digestive tract. Delicious photos, as usual! They're so large and tempting, if only I could grab a slice through my dusty computer screen.

    *argh* I know what you mean when it comes to telling people your profession. During the holidays and family gatherings I can almost hear my mom wince whenever I say the phrase 'food blogger' (she's so proud I'm putting my English major to use!). :P

    Take care! "Clever crust." Yes. Yes!!

    1. Aw, thank you, Valerie!! I'm glad to know I'm not the only one apesh*t for apricots or shy about pretending to my parents that food blogging is a career. Wiley digestive tract = quite!! You take care, too, my dear. :)

  10. I love a custard pie! And those apricots look so amazing. This time of year is the absolute best for stone fruit -I eat it by the bushel. The addition of cardamom is fantastic. My heritage is Danish and I have been exposed to a lot of cardamom in baked goods -it's something that is highly underused in sweets. Needless to say, this dessert gets me excited!

  11. My just purchased apricots now have a purpose! I've been making a similar desert roasting apricots and drizzle w/honey & vanilla bean creme-fraiche scented w/cardamom and the flavors are delectable. Can't wait to try this.

  12. Solution for a bad neck: Stop believing in 19th-century-produced pseudoscience (aka: chiropractors…) and see a real doctor. *Wipes hands in a final solution sort of way*

  13. Late to the party, sorry.

    I have an unusual ingredient suggestion for you: If you have a local source of apricots, you may have source for apricot blossom honey. Definitely worth a phone call to Frog Hollow.

  14. Just made this last night! I used 6 tablespoons of all-purpose flour because I don't avoid gluten. My experience was that I needed about an extra half cup of the crust mixture, though, and I had to double the recipe for the custard to fill my 9" pie pan. Still, it turned out fantastic, and I'm no pie-maker! I love how the apricots soaked up all the lemon juice and became extra tart in contrast to the sweetness of the custard. Yum. Will definitely make again!

    1. Hi Dee! I'm sorry that you needed to make extra crust, but really glad that it worked out and that you liked the pie! I want to make another one myself… or ten. :)

  15. That shot of your (?) hand sprinkling the cardamom sugar over the apricots is probably the most beautiful food photo I've ever seen. And all I do is look at food photos, lol. This sounds amazing.
    PS. Get well, Neck.

    1. Aw! Thank you, Karen – I was so happy with the way that shot turned out, too! We seem to have the same pastime- all I ever seem to do is look at food photos, too. :)

  16. Love this ie and its favors. Encountered one major problem though: the bottom crust was completely disintegrated! Had to scoop it out. Please advise! Would love to make it again. Thanks for the recipe.

    1. Hi! That's really weird – I've made this half a dozen times and never had that problem. Did you change anything about the recipe? Was your fruit super ripe/wet? Did you weigh the fruit? Did you use the same flours I did (esp. sweet rice as opposed to regular white rice?) Does your oven run cold and do you have a thermometer in there to make sure? Did you pack the crust in firmly? Let's figure this out! :)

  17. Appreciate the speedy reply! I didn't weigh the apricots. Just put them in til they filled the pie nicely. Apricots were from a friends tree. A few were very ripe; most were not. Maybe too juicy? Perhaps I didn't make the bottom crust thick enough? The sides held up quite nicely, and I wouldn't want to jeopardize them!

    1. Hm, doesn't sound like it's the apricots, but I suppose you could increase the crust recipe a bit if you make it again. Is it possible your pie pan is bigger than a standard 9" pan? The could explain the thin crust, too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *