This recipe for gluten free apple bread is an easy quick bread made from scratch with rich apple butter and all the right warm spices.
When you think of apple bread (do you think of apple bread?), you may imagine a quick bread (which is really more like a cake in loaf form, just with a slightly firmer crumb) with chunks of apple in it. I’ve got something even better for you, though.
This apple bread is made with less butter than you might imagine combined with rich, thick, sweet, and spicy apple butter. Apple butter isn’t like nut butter, which is mostly fat (not that fat isn’t lovely; it is!). It’s everything that applesauce wanted to be, and failed. Sorry applesauce! Love you still!
I make my own apple butter (recipe link below), like I make my own pumpkin butter, because it’s way cheaper and always better. But you can buy it during the same time of year you’ll find you’re most interested in making this gluten free apple bread.
And you will be interested in making this apple bread. It’s perfect for breakfast, or as an afternoon snack.
Oh, and if you don’t have apple pie spice, I share how to make your own in the recipe Notes section. You can also just use ground cinnamon, and maybe a touch of nutmeg, at least?
Why I like to add crumble topping
I am a big, big fan of crumble topping. It has that nubby texture everyone loves, and even its “bad” qualities (falling off of baked goods) are actually good (those little pieces are free game for anyone).
I like crumble topping so much that I frequently have a container of it just hanging out in my refrigerator. It sits there, waiting to be added to muffins, quick breads, or even cookies.
Make as little or as much as you like
All the recipe calls for is gluten free flour, sugar, warm spices, melted butter, and a touch of salt for balance. I’ve included a recipe for crumble topping below that calls for brown sugar, since it adds richness. But you could just as easily use granulated sugar in its place.
The secret to a good crumble topping is like the secret to all good baking: good ratios. Of course, you need high-quality ingredients, but if you want something that contains butter to hold its shape in the oven and bake up crispy but not dry, you need the right ratio.
The crumble topping recipe below makes just enough crumble to cover this gluten free apple bread in a single layer of crumble, broken into modest-sized pieces. It makes a very small amount of crumble. But you can double the recipe, and then keep some on hand in a sealed container in the refrigerator and add it to sweet baked goods on a whim.
How to make a simple crumble
All of the ingredients except the butter are added to a medium-sized bowl, and mixed together. Then, the melted butter is added, and mixed in. The mixture will be thick but soft.
Pop it in the refrigerator while you make the quick bread batter, and it should be cold by the time you are ready to use it. If you’re in a rush, just place it in the freezer to speed things up.
Using the tines of a fork, break up the crumble into clumps that are on the small side. That way, most of them will stick to the bread even after you slice the baked bread.
What is apple butter, and where do I get it?
Apple butter is like applesauce that’s been cooked down with a sweetener and warm fall spices. The spices and sugar reduce along with peeled, cored, and shredded apples into a sweet, spicy and fragrant spread.
Apple butter is very similar to pumpkin butter, but made with apples instead of pumpkin puree. You can buy it in stores, especially around the holidays.
Instead of buying it, I make a big batch (recipe linked below) and store it in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Although I don’t bake with apple butter as often as I bake with pumpkin butter, I’m more likely to spread it on a slice of toast than I am pumpkin butter.
Why bake with apple butter?
There are multiple benefits to baking with apple butter instead of applesauce. I love applesauce, and it’s a great way to add moisture and even some structure to baked goods. But it has nearly no taste once it’s baked.
Here, baking with apple butter gives this bread tons of apple flavor without making the bread fragile, like adding chunks of apple would do. You can add a few finely chopped apples to the top, along with the crumble topping. Don’t try mixing apple chunks into the batter, though, as they’ll make for a too-wet loaf that rises and then sinks.
Ingredients and substitiutions
If you can’t have dairy, I recommend using vegan butter in place of dairy butter in both the quick bread batter and the crumble. My favorite brands are Melt and Miyoko’s Kitchen.
For the crumble, you can also use Spectrum brand nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening in place of butter. If you use Spectrum in place of the butter in the cake batter, your batter will be too dry.
If you’re feeling adventuresome and want to try it, watch the how-to video and pay close attention to the consistency of the raw batter. You can try adding a bit of water to the batter at a time, mixing well after each addition, until the consistency looks right.
There are two eggs in this recipe. You can try replacing each of them with one “chia egg” (1 tablespoon ground white chia seeds + 1 tablespoon lukewarm water, mixed and allowed to gel).
If you can’t have corn, try using arrowroot. Even potato starch should work fine.
Gluten Free Apple Bread
For the crumble topping (optional)
1/2 cup (70 g) all purpose gluten free flour (I used Better Batter)
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)
3 tablespoons (40 g) packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/2 tablespoons (35 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
For the quick bread batter
2 cups (280 g) all purpose gluten free flour (I used Better Batter)
1 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)
1/4 cup (36 g) cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons apple pie spice (See Recipe Notes)
3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
6 tablespoons (84 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 eggs (100 g, weighed out of shell) at room temperature, beaten
2/3 cup (5 1/3 fluid ounces) buttermilk, at room temperature (See Recipe Notes)
5 ounces apple butter, homemade or store bought, at room temperature
For apple pie spice
To make your own apple pie spice, combine 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon + 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom + 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg + 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger + 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice.
For the buttermilk
If you’ve run out of buttermilk, you can use half (1/3 cup) milk and half (1/3 cup) plain yogurt. They can both be dairy-free if you can’t have dairy.
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease and line a standard 9-inch x 5-inch loaf pan and set it aside.
If you plan to use the optional crumble topping, you need to make it first so it has a chance to cool and solidify before using it. In a medium-size bowl, place the flour, xanthan gum, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and mix to combine, breaking up any lumps in the brown sugar. Add the melted butter, and mix to combine well. The mixture will be thick. Place the bowl in the refrigerator to chill for about 10 minutes or until firm (or the freezer for about 5 minutes) while you make the quick bread batter.
To make the quick bread batter, in a large bowl, place the flour, xanthan gum, cornstarch, salt, baking powder, baking soda, apple pie spice, and granulated sugar, and whisk to combine well. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and add the butter, eggs, buttermilk, and apple butter, and mix to combine well. The batter will be very thick.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, pressing it into all corners of the pan. With wet fingers and/or a wet spatula, smooth the top of the batter into an even layer. Using a small, sharp knife, score the top of the loaf along the length in the center, about 1/4-inch deep. Remove the (optional) crumble topping from the refrigerator, and break it up into relatively small pieces with the tines of the fork. Sprinkle the top of the raw loaf evenly with the crumble topping and press gently to help the pieces adhere to the batter.
Place the loaf pan in the center of the preheated oven and bake until the top is domed and lightly golden brown in color, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with no more than a few moist crumbs attached, about 50 minutes. For the most even baking, rotate the pan one half turn halfway through baking. Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Slice and serve once cool.