Apple Pumpkin Crumble Bars (ACD Friendly)

[photo: Celine Saki]

During a conversation about something entirely unrelated yesterday, the HH uttered that well-known truism:  “There are only two things you can really count on:  death, and taxes.”

Well, I have to tell you (and I said this to the HH, too, of course), that hasn’t quite been my experience.  For instance, I’ve found over the years that you can also count on the government to increase taxes every few years.  And that the second I switch lines in the grocery store, the woman just ahead of me will pull out an item without a price code, necessitating a long and protracted search on the store shelves.  And that winter will feel far too long, no matter how few snowfalls we receive.

And you can always–always–count on Britney to do something that prompts a flurry of media squealing, while concomitantly providing literature students everywhere a real, flesh-and-blood embodiment of the word, “bathos.

Most of us also have our “old reliables” that we count on in the realm of food. My friend Sterlin, for instance, habitually cooked up Date Pasta whenever she required a quick and dependable meal to impress a potential beau (sadly, while the food always turned out great, the beau did not). The Nurse, on the other hand, can count two “Wowzah!-Zowie!-Sacre bleu!” recipes in her repertoire, both guaranteed to dazzle friends who drop in on a moment’s notice; they’re invariably bowled over when presented with a plate of still-warm, enticing and from-scratch hunks of cake within 30 minutes of arrival (either a fragrant, warming Cinnamon Coffee Cake –recipe handwritten, grease-stained and fading, on an old index card from my mother’s collection–or a lickety-split Chocolate Cake from the legendary Second Helpings, Please!, nowadays known as Wacky Cake).

In recent years, the Butterscotch Blondies from Sweet Freedom (which can be mixed, baked, and ready to eat in about 35 minutes) have asserted themselves as my new standard “old reliable” recipe.  Before the blondies, however, my favorite quick and easy dessert was always apple crisp.

Which is odd, not least because apple crisp contains no chocolate.  It’s neither a dessert I crave, nor even one I particularly love. Part of this indifference stems from a distaste for baked apples (at least, until I tried these).  Still, apple crisp is easy, it’s quick, it can be made with relatively few ingredients, and it’s familiar, comfort food.  It can pass for pseudo-healthy (an apple a day, and all that).  And it’s even permitted within my ACD-determined restrictions on sweeteners, since it relies on the natural sweetness of the fruit itself.

Last week, when the HH and I were invited to dinner at my friend Eternal Optimist’s place, I returned to my Granny Smith roots and threw together a stevia-sweetened crisp to feed the five of us in attendance.  Though the dessert went over well, I wasn’t entirely pleased with the texture of the crumble topping, which seemed a tad dry without sugar to caramelize and provide gooey binding power.

The following day, I’d cooked up some savory pumpkin biscuits, and subsequently found myself wondering what to do with the leftover pumpkin.  Then it hit me:  why not mix it with the apples in a crumble-type bar?  It seemed the perfect solution, adding texture and flavor to the humdrum apple.  (“Mum, that combination sounds a little odd to us, actually. And you know we could have helped you dispose of all that extra pumpkin, no problem.”) 

So I played with the original and came up with this layered bar that boasts a moister filling and softer crumble than the all-apple one.  The topping, when pressed into place, also forms the bottom crust; the filling is tart and textured, with tender shoots of grated apple suspended throughout the pumpkin purée.

If you like your fruity desserts sweet, though, take note: my version only barely verges on what could be called “sweet” (in fact, the HH informed me it wasn’t quite sugary enough for his taste). Feel free to add more stevia, agave, or other sweetener, as you like.  And less sweet means you needn’t feel guilty if you decide to consume the leftovers for breakfast the next day–if there are any, that is.  But I wouldn’t count on it.


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  1. This sounds really good to me. I love things that aren’t “too sweet”. I see the yacon syrup emerged. I must look into that. 😉


  2. Funnily enough, I was just looking around for some kind of muffin recipe that I could pass off for breakfast food. This sounds like it might fit the bill. Now if only I could magically stock my pantry with pumpkin puree, apples and stevia.
    Question for you, what would you recommend purchasing if one was wanting to give Stevia a try and have reasonable opportunity of liking it. Have never tried it, but you have me curious and I would like to avoid the common pitfalls of stevia if at all possible (have heard it is bitter and sometimes kind of sickly sweet-would vanilla flavoured be better, are there certain brands that are milder etc.).

  3. I can always rely on the tallest man in the world to stand in front of me at a gig or any event where I need to view the entertainment

    I can also always rely on you for new ideas, inspiration and yumminess. Love these – think the would be great as a savoury snack – I love pumpkin and apple in savoury – might try it sometime when I have time and am over making your parsnip muffins

    Also can always rely on you to be the first place I hear of a new ingredient – First it was agave, then stevia, then chai (which is now in the bread at the local franchise bakery) and now yacon syrup?

  4. Vegan Epicurean,
    I didn’t use the yacon myself in this, but the flavors would work really well together.

    I wrote a post about stevia (click here), and compared a few brands at the end if you’d like more info. My favorite type of stevia is the pure liquid (not just the Reb A), and it’s from NOW Foods. I find it has no aftertaste in small quanitities (eg, sweetening a bowl of oatmeal) and works well in baked goods. I haven’t tried many of the powdered kinds, though, so there may be another good one out there! (And aren’t muffins SUPPOSED to be breakfast food?) 😉

    Oh, I forgot about the tallest guy at the gig (in my case, the movie theater)! 😉 Yacon is sort of the “new and improved agave,” except it’s brown and tastes a little (only a little) like molasses. And it has a lower glycemic index. Check it out here.

  5. Oh wow those look good! I am not a chocolate gal at all, so this is right up my alley!

  6. My oh my, these babies look awesome! Excellent post.

  7. kitchenspoon says

    Ricki, these bars look incredible. I’m always excited to find recipes using coconut flour (and yucon syrup too), both of which are in my pantry begging to be put to work. These GF bars are a *must* on the schedule today. Thanks!

  8. I love all the ingredients…these bars look super yummy!

  9. Apple, pumpkin, AND crumble? Yes, please! Dying to make this, hopefully I’ll find the time after I finish some more school work..

  10. Holy cow those sound amazing! I cannot wait to try them…any tips on grating the apples? I have tried so many times for various recipes, but mine always seem to just mush against the holes…and I swear I am using firm apples! Any tips?

    And haha–I love your truisms 🙂 They hold true for me too, so you must be on to something!


  11. What an interesting combination! I have a feeling it will become an autumnal favourite!

  12. and here i was thinking i was the only one who continually picked the wrong line at the grocery store. there are plenty of more definites than just death and taxes, indeed. besides the long lines at the grocery store, i always pick the wrong toll lane and it’s always guaranteed that my dad has a mini “freak out” when our family gets together. ah ha ha! i totally thought date pasta as in the fruit, but i was so excited to read that it’s got all kinds of yummies in it – including capers. mmmmmmm! i think we have a little jar of those salty deliciousnesses somewhere in fridge door. i’m gonna have to check and see. also, think i’m the only person who’s not yet made a wacky cake. i shall attempt a gluten-free version some day! those savory pumpkin biscuits sound awesome, and so does your apple pumpkin crumble bars, Ricki! so much yumminess combined into one delectable dish. yay! i love my desserts not so sweet, so these are perfect – and there have been some yummy organic apples on sale lately, too. squeeeeeeee!

  13. yum those look awesome!

    I’m a sucker for anything w/almonds;)

  14. These look divine!! I love the crumble ingredient combination-very unique.

  15. Oh, I love how these so satisfying and not too sweet. I don’t like things too sweet either. But these with a mug of tea on a chilly afternoon? Perfection.

    Because you’re right–winter DOES always feel too long. At least today was pretty mild…

  16. That’s my kind of dessert! I love your recipes, Ricki!

    • Courtney,
      Hmm, that’s quite the conundrum with the apples! I just quarter them, cut away the core, and grate each quarter holding it sort of in my palm, with the skin against my palm. If you grate that way, the flesh goes through the grater and you’re left with a piece of skin at the end. 🙂 Not sure why they’re mushing–I just grate mine by hand most of the time, and it seems to work pretty much the same way with any apples I use. Anyone else have any suggestions??

      If our house is any indication, then yes, a favorite it will be!

      Sorry to disappoint! But I guess you will just have to create the recipe yourself for that high-sugar, with-pit fruit pasta! 😉

      I’m sure that if I had to drive on a toll highway, I’d pick the slowest line, too. 😉 Glad you liked the date pasta, too! And what a FABULOUS idea to create a GF wacky cake! Go for it!

      Thanks! The almonds aren’t really a prominent taste in these (you don’t really taste the nuts too much), but they do add protein, fiber and calcium 🙂

      Veggie Wedgie,
      Thanks so much! 🙂

      They did go well with tea 😉 . I think the pumpkin adds a density that makes them seem more substantial (and, therefore, more like a meal) than a dessert. Is winter over yet?

  17. This looks like something new to make with those two lonely sweet potatoes on the counter. The lemon juice appears that it is for flavor rather than acid to go with baking soda for rising so I’m thinking a touch of lemon extract might work and now, why am I out of lemons? Your recipes always send me on a mental search of pantry and fridge – thanks so much for the lovely inspirations during these cold winter months!

  18. These bars look amazing–and include two of my non-chocolate favorite things. I bet they’d be rockin’ with sweet potato too instead of pumpkin!

    Here’s to willing winter to shorten. Maybe if enough of us try it’ll happen, right?

  19. Thanks Ricki…I will give the grating one more try–just for your recipe 🙂 It sounds that good!!


  20. Wow, these look amazing! I am loving your stevia recipes!

  21. ooh, yum. this looks fantastic, and i could totally go for one right now 😉

  22. Hi! I just found your site through one of the other blogs I read and I love it! Just wanted to tell you that.

  23. What a yummy healthy treat! I made a batch yesterday with my two lonely sweet potatoes standing in for pumpkin and so far have had one serving to sample (of course), another for dessert last night, and another for breakfast this morning. I had better freeze the rest and slow down – these are really generous servings.

  24. Waw!! These apple & pumpkin crumb bars are so healthy & so tasty too!


  25. Could that bar look any more perfect?

  26. those do really look perfect!

  27. I’ve never been a big fan of crumbles either, but I do like the looks of this bar! And that savoury pumpkin biscuit sounds amazing. I’ve been craving more savoury than sweet baked goods recently.

  28. This recipe sounds so good! I was wondering if I could make a few substitutions? I cannot have oats ans was thinking of trying quinoa flakes instead. Also, I’d like to use pecan in place of he almonds. Any advice?

  29. This is such a unique idea, I have not seen anything like it. I always make pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving dessert and it might just be time to change up dessert too. I personally just love Thanksgiving recipes with all of the warm comfort foods. I cannot believe Thanksgiving in a matter of weeks! Thanks for the great recipe!

  30. I would love to make these. I’m adding them to my Thanksgiving recipe roundup.

  31. I love this!

    Do you think I could put quinoa flakes instead of the oats?

    Thanks for all you do on your blog 😉

    • Hi Zosia,

      As I said to Mary, I think you could try with quinoa, but I’m not entirely sure it would work the same way. Worth a try (I’d start with a half recipe just in case!). 🙂

  32. How does the pumpkin/apple/lemon/stevia layer set without eggs or flour?

  33. Mary Ciulla says

    I want to make this recipe. it looks wonderful and I love pumpkin. But I can’t eat oatmeal in any way, shape or form because I seem to be allergic to it. Is there something else that I can substitute in this and other recipes calling for oatmeal?

    • Mary, some people use quinoa or buckwheat flakes instead of oats. I haven’t tried it that way, so I can’t vouch for it, but it’s worth a try. I would think you might need a bit more quinoa flakes, as they’re lighter than oats.

  34. Cailin Banks says

    This recipe looks amazing! However, it calls for liquid stevia and all I have a home is the powdered kind. Do you know what the conversion would be?

    Thanks, Cailin .

    • Cailin, 20 drops is about 1/8 tsp liquid. You’d only need about 1/64 tsp of the pure power. . . maybe too hard to measure? I’d add the tiniest pinch, taste, and then see if I needed more.

  35. If I do not have coconut flour…what other flour would you suggest? Rice? Thanks… they look awesome! I was also looking for a recipe Pumpkin Torte bars…have you ever made something like this?

    • Hi Pam,

      As a rule, there is no reliable substitute for coconut flour because it is so much more absorbent than other flours. You could try using almond flour, but my guess (and this is just a guess–I have never made them this way) is that you’d need to use a bit more to compensate for the coconut flour properties. I’ve never heard of Pumpkin Torte bars. . . are they like pumpkin pie?

  36. Michele Coombes says

    Ricki can you pleae make your books avalable on Amazon as Ebooks as thatsthe easiest way i like to purchase all my boojs now- then i can just download & read them
    off my ipad- its so easy for me that way
    I am in Australia

    Michele Coombes

    • Hi Michele,

      Thanks for your comment! I’m not sure which specific books you’re referring to, but if it’s the ebooks, they are being converted for Kindle (it’s a bit of a slow process, but I’ve got someone working on it and hope they’ll be ready in a month or so). I’ve been told by people that all the ebooks (which are pdf files sold on my blog) can be read on am iPad and Kindle, so you could get those now if you wish. 🙂

      As for Naturally Sweet & Gluten-Free, I unfortunately have no control over when/if the book is available on amazon. Because this is not a self-published book, the publisher owns all rights and has complete control over sales. They have told me that they plan to sell it as an ebook, but I don’t have a firm date from them yet. I will let my readers know as soon as I know anything, though!

      I’m delighted that you’re interested in my books and hope that you can find them in the format you prefer. As I said, I’ll let everyone know on the blog and through my newsletter as soon as they’re available (you can subscribe here if you want to be sure to get the notice). 🙂

      Thanks again. Hope I’ve answered your question!

  37. I made it last week for dessert when friends came over for dinner. I could not find coconut flour at the two places I looked for it, and since I don’t have gluten issues I just used the whole wheat flour I had. It turned out delicious! It really isn’t very sweet (I didn’t have liquid stevia – just powdered – so I wanted to err on the side of less than more) but I love it that way. I ended up eating the leftovers for breakfast over the next few days. I will definitely make again, probably as a breakfast item the next time we have overnight guests.

    • Hi Sarah,
      Thanks so much for your comment, and for coming back to let me know how it turned out! I also love that it’s not too sweet (and I also actually PREFER it for breakfast!!). 😉 I do think it’s a lovely dessert with ice cream or whipped cream, as my husband loves to eat it, though. So glad you and your guests enjoyed it!


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