A bit of shortbread, fruit, and crumble packaged in a convenient bar that is loaded with tart, sweet, and nutty flavors, these crumb bars are a spring picnic essential. That is, if your weather looks better than ours. They live up to their name too; a bit crumbly, especially when still warm, but oh so addictive.
A few weeks back we took these bars over to friends for a casual weekend breakfast in their community garden plot (when the sun was shining). They softened quickly in the heat, but we happily ate them up.
There are so many things I like about these bars. The rhubarb pieces retain their shape - a nice change from the usual stewed consistency of a cobbler. They're barely sweetened to offer that electric tangy sweet balance that is unmatched by any other fruit. Then sandwich that between a pecan shortbread-like crust and a cashew coconut crumb topping, and you've got yourself quite the breakfast treat, afternoon snack with tea, or dessert. I also like that these bars look involved but prep is simple. The top and bottom layers come from the same base which is made in the bowl of a food processor. Three-quarters of this base become the shortbread crust - pressed into the pan and baked off - while cashews, coconut flakes, vanilla, and lemon are crumbled up with the remaining base for the topping.
There is something intoxicating about the combination of pecans, cashews, coconut, vanilla and lemon. These bars were inspired by my desire to capture these flavors in one bite, to cook more with rhubarb this season, the memory of Jeanine's Raspberry Crumble Bars I made once for a baby shower, and a coconut cashew granola I've been loving lately. I know, it's a random cross-section. But that randomness is often what fuels inspiration and creativity.
I hope you make these bars soon and find the flavors to be as intoxicating as I do!
Coconut-Cashew Rhubarb Crumb Bars
Makes 9-12 bars
Notes: You can use coconut sugar or brown sugar instead of the unrefined cane sugar (Muscovado) called for in the recipe. I wanted to keep this treat dairy-free and vegan, but if that's not a concern for you, butter works just as well as the coconut oil. These store well in the refrigerator but they also freeze well. Bake off, cool completely, cut into bars, then wrap individual bars in parchment paper or foil to freeze. Final note, read the recipe through entirely before starting, just so you can move through the steps more easily. And don't forget to check out the tips at the bottom before making the bars!!!
- 240 gr rhubarb, chopped (~4-5 stalks)
- 1/3 cup (50 gr) + 1 Tbsp. muscovado sugar, divided
- Zest of 1 lemon, divided
- 4 Tbsp. (55 gr/60 ml) coconut oil (if liquid at room temp, stick in the fridge to harden)
- 1 cup (135 gr) + 1 Tbsp. whole grain spelt flour, divided
- 1 cup (118 gr) pecans
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract (or paste/powder)
- 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup (48 gr) cashews
- 1/3 cup (20 gr) unsweetened coconut flakes
- Preheat oven to 350 F/176 C. Grease a square 8x8 inch baking dish with coconut oil.
- In a small bowl, combine rhubarb, 1 Tbsp. sugar, 1 Tbsp. flour, zest of half the lemon and a pinch of salt. Stir to combine and set aside.
- In the bowl of a food processor, add coconut oil, remaining 1/3 cup sugar, 1 cup of flour, pecans, cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp. salt. (If you're using a mini food processor, you'll need to do this in two batches.) Pulse until mixture resembles wet sand and sticks together when squeezed between your fingers.
- Pour 3/4 of the mixture into the greased baking dish and firmly press down to make a flat, compact base. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the edges turn lightly golden brown.
- While the bottom layer cooks, return the food processor bowl with the remaining mixture to its base and add baking powder, vanilla, zest from the remaining half of lemon, and olive oil. Pulse a few times to combine, then add cashews and coconut flakes. Pulse to a course crumb (you want to keep some pieces of cashew and coconut) and everything is combined and sticks together when squeezed.
- Give rhubarb one last toss and spread evenly over cooked bottom layer. Take handfuls of the crumb topping and squeeze in the palm of your hands to form clumps of crumble. Spread evenly over rhubarb, then use the palm of your hand to press down gently over the entire mixture so top crumble layer adheres to rhubarb.
- Return to oven and bake for another 15-20 min, or until crumble topping is lightly golden brown. Allow to cool 10-15 before cutting into bars. Store, covered, in the refrigerator. Or freeze individual bars, wrapped well.
Tips for making the crumb topping stick:
Notes: I've tested this recipe several times and found these tips (except I haven't had to do #4) to do the trick. Remember though, these are 'crumb' bars. ;-) So they are slightly delicate, but they should hold together generally well. And once placed in the fridge they firm up very nicely. Hope this helps!
- Make sure you get the right consistency in Step 3 BEFORE proceeding to Step 4. You're looking for a wet sandy mixture. It must stick together when pressed between fingers in order to hold together in the pan. If it doesn't, process another 10-20 seconds longer until it gets stickier.
- Make sure you've saved back enough of the base for the crumb topping (roughly a heaped 1/2 cup - when in doubt saving back a little more than less is better).
- Step 6 is really important (squeezing topping into clumps + pressing entire mixture in the pan down)
- If crumb mixture still doesn't stick together once blended, blend in another tablespoon coconut oil.