Thursday, November 5, 2015

Pumpkin Squares

Pumpkin Squares from Food Therapy

Thanksgiving is only a few weeks away.  It's three weeks away to be exact, but who's counting? I am! That's for sure.  It always seems to me that the school year starts off slowly enough as we begin new routines, get back into homework mode, and travel from one activity to the next.  Then, you suddenly look up and realize it's the end of October.  Halloween is coming.  Halloween has passed.  The time has changed and suddenly it's dark at 5pm.  Is anyone ready for bed yet?  Do I sound manic?  Well, just imagine my anxiety when I was at the mall this past week with my daughter.  As we were going up the escalator, I looked up to be greeted at the top by a nicely lit reindeer.  Then, I looked around and noticed the mall was already setting up shop for Santa.  Seriously? Are we just going to bypass the month of November? I'm not ready yet.  There is Thanksgiving planning and cooking to do, darn it!


Pumpkin Squares from Food Therapy

Because I'm not done with the month of November, I thought it would be nice to come up with a recipe for pumpkin bars.  I hope you're still craving everything pumpkin.  By the end of the month, I do not doubt those pumpkin days will be over.  Go ahead and eat that one last slab of pumpkin pie and be done with it.  Until then, I have the perfect dessert to fulfill your pumpkin desires.  It's not a pie and it's not a cake.  It's a pumpkin bar.

If you know me personally you probably know that I am a Trader Joe's freak.  I shop there all the time.  I can tell you what's good and what isn't good. I sample it all.  One of my favorite seasonal items is the pumpkin butter that they sell in the jelly section (by the way the cranberry apple butter is amazing, too).  I bought a jar when they first appeared in the store and it's been sitting, unopened, in my pantry for a few weeks now.  My brain was working along with my taste buds and I knew my mission yesterday was to find something that could make good use of the pumpkin butter. Cookie bars, why not!


Don't ask how this connects, but my first thought was to use a crust I had made before from David Lebovitz's My Paris Kitchen.  It was actually for an apricot  crumble tart.  What I remembered from the recipe was how the crust was more the consistency of a soft shortbread cookie rather than a tart crust.  It was almost the texture I wanted for these pumpkin squares.  Pretty close.  I decided to add in a bit of cream cheese in order to add a little tartness and make it a touch softer.  And, rather than make an actual tart in a springform pan, I instead spread it into a square baking pan to be able to cut it into bars.




The rest of the process was simple.  I precooked the cookie crust.  When it had cooled I spread the entire jar of Pumpkin Butter over the top.  I then made a crumble topping full of pumpkin pie spices and baked the entire pan for 30 minutes.  They came out perfectly.  My biggest joy came when my son bit into one and said how amazing the bars were.  When I told him I made up the recipe, he seemed genuinely impressed.  Nothing feels better than praise from those who will always tell you the truth.
Pumpkin Squares from Food Therapy





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Pumpkin Squares
A delightful cookie bar filled with pumpkin butter and a pumpkin-spiced crumble on top. A perfect snack or seasonal dessert.
Ingredients
    For the crust:2 Tablespoons Cream Cheese, softened6 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, softened1/2 cup Granulated Sugar2 Egg Yolks1 1/4 cups All Purpose Flour1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt10-ounce jar Pumpkin Butter For the Crumble Topping:3/4 cups Pecans1/3 cup Light Brown Sugar1/2 cup All Purpose Flour1 teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt6 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, chilled and cubed
Instructions
1. Take the cream cheese and butter out about 10 minutes before using. You want them to soften slightly but not too much. In a mixing bowl, beat at medium speed the brown sugar, butter, and cream cheese until any lumps of butter and cheese have disappeared. Add in the egg yolks, followed by the flour and salt.
2. Prepare a 9" square baking pan by lining it with parchment paper. Using the heel of your hand, press the dough into the bottom of the pan. Make sure it is spread evenly across the pan. Freeze the dough in the pan for 15 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line the chilled dough with aluminum foil and then use pie weights or dried beans to weigh down the foil. This will prevent the dough from puffing up while baking. Bake the crust for 20 minutes.

4. While the crust is baking, make your topping. In a food processor add all of your topping ingredients. Pulse until your mixture looks grainy. Stop if you start seeing it clump together.

5. After the crust has cooled slightly, remove the foil and pie weights. Empty the jar of pumpkin butter onto the crust and spread it out evenly. Add the topping layer over the pumpkin butter layer.
Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes and then slice into bars.
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 16 bars