I’m being forced to tell you about these pumpkin bars. Ever since I made them, R has been telling me to put the recipe up. He will drop not-so-subtle hints like “You should post those pumpkin bars for U.S. Thanksgiving.” I also had people at my work request the recipe so it’s only fair of me to share it with you as well.
Like a pumpkin pie, you need to make the crust first and then the filling. The bars are easier because it’s just a press-in crust and it’s a better option for parties because you can eat it out of hand and cut the bars small.
The secret ingredient to these guys isn’t really a secret at all. It’s a lot of butter, cream cheese and sugar — ingredients that make almost anything irresistibly tasty. In the recipe you use one pound of icing sugar in the filling and I thought my teeth would fall out from eating one. It actually isn’t overly sweet, but you can always cut back the sugar if you want.
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 (1-pound) box confectioner’s sugar (4 cups)
1/2 teaspoon grand mace
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3 large eggs
Fresh whipped cream, for topping (optional)
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13-by-9-inch baking pan and line with parchment, allowing the paper to hang over the edges.
To make the crust: Put the butter in a large heatproof bowl, set over a pot of barely simmering water and stir frequently until melted. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar, vanilla and salt. Add the flour all at once and mix until just incorporated.
Press the dough even into the bottom of the pan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until golden on the edges but still light brown in the center. Cool at least 30 minutes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a medium mixing bowl, using a handheld mixer), beat the cream cheese on medium speed until smooth and creamy, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the pumpkin and mix until thoroughly incorporated, about 5 minutes. Turn speed to low, add the melted butter and vanilla and mix until combined, 2 to 3 minutes. Add confectioners’ sugar, mace, cinnamon, nutmeg and eggs, beating until thoroughly mixed. Continue to mix on medium speed until smooth, about 5 minutes.
Pour into the prepared crust. Bake 50 minutes to 1 hour, until the center is firm. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate. Cut into squares and serve chilled with whipped cream, if desired. Refrigerate bars in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Yield: 12 large or 24 small bars.
Excerpted from The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook by Cheryl Day and Griffith Day (Artisan Books)
Pumpkin pie sits high on the list of my favourite treats and it’s a Thanksgiving staple for me.
I chose a recipe from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. The cookbook is filled with (over 300!) of her most treasured recipes. It’s a hefty book and I love the details that she puts into the recipes such as storing and serving instructions.
A sour cream pumpkin tart is a nice twist on the traditional pie. The added sour cream makes it extra creamy and by making it into a tart transforms this to an elegant dish. There will be extra filling for you to make mini tarts.
I found this pie subtle in spice and that the rum gave it a good spike of flavour. This dessert is worthy of being on any Thanksgiving menu.
What are some of your favourite Thanksgiving traditions?
Sweet Tart Dough
Makes enough for one 9-inch crust
Storing: Well wrapped, the dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 months. While the fully baked crust can be packed airtight and frozen for up to 2 months, I prefer to freeze the unbaked crust in the pan and bake it directly from the freezer—it has a fresher flavor. Just add about 5 minutes to the baking time.
In French, this dough is called pâte sablée because it is buttery, tender and sandy (that’s what sablée means). It’s much like shortbread, and it’s ideal for filling with fruit, custard or chocolate.
The simplest way to make a tart shell with this dough is to press it into the pan. You can roll out the dough, but the high proportion of butter to flour and the inclusion of confectioners’ sugar makes it finicky to roll. I always press it into the pan, but if you want to roll it, I suggest you do so between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper or inside a rolling slipcover (see page 491 of the book).
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons)
very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
Put the flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in—you should have some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses—about 10 seconds each—until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change—heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.
To press the dough into the pan: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece of dough, which you should save in the refrigerator to patch any cracks after the crust is baked. Don’t be too heavy-handed—press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.
To partially or fully bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. (Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights.) Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. For a partially baked crust, patch the crust if necessary, then transfer the crust to a cooling rack (keep it in its pan).
To fully bake the crust: Bake for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. (I dislike lightly baked crusts, so I often keep the crust in the oven just a little longer. If you do that, just make sure to keep a close eye on the crust’s progress—it can go from golden to way too dark in a flash.) Transfer the tart pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature before filling.
To patch a partially or fully baked crust, if necessary: If there are any cracks in the baked crust, patch them with some of the reserved raw dough as soon as you remove the foil. Slice off a thin piece of the dough, place it over the crack, moisten the edges and very gently smooth the edges into the baked crust. If the tart will not be baked again with its filling, bake for another 2 minutes or so, just to take the rawness off the patch.
2 cups canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Lightly whipped lightly sweetened cream, for topping
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup sour cream
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1-1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
Pinch of ground cloves
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons dark rum
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat and put the pie plate (or tart pan) on it.
Put all of the filling ingredients in a food processor and process for 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice. Alternatively, you can whisk the ingredients together vigorously in a mixing bowl. Rap the work bowl or mixing bowl against the counter to burst any surface bubbles, and pour the filling into the crust.
Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F and continue to bake for 35 to 45 minutes longer (20 to 25 minutes for a tart), or until a knife inserted close to the center comes out clean. If you don’t want to create a slash in your masterpiece, tap the pan gently—if the custard doesn’t jiggle, or only jiggles a teensy bit in the very center, it’s done. Transfer the pie (or tart) to a rack and cool to room temperature.
Serving: Pumpkin pie and whipped cream are naturals, and if you’ve tested the pie’s doneness with a knife, you might want to serve the whipped cream as a cover-up. I like this pie chilled, but others are fans of it at room temperature—decide for yourself.
Storing: Like most pies, this one is best served the day it is made. However, you can make the pie early in the day and keep it refrigerated until needed.
For the smoothest pumpkin pie, process the filling in a food processor.
Spices lose their potency after awhile. To get the best flavour, make sure your spices are fresh.
If you can, splurge and use good rum as you will be able to taste the difference.