I don’t love pumpkin. I also don’t hate pumpkin. I pretty much want my pumpkin to be kept to a reasonable level of consumption. That means I am not a fan of Everything Pumpkin Season.
This is a relatively new thing, this Season of all Pumpkin-ness. It starts right at the end of September (although it’s been creeping toward Labor Day at an alarming pace) and continues until December 1st. You can’t go anywhere without being bombarded by pumpkin. Coffee shops, donut shops, lip balm, air fresheners, soups … SOUPS, folks! Pancakes, ice cream, pumpkin dip.
Stop the madness. No more pumpkin exploitation.
Growing up, I was only subjected to pumpkin consumption at Thanksgiving. And it made sense, then. People carved Jack O’Lanterns for the Halloween, and then turned them into a beautiful puree afterward to be set aside for the baking of the pies. Not that we ever did that in my family. We were pretty much canned pumpkin people. Generally, I’d get one piece of pie, eat a few bites, remember that I wasn’t a huge fan, and be good for the year.
See ya next year, alliterative pie : )
There are, however, a few pumpkin-y things I’ve grown to love. One of those is this (and only this) recipe for pumpkin bars. And, honestly, it has one helluva lot more to do with the icing than it does with the bars themselves. Still, these bars are moist in the best possible way, not too heavily spiced with the flavors of the fall and really quite generally delicious.
If you’re not up to making your own pumpkin puree, you can sub the canned stuff. But you’re seriously missing out if you do that. So don’t do that. Best advice I can possibly offer.
For the pumpkin puree:
- 3 smallish or 2 mediumish pumpkins
For the bars:
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger (grate some fresh with a zester if you’re feeling adventurous)
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (freshly ground is fabulous)
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 25-30 oz pumpkin puree -OR-
- 1 large can (29oz) solid pack pumpkin if you didn’t do the puree.
For the icing:
- 2 packages cream cheese at room temperature
- 1-1/2 cups butter at room temperature
- 1 tbsp half and half
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Powdered sugar to taste (I like mine a little less sweet than most, but toss up to a pound in there if you can handle it ~delicate shudder~)
First, make the puree. (I don’t typically do this right when I’m making the pumpkin bars. I usually have some already made in the freezer.)
Preheat the oven to 350°. Cut the pumpkins in half and scoop out the pulp and the seeds. If you like them, save the seeds for roasting. I’m not a big fan (shocker) so I just throw the whole bunch of stringy gut nastiness away. If you’re an even more fabulous human than me, you probably do something compost-related with it or perform some ritual to bring forth good blessings upon yourself. Rock on.
Plunk the pumpkins on a baking sheet and pop them in the oven to bake for 45 minutes or so. The small ones might take a little less time, the medium-ish ones a little more time. You just want them to be fork tender and very lightly browned with wrinkly skin.
Cut the pumpkins into reasonably sized pieces for processing or blendering. Peel off the skin and pop them into one of the afore-mentioned devices in batches and blend until smooth. Give it a squint. If it looks sort of dry sprinkle in a little water. If it looks a little too watery, dump it in a fine mesh strainer over a bowl between batches.
Use immediately or store in mason jars until ready to use.
Now, lets get started on the actual pumpkin bars. If the oven isn’t already on from making the pumpkin puree, preheat it to 350°. Butter two 13x9x2 baking pans.
Mix together the eggs, oil and sugar until well blended. Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder and spices and mix thoroughly. Add pumpkin puree and blend well. Pour into the prepared baking pans and bake for 20-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely.
Once they have cooled, make the icing. Mix the cream cheese and softened butter until smooth. Add the half and half, vanilla and powdered sugar. Blend well. Spread on cooled pumpkin bars.