Friday, November 08, 2013

Food on Friday: Pumpkin Bars

You know how most people have typing errors that they tend to make over and over again? One of mine is typing "pumpking" for pumpkin. I must have done it eight times while typing this. Just so you know. In case I missed one of them.

I love to bake. I used to bake cookies and brownies and cakes all the time when I was younger. That was how I made friends in college- I'd hang out in the dorm kitchen and bake cookies. People tend to stop by. Unfortunately, though, Dean and MadMax don't really have a sweet tooth, and lord knows I don't need the calories, so I mostly stopped baking years ago. 

But recently I decided to start again. I love to do it, so why shouldn't I? Usually I only bake if I have somewhere I can take the results so I don't end up eating half a pan of brownies by myself. Or sometimes I freeze the extras in individual portions, so I can ration them out and not have to rely on my notoriously poor self-control.  

At the moment I am obsessed with pumpkin bars.  Almost all the pumpkin bar recipes online are about the same--here is a good one, for example, and Paula Deen's recipe over on the food network is pretty much exactly the same (although I confess I didn't compare them line-by-line to be certain). I made that version last week and took them to the fall bazaar at our church. I used a heaping tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice in place of the cinnamon and added a tablespoon of vanilla, but other than that I made it exactly as written. Also you will note that there are FOUR EGGS in the recipe, and we all know that I am always looking for ways to use up eggs. (oh, and um, *shrugs sheepishly* I might have used cream cheese frosting from a can.)

But I thought since pumpkin is a pretty dang nutrient-rich food, with a little tweaking pumpkin bars could be a not-too-sinful treat. So I tried again. The version below is practically identical in taste but at least slightly better for you. Even though I cut the amount of sugar almost by half, these are still plenty sweet. 

Except we must address the cream cheese frosting issue. Cream cheese frosting is one of Dean's few weaknesses, but I can take it or leave it. Since Dean isn't going to eat these anyway, I omitted the frosting in favor of a streusel topping to cut a few calories, but I have to admit that the tang in the cream cheese offsets the sweetness of the bars a bit. So choose your topping as you will. Feel free to put the cream cheese frosting back on (the recipe is in the link above)(and I promise I won't tell if you use a can).

The streusel recipe is just a standard doorstop-cookbook recipe for oatmeal streusel topping, and it makes about twice as much as you need. It takes about five minutes to make but it does require pulling out the food processor, so it's worth making a double batch. I freeze half, making it simple to make another pan of these or muffins or something else later on, but you could just make half as much streusel to begin with, I suppose. Or you could dump the whole thing on there for extra streusel, but we were going for slightly healthier, you know.

Slightly Healthier than Usual Pumpkin Bars

4 eggs
1 C brown sugar
1/2 C canola oil
1/2 C unsweetened applesauce
15 oz can pumpkin
(Note that this is pure pumpkin, NOT pumpkin pie filling)
1 T vanilla

2 C flour, any type (I used one cup unbleached all-purpose and one cup whole grain spelt)
2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1 t salt
1 heaping T pumpkin pie spice

Combine the first six ingredients and mix at medium speed for about two minutes. In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix at low speed until smooth. Spread the batter into a 15 x 10 jelly roll pan which you have sprayed with Bakers Joy or whatever you have on hand for greasing pans. If using the streusel, sprinkle on about half of the recipe below. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Streusel topping (you will only need half of this amount): 1 1/4 C quick-cooking or old-fashioned oatmeal (not instant), 1/3 C brown sugar, 1 t cinnamon, 1 T flour, 6 T cold butter cut into chunks. Put all ingredients in a bowl and cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or two knives (or be lazy like me and pulse in a food processor--takes about a dozen 2-second pulses).

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