Pumpkin Pie Bars and No Self Control

2 Oct

This is a story about how I have no self control.

Like I said, on Saturday we drove up to Richmond, which meant a mandatory stop in Williamsburg for Trader Joe’s and Target…aka the happiest places on Earth.  Seriously, I could wander around either of those stores for hours.

The only exciting purchase from Target (well, besides finding long gloves for a Halloween costume), was a 4 lb. bag of candy corn.  Yes, I dropped $8.00 on candy corn…having worked at a candy store (where we charged an admittedly overpriced $6.99 per pound), I can say that $2.00 per pound is a good price.

But now I have four pounds of candy corn…gotta figure out what to bake this into.  Instead of just shoveling it into my mouth.

Then to Trader Joe’s where we brought in some much more exciting goods!

Sweet potato chips are always solid, and the ones from TJ’s are cheap at $1.99!  All the candy there is tasty, but chocolate covered sunflower seeds were on sale…the boyfriend especially loves them, and I sprinkle them on ice cream (so good).

But if you buy nothing else at Trader Joe’s , buy the Pumpkin Butter.  Tried it for the first time on toast, and OMG that stuff is good.  You want it.  That’s all I have to say about that.

Anyway, onto the baking:

I made pumpkin pie bars.  There’s no candy corn in them, but I was taking glamour shots, and well…it’s festive.  And I have four pounds of the stuff.

Guys, these bars are the bomb.  That streusel on top is seriously the best I’ve ever had.  I’ve been looking for a great streusel, and this is it.  It’s also good raw…not that I was eating it with a spoon or anything.  Oh wait, yes I was (I think I’ve mentioned I have a particular weakness for butter and brown sugar).

—-

It starts with graham crackers.  Cinnamon of course.  Blend those in a food processor until they are crumbs, then just add in everything else (except the oats) and process until sandy.  Then just stir in your oats at the end.

Simple, yes?  Into a greased pan and then 15 minutes in a 350 degree oven.  Leave your food processor out…you’ll be using it to make streusel later!

While the crust cooks, you’re going to caramelize some nuts (pecans or walnuts).  Don’t be scared…this is so quick and easy and you don’t need a candy thermometer.

Pour the sugar, corn syrup, butter and cinnamon in a sautee pan and then turn it up to low-medium heat.  As the pan gets warm and everything starts to melt, stir the ingredients together until it looks like this.

Now just let it sit and wait.  It will start to spread out and ripple, then lots of little bubbles

And more little bubbles

Then it will mellow out with fewer, bigger bubbles.  This is when you want to pour your nuts in.

Try to coat them as best you can, stirring for 2-3 minutes in the pan, then transfer to aluminum foil, parchment paper or a silicone mat, and try to spread them out as best you can to let cool…oh, and get your pan soaking in the sink.

You should probably taste these, you know, just to make sure they turned out okay.  Let them cool down a few minutes first, and try to save some for your streusel…k?

So yeah, incredibly fool proof.  Even if you add your nuts a little too early or too late, they will still taste incredible…this is my third batch of caramelized nuts and they always turn out great.

Your crust is probably done by now, so get that out of the oven, and then make the filling.  It comes together in a snap.

Cream together the softened cream cheese and sugar, then beat in eggs, vanilla, and everything else.  Set aside while you make your streusel.

More graham crackers!  Process those until they are crumbs, then add your sugar and butter and process until moist and sandy.  Throw in your caramelized nuts and give it a few pulses to roughly chop those nuts, then stir in the oats.

Pour your batter over the crust, then sprinkle with streusel.

The recipe makes quite a bit of streusel.  Mine looked well covered and I still had about a quarter cup left so I put it into a bag into the fridge to save for future use (sprinkling over oatmeal or ice cream or…eating with a spoon.  Whatever).

Now into the oven again for 25-30 minutes until set in the center!

I didn’t take a picture of this tray fresh out of the oven because, well…I had to try it.  Even knowing it would be better chilled, I scooped some out and piled on the vanilla ice cream.  It was like a pumpkin crisp…so, so good.

The streusel is crunchy and very sweet, but that is perfectly mellowed by the cool, clean pumpkin cream.

So there you have it…the story of how I spent all my money on food, and then consumed my weeks worth of calories while making pumpkin pie bars.  I don’t regret it.

—-

Pumpkin Pie Bars

Inspired by Annie Eats*

For the Crust
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs (I believe this was about 4 full crackers, I used the cinnamon variety)
1/8 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cold butter
1/4 cup nuts (pecans or walnuts)
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup oats
Candied nuts (for streusel)
2 T brown sugar
1/2 T corn syrup
1/2 T butter
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup nuts (pecans or walnuts)
Filling
4 oz softened cream cheese
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 T molasses
1 1/2 eggs (1.5 eggs, whattt? I used one full egg and one egg white)
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 T cinnamon
1/8 T ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp nutmeg
(can substitute all the spices for 1/2 T pumpkin pie spice)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
Streusel
1/2 cup graham crackers (again, 4 sheets, cinnamon)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 -1/2 cup candied nuts (from above recipe)
1/4 cup oats
*This recipe is good, I made it first and saw room for improvement.  It’s super, super easy though, so if you’re looking for a quick version of this, the original recipe will suffice.

  • Preheat oven to 350 F
  • Combine all crust ingredients except oats in a food processor until uniform and sandy in texture, then stir in the oats.  Press the crust into an 8×8 baking dish, then bake 15 minutes.
  • To caramelize the nuts: While the crust bakes, caramelize the nuts!  Combine sugar, butter, corn syrup, and cinnamon in a sautee plan over low-medium heat.  Stir until melty and combined, then let it sit and wait.  It will ripple, then lots of small bubbles will form.  Once larger, less frequent bubbles are happening, pour in your nuts (please, please look at the images above).  Stir the nuts in the warm pan for 2-3 minutes until well coated, then pour onto aluminum foil, parchment paper or a silicone pad and spread out as best you can to let cool.  SOAK YOUR PAN IMMEDIATELY.
  • By now, your crust should be ready, so pull that out of the oven and start on filling and streusel
  • For filling: Cream together sugar and cream cheese, then beat in eggs, vanilla and all other ingredients.
  • For streusel: In a food processor, combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter until sandy.  Add in the (cooled) candied nuts, and pulse until coarsely chopped.  Stir in oats.
  • Pour filling over crust, then sprinkle streusel on top (I didn’t use all the streusel, but I’m sure you could and it would be even better)
  • Bake bars for 25-30 minutes (350 degrees), until the center is set
  • DEVOUR…but best served chilled =]
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One Response to “Pumpkin Pie Bars and No Self Control”

  1. Mike October 2, 2012 at 3:20 pm #

    Oh my, this looks delicious!

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