Velvety pumpkin butter with pumpkin pie spices is baked between layers of oats and flour and topped with toasty pecans in this quick and simple bar dessert recipe.
After much hemming and hawing, I finally made pumpkin butter. I’m not sure what I was expecting to find at the end of a long simmer, but I was pleasantly surprised when then the “butter,” which contains no actual butter, turned out rich and velvety and was reminiscent of both apple butter and pumpkin pie. It effectively bridged the gap between all the orchard walking that happens in October and the pumpkin pie season that occurs towards the end of November, in spreadable form.
On toast and biscuits and scones the burnt orange was smeared, and then dolloped atop bowls of steaming oats before being slathered on pork roast with a bit of cayenne and tossed in the oven to roast. Finally, I determined that the best way to turn the remaining butter into dessert was not to incorporate it into a batter, but to treat it as I would a fruit spread, and so pumpkin butter bars were born.
If you’ve ever made jam bars, you’ll know the ease at which these come together. It’s a simple crisp type crumble that is pressed into a pan before being topped with fruit spread – in this case the spiced pumpkin butter – and then the remaining crumble is left to fulfill its name and be scattered across the surface. The final product is baked until golden, when the sugar and flour and butter in the crumbled topping meld together in a sort of baked good perfection, just this side of crisp with the fruit spread creating the chew in the center.
Seeing as how we’re dealing with a ginger- and cinnamon-kissed butter, this particular crumble earned a bit of cardamom to complement the fall flavor profile. No pumpkin bar would be complete without the addition of a few chopped pecans to offer a hint of nuttiness and extra contrast to the bars, and so you’ll find them here, too.
These bars effortlessly dance between dessert and breakfast bar, and it would be remiss to judge you for indulging in one or two during your morning coffee or tea. I definitely did.
:: You can use your favorite pumpkin butter recipe, but I’ve included mine below if you don’t have one yet.
:: Instructions on making fresh pumpkin puree. I went ahead and purchased three sugar pumpkins from the farmers market last week to give me enough to make a few breads and pies over the next few weeks.
1/2 cup maple syrup (or brown sugar)
1/4 cup apple cider
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon bourbon or whiskey, optional
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine the pumpkin puree, maple syrup, apple cider, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes, until the butter is thick.
If desired for a smoother consistency, use an immersion blender and blend until smooth. Stir in the bourbon/whiskey, lemon juice, and the vanilla. Allow to cool.
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to two weeks.
Makes approximately 3 cups of pumpkin butter.
1 cup all-purpose or einkorn flour
1/2 cup brown sugar or sucanat
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 cups pumpkin butter
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Preheat the oven to 375º F. Line a 9″ square baking pan with parchment.
In a medium bowl, mix together the oats, flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cardamom, and the salt. Add in the butter and combine using a pastry blender or a long-tine fork until crumbly.
Place 2/3 of the crumbled mixture into the parchment-lined pan and press to create a bottom crust. Spoon the pumpkin butter over the top to cover, spreading lightly when necessary so as not to disturb the bottom layer.
Mix the pecans with the remaining crumbled mixture and spoon over the top of the pumpkin butter.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until top is golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Cut into bars and serve.
Makes 16 bars.