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pecan pumpkin butter bars (and then some)

October 10, 2011

There was a time, about 5 years back, when a dear friend worked for a well-known kitchen store. That it led to my bounty of employee discounted Le Creuset in rainbow colors was the most lasting benefit. At the time, it was having company in the kitchen that I most prized. It was insanely fun to be baking buddies with someone who was intent on trying out all of the store’s crazy baking ideas/props/recipes. (We gave two enthusiastic thumbs up to the giant brownie “oreo” ice cream sandwich cookies, and two disappointed thumbs down to the box mix for chocolate “æbleskiver.”)

That fall, the jars of Muirhead Pecan Pumpkin Butter were in heavy rotation, both in the store, and in his kitchen. It was the fall of the pecan pumpkin butter squares. Knowing their clientele, the store not only had in-store samples of treats to get you hooked on the butter, but the corresponding recipe was insanely easy. In addition to the Muirhead pumpkin butter for filling, all you needed were some eggs, butter, a bit of milk, and a yellow cake mix box. In a divine bit of alchemy, two off-the-shelf products are transformed into something that tastes ‘from a box’ not at all.

Oh how I loved those pumpkin bars. …and how I wanted to make them again, but without the expensive pre-made ingredients. So this weekend (with a little help from the google), I set out to hack the recipe into a ‘made from scratch’ variation. As it turns out, pumpkin butter from scratch is pretty easy to make, and there are a number of different sources out there that have already gone to the trouble of deconstructing a yellow box cake mix. We liked the resulting bars enough that they were my pumpkin bakeoff entry this weekend.

and then we tried the pumpkin butter on french toast. Now, it doesn’t hurt that the bread we used was Sunstreet‘s Apple of my eye Rye (that is one a de-licious loaf of bread), and the pie pumpkins that are the base of the butter are from Peter & Carmen’s amazing stock, but seriously.

oh. my.

So even if pecan pumpkin bars don’t float your boat, consider the pecan pumpkin butter. Slather it on anything that will sit still on your plate long enough; you won’t be disappointed.

recipe after the jump…

as the old saying goes, to create a cherry pie from scratch, first you have to create the universe… so before you can bake the bars, first you have to make the pumpkin butter. and before you can make the pumpkin butter, you have to puree the roasted pie pumpkins. So to start, get your hands on the best pie pumpkins you can get (they’re the little ones; don’t use carving pumpkins. bigger is not better, it’s stringier and kinda bland).

Roast & Puree the Pie Pumpkins

Prep the pumpkin just like you would a squash for roasting, but save the seeds! (Recipe for cumin candied pumpkin seeds coming right up), then bake in a covered casserole (you may have to cut it into smaller pieces to fit into your baking dish). 350° for 90 minutes, or until its soft throughout. Scoop out the cooked pumpkin & puree.

Pecan Pumpkin Butter

  • 4 C Pumpkin puree
  • 2 C brown sugar
  • 2 C sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp butter
  • 2 C (8 oz) pecans, toasted and chopped
  • 1 pkg sure-jell fruit pectin

Measure out the sugars into a bowl. Add everything else into large pan, and heat over medium high heat until it’s just bubbling. Stir in the sugars, return the mixture to a rolling boil. Boil for a minute, then take off heat and cool to use. (be careful when it’s boiling. it’ll spit at you)

“Yellow Cake Mix”

The bars are built in three layers: base layer, butter layer, and topping layer. To make the base & topping layers, you’ll need to start by making the ‘yellow cake mix’ by combining:

  • 2 C flour
  • 1 1/2 C sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 C dry milk

and finally…

Pecan Pumpkin Butter Bars

Crumb topping:

  • 1 C Yellow Cake Mix
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 – 1/2 C butter*

Mix the topping ingredients together until it’s the consistency of cornmeal. Set aside.

*In one of the test batches, I accidentally doubled the amount of butter in the topping. If you’re not into a fairly traditional crumb topping, doubling the butter will get you a silky topping instead.

Base layer:

  • Remainder of the Yellow Cake Mix
  • 1/2 C melted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Mix together until it’s completely combined and then press into the bottom of a 9 x 13 greased pan.

Pumpkin layer:

  • 1  2/3 C pecan pumpkin butter
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tbsp milk

Mix pumpkin layer ingredients together, then pour on top of the base layer.

Evenly distribute the crumb topping over the pumpkin layer.

Bake at 350° for 35 – 40 minutes (until it’s evenly browned on top)

To create

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