[Sponsored] My October 2017 article for Middlesex County takes us to the pumpkin patch! After all, if you’re going to use pumpkin spice, don’t you think there should be a pumpkin involved in the recipe as well? The County pays me to develop recipes and write about the food producers and markets in the rich agricultural area outside of London, Ontario, but I would have created these Maple Pecan Pumpkin Bars regardless. And now, you can find the recipe right in this post, instead of going to their website. [Updated October 2018]
Maple Pecan Pumpkin Bars
Pumpkin pie is one of the few desserts all three of my kids like. Every year at Thanksgiving, I’m asked (um, ordered?) to make pumpkin pie and firmly cautioned not to substitute anything weird instead. In case you’re wondering, pumpkin cheesecake or a pumpkin cake would fall into the weird category. This year I dared to make these Maple Pecan Pumpkin Bars, and I’m pleased to report that even the most ardent Thanksgiving traditionalist among the Offspring loved them.
The idea behind these bars was to have all the flavour of pumpkin pie — with my signature pumpkin spice — without the fuss of making a flaky pie crust, while still having a pastry element. I don’t mind making pie pastry, but sometimes it’s refreshing to do something easier, like patting a shortbread-like crumble base into the bottom of a pan.
Who can’t get behind easy?
I departed further from tradition by adding chopped pecans to the crumble base, and maple-candied pecans as a decorative topping. And, yup, you guessed it, those went over a treat too! For a fancier touch for the client version of the recipe, I placed a whole maple-enrobed pecan half sprinkled with some fine sea salt in the centre of each bar. But for Thanksgiving brunch, I wasn’t sure how many bars I’d be cutting, so I scattered coarsely chopped and candied pecans over the top of the whole pan. No persnickety presentation required!
What About the Nuts?
Since developing this recipe I’ve learned that one of the Offspring-in-laws has an aversion to nuts. So, next time I make this recipe I’ll just leave the nuts out of the pastry base and not use them as a topping. Voila, even easier! And this reminds me, the very first time I experimented with this recipe, I served the bars with some pumpkin ice cream and pepita brittle. I think a piece of that brittle or a crumble of it would make a lovely alternate garnish.
While pumpkin pie (and now these pumpkin bars) is traditional at Thanksgiving, it’s welcome any time of year around here. If you celebrate American Thanksgiving, Christmas, or autumn generally, why not add this recipe to your dessert table? You can find it on the Visit Middlesex site, here, or below.
Let’s Get Baking!
The shortbread-like base of these bars includes chopped pecans; their flavour marries well with the richness of pumpkin. I use my signature Urban Cottage Pumpkin Spice Blend in this recipe. You can whip up your own batch or use a pre-made blend. Pecan halves glazed with maple syrup make a sweet and nutty garnish for these squares.
Pre-heat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan and line with a length of parchment paper extending a couple inches above the pan on each side, so you can lift out the finished squares.
- 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin spice
- 2 tablespoons maple sugar
- pinch kosher salt
- 1/2 cup butter softened at room temperature
- 1/3 cup finely chopped pecans
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 cup maple sugar
- 1 1/2 cup pumpkin purée
- 2 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin spice
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup milk 2% or whole milk
- 12 whole pecan halves
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- optional pinch or so fine sea salt for sprinkling
For the crumble base, stir the flour, pumpkin spice and maple sugar together. Add the soft butter and mix well with a fork until mixture resembles a mix of peas and crumbs. Stir in the chopped pecans. Pour into the prepared pan and pat until even. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 15 minutes.
For the pumpkin custard, mix the eggs and maple sugar together until well blended. Add the pumpkin purée, salt and pumpkin spice; mix until incorporated. Stir in the flour, then blend in the milk. Pour over the baked crumble base and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the custard has set (a tester will come out clean).
Cool in the pan on a baking rack for 5 to 10 minutes. Run a knife along the sides of the pan without parchment paper to ensure there’s no sticking. Then lift out the whole square and set it on the baking rack to continue cooling.
While the bars are baking, prepare the glazed pecans. The ingredient list calls for extras in case of breakage (or tasting!). Put the pecans halves in a small skillet and heat over medium heat, gently swirling and turning the nuts from time to time. When they have become warm and lightly toasted (you can tell by the aroma), pour the maple syrup over them. Carefully tilt the pan and turn the pecans in the warm maple syrup until it becomes thick and sticky. Don’t let the nuts get too dark. Set the pecans on a small sheet of parchment paper on a baking rack to cool. If you wish, sprinkle them sparingly with fine sea salt.
Once the bars have cooled, cut into 9 3-inch squares and place a maple-glazed pecan in the centre of each.
Store the squares in the refrigerator, in a single layer in a covered container.
Looking for More Middlesex County Fare?
I love taking a drive through Middlesex County and stopping at farm stands and country markets to get the freshest local products so I can make things like Chicken & Harvest Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie, Caramel Apple Crumble Squares, and Asparagus Goat Cheese Tart. [Note: these are all sponsored posts for which Middlesex County compensated me.]