It’s October, which means the pumpkin spice mania is in full swing. You can find it in Oreos, M&Ms, Kahlua, and a few other things you might not have thought of, such as this, this, this and, um, these (for real?).
I’m happy to get on that bandwagon in my own kitchen, so here’s my contribution. I would love to give credit for this recipe to the creator of it, but I’ve had it in my files for years and don’t recall where I found it. I like it because it actually contains both pumpkin and spice. The texture of the bars is moist and dense like a brownie, but since these contain no chocolate, it doesn’t seem right to call them pumpkin brownies.
Pumpkin Spice Bars with Salted Caramel Sauce
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease an 8″ x 8″ baking dish.
- In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in spices, salt, egg and pumpkin.
- Sift the flour into the bowl and stir mixture until just combined. Add nuts if using and stir to distribute evenly.
- Pour batter into baking dish and spread into an even layer.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until the edges are lightly browned and the center is set. Cool in pan before slicing.
For the sauce, I used this recipe from the Cooking Channel. It’s very simple.
1 c sugar
1/4 c water
3/4 c heavy cream
3-1/2 Tbs unsalted butter
1 tsp gray sea salt, crushed or kosher salt
- In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar and water over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and bring to a boil, without stirring. If necessary, use a wet pastry brush to wash down any crystals on the side of the pan. Boil until the syrup is a deep amber color, about 5 to 6 minutes.
- Remove the sugar from the heat and carefully whisk in the heavy cream. The mixture will bubble. Stir in the unsalted butter, and salt. Transfer the caramel to a dish and cool.
My first batch of caramel seized as I was stirring in the cream, and most of it hardened around the edges of the pan and into a candy ball inside the whisk that took quite a bit of work to untangle. I think this was because I added cold cream gradually to the hot sugar mixture. On my second round, which was successful, I heated the cream slightly in the microwave first, and poured it into the sugar mixture all at once (it foams up like soda when you do this, so be careful and stand back).
If you are a little bit nervous about cooking sugar to super-high temperatures, as I was, watch this short video to see how to do it just right. She recommends swirling the pan occasionally to even things out. I found that if you mix the sugar and water together thoroughly before pouring it into the pan, you won’t have to stir it or swirl it to make an even layer.
The pumpkin spice season will soon be over, so enjoy it while it lasts!