Friday, October 14, 2011

An Impromtu Thing: close but not quite is good enough for me!

I promised a more seasonal and festive post-- a more thought out and interesting one too, but amidst a super busy time at work, this is the best I can come up with: Pumpkin Pie Bars. Technically, I could have baked it in a pie dish and called it pumpkin pie, but I think they work better as bars. Let's discuss.

My family is traditional in some ways, not so in others. There wasn't a turkey in sight on Thanksgiving weekend; instead there were lots of greasy fried noodles and rice, malaysian style curry and chicken and baby bok choys with soy. My offerings to the gathering were simple: a quinoa and swiss chard stew that turned into more of a salad (recipe coming soon!) and a vegan apple and cranberry crisp (just apples cranberries, a touch of sugar and lemon juice and that beautiful spelt crisp topping), which I thought my parents' old-fashioned guests wouldn't care too much for but surprisingly loved. Let's not talk about my dream Thanksgiving dinner -- it would definitely not include greasy Chinese food. But anyway, my sister mentioned that her beloved would be making pumpkin pie for the gathering, so I resisted the urge to bake up something spicy and cinnamon-y with my mound of roasted pumpkin. Turns out, he didn't have time to make the pie and so Thanksgiving was pumpkin pie-less. Shame on us.

The next day, I kinda craved pumpkin pie. My other half wanted apple crumble -- the old fashioned way, with butter and brown sugar. So I conceded, but I still wanted pumpkin so I thought up a plan. I didn't have enough patience to make a pie crust and I was tired up pumpkin pies that only taste like butter and cinnamon; I wanted to taste pumpkin. What I did was totally impromptu and I wasn't even sure that it would work, but it did. Not quite a pumpkin pie, but close enough for me. The crust is a combination of graham cracker crumbs -- the last that half cup that had been sitting in my cupboard for too long -- spelt flour and canola oil. And the pumpkin custard? Totally experimental. I remembered Michael Smith saying that a bread pudding custard was always standard: 1 egg gets 1/4 cup of brown sugar and 1 cup of milk. I went for that I hoped for the best. Results? Yummy, creamy, spicy and very pumpkin-y. It's a super soft custard and unlike a firmly set pumpkin pie. The crust? Wholesome tasting, nutty, but a bit tough. But it was close enough and I enjoyed each bite.

Pumpkin Pie Bars
with help from Michael Smith

For the Crust:
1/2 cup of graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup of spelt flour
1/4 cup of canola oil or melted margarine/butter

For the Filling:
1 cup of roasted pumpkin or pumpkin puree (I roasted my pumpkin but didn't bother to puree it.)
1 cup of soy milk
2 tablespoons of maple syrup
1 egg
1/4 cup of brown sugar
a splash of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon each of allspice and cardamom
a small pinch of nutmeg

1. Make the crust by mixing the oil into the flour and crumbs with a fork. Press it into a square baking pan. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl whisk together all the ingredients for the filling until everything is smooth and combined. Pour it over the crust.

3. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 50 minutes or until the top gets a nice sugary, glaze-y look and the custard is set. Let it cool, and cut into bars.


  1. I like that you've used real pumpkin in this! You can't get pumpkin puree here, and I thought that I was doomed to never try a sweet pumpkin desert, but now I can! Thanks Leslie!

  2. ursula, you could probably use butternut squash and it would be delicious as well. yay for pumpkiny desserts!