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Pumpkin Cranberry Bars Tested Recipe

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Pumpkin Cranberry Bars Recipe

You have come to the right place if you are looking for a great Fall dessert. These Pumpkin Cranberry Bars take pumpkin puree, pecans, and dried cranberries and add them to a buttery cake batter that is scented with ground cinnamon, ginger, and allspice. The end result is a pan of Pumpkin Cranberry Squares that begs to be cut into large chunks and served with a steaming cup of coffee or tea.  

But first let me give you a little information on the pumpkin; a spherical-shaped, usually orange, winter squash belonging to the gourd family. It has a flat top and base, hard fluted shell, and thick ridged stem which encases a yellow-orange flesh that has a mild sweet flavor with a dense fibrous texture. We could take a whole pumpkin, cut it in half lengthwise, remove the seeds and stringy fibers, and bake it in a moderate oven until its flesh can be easily pierced with a knife. Or, for convenience sake, we could just open a can of pumpkin puree as it is one of the few processed products that is almost as good as fresh. But make sure to buy 'plain' pumpkin puree, not the pumpkin pie filling which has the spices already added. And since we will not be using a whole can, leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week or else frozen for up to six months. Along with the pumpkin, we also use pecans and dried cranberries in this recipe. Pecans are uniquely American, so if you live outside North America they may be hard to find. An excellent alternative is the walnut as these two nuts are closely related. Toasting the pecans (or walnuts) before adding them to the batter brings out their lovely buttery sweet flavor. The final addition is dried cranberries. The benefits of using dried cranberries over fresh is that they are available year round and have a really nice soft texture and tart yet sweet flavor. When buying dried cranberries look for berries that are plump, moist, with that bright ruby red color. Never buy dried fruit that is dried out or moldy.

While these bars are excellent plain, I couldn't resist topping them with a mascarpone whipped cream. Mascarpone cheese is a soft unripened cheese that belongs to the cream cheese family. It is a thick, rich, sweet and velvety, ivory-colored cheese produced from cow's milk that has the texture of clotted or sour cream. Its delicate and mild flavor is great with fresh fruit and is probably best known for its use in Tiramisu. It is sold in plastic tubs and can be found in specialty food stores and in the deli section of some grocery stores. If you cannot find it, just substitute it with regular cream cheese. The mascarpone cheese is whipped with some heavy whipping cream, and a little sugar for taste and you end up with a very nice cream to accompany this dessert.

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Pumpkin Cranberry Bars: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place the rack in the center of the oven. Place the pecans on a baking sheet and bake for about 8 - 10 minutes or until lightly browned and fragrant. Remove from oven, cool completely and then coarsely chop.

Increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) and butter and flour an 9 x 9 inch (23 x 23 cm) pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, ground cinnamon, ground allspice, ground ginger, and salt.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (2 - 3 minutes). Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until incorporated. Beat in the pumpkin puree until incorporated (the batter will look curdled at this point). Gradually add the flour mixture, mixing only until combined. Stir in the chopped toasted pecans and dried cranberries. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 30 - 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bars comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Cut into 16 - 2 inch (5 cm) bars.

Frosting: In a bowl beat the whipping cream and mascarpone cheese until light and fluffy. Add sugar to taste. Spoon a dollop of cream on top of each bar. Top with fresh pumpkin seeds.

Adapted From:

Appel, Jennifer. 'Buttercup Bakes at Home'. Simon & Schuster. New York: 2006.

Pumpkin Cranberry Bars:

1 cup (100 grams) pecans

2 cups (260 grams) all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup (225 grams) pumpkin puree

1 cup (100 grams) dried cranberries or cherries

Frosting: (Optional)

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup mascarpone or cream cheese

2 teaspoons granulated white sugar

Pumpkin Seeds

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