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
very nice cream to accompany this dessert.