A long time ago, I had seen a picture of Pumpkin Bars in a magazine edition of Nuggets markets, but it did not come with a recipe. Apparently, it was one of their highest-selling products; had to be, if I couldn’t take my eyes off them! As you can see in the picture [photo courtesy of FreshToMarket] this was a very decadent dessert, perfect for Fall, with layers of Walnut shortbread forming the crust, topped with Pumpkin-Spiced Custard, and topped with walnut streusel! Right from the time I saw this, I knew I would create a recipe to replicate it. After several trials, and a bit of help from Epicurious and Taste of Home, I was able to come up with a recipe that totally describes these bars!
The Walnut shortbread can be made several days ahead, and is by itself a great treat to enjoy. So is the Pumpkin-Spiced Custard. Here, is is poured over the crust and baked in a water-bath, just like a souffle, so it has a creamy silky texture. The walnut streusel on the top is the perfect topping, as it brings it all together. Every bite of this bar will induce a play on your tongue, as you bite through the layers of cookie crust, followed by silky custard and finally the streusel, just like a Pumpkin Pie!
If you are short on time, you can use ready-made walnut shortbread, or any other cookies that you like. Ginger cookies would also work well, I think.
Prep time: 30 mins
Cook Time: 2 hours 45 mins
For The Walnut Shortbread
1 cup butter, Softened
3/4 cup icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups walnuts, coarsely chopped
For The Pumpkin Filling(Custard)
2 large eggs
1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin puree
1 can (12 oz.) evaporated fat-free milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
For The Walnut Streusel
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
Make The Walnut Shortbread
Cream butter, icing sugar and vanilla until light. Stir in flour and chopped walnuts, and knead to make a pastry-like dough. Pat dough into 9-inch square pan, preferably with a removable bottom. now using a fork, roughly outline square or rectangular shapes in the dough, to make your shortbread, so its easy to cut it once its baked. Set pan on a cookie sheet, and bake in pre-heated oven at 325 degrees for about 40 minutes or until the shortbread is lightly brown on the top.
Allow to cool completely, then use a knife along the preciously-done markings to cut into wedges or squares. You can store these cookies in a tightly-covered tin for a few days.
Make The Pumpkin Custard
In a blender container or a food processor bowl, combine the eggs, pumpkin puree, evaporated milk, sugar, spice, and vanilla. Blend until smooth.
Make the Walnut Streusel
Combine the chopped walnuts with the butter and flour and make into a mixture.
Make the Bars
Place the shortbread cookies in a food processor bowl and process until finely crushed. Add 2 tbsp butter to this mixture and process until well combined. Press onto bottom of a prepared 13 x 9 inch souffle dish or glass baking pan and bake at 350°F for 10 minutes. Allow to cool completely.
Pour the prepared custard over the cooled crust. Sprinkle the prepared walnut streusel topping over the custard. Now place the souffle dish in shallow pan on oven rack. Pour 1 inch of boiling water into pan around souffle dish. Bake at 350°F for about 1 hour 15 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.
Remove souffle dish from hot water. Cool on wire rack for 1 hour, then refrigerate at least 4 hours. Garnish as desired. Store in refrigerator.
Before serving, cut these using a serrated knife (dipped in running water, facilitate clean cuts) into squares or bars. Serve with a dollop of fresh whipped cream on the top for a truly decadent Fall treat.
I am sure you will love this adaptation of Pumpkin Pie plus Walnut Shortbread. It is a time-consuming recipe if you do it all from scratch, but it is very fulfilling, and there are always shortcuts that can come in handy. Use pre-made shortbread to make this easy if you like. I am sending this over to Fabulicious Food for this month’s roundup of Simple and in Season; hope Ren likes pumpkins!