Monday, December 15, 2008

Chocolatey Pumpkin Bars

When someone brought up the idea of doing a cookie swap for our departmental holiday celebration at work, I immediately resisted. But mostly everyone else thought it was a fabulous idea, so I relinquished, and tried to get myself in the holiday baking spirit. I also decided that a cookie swap was much better than a Yankee Swap (I hate those things), and that I should embrace the idea.

At first, I tried to think of a creative way that I could turn chips and salsa into a dessert item, since my chip and salsa addiction is well known amongst my co-workers. But, I couldn't figure out a way to make that work. Then, I thought of a dessert item I realized many years ago I could make pretty easily because it required so few ingredients: macaroons. But if I recall from those days, I am one of only about 4 or 5 people who actually like macaroons (I even dipped them in chocolate). Keeping on the coconut theme, I thought this might be a good time to try making Needhams - something I only learned existed last year. My boyfriend's mother makes them each year for the holidays and they are delicious. When I saw her recently, she even gave me the recipe and all the ingredients I needed to make it. But it requires a double boiler and a lot of work, and I got intimidated. I did plan on making them before the holidays though, and I don't know if the rest of you have realized this, but Christmas is in 10 days.

Anyway, my friend Kathy had made some pumpkin bars to bring to our girls weekend recently, and I really liked them. She promised me they were easy, so I figured I'd give those a whirl. It calls for a jelly roll pan, but since I don't have one, I used a glass baking pan. Once they were in the oven, incident free, I panicked. Wouldn't a glass bake pan require a different cooking time than a metal one? (See - I have learned something from all the baked items I have ruined in my past.) So, I used one of my life lines. I checked to see if Sallie was on chat. Joy! She was. Sallie is a friend of mine who used to be a professional baker. She talked me through my situation and told me to add on a little time. I should also mention that she offered to give me the two dozen almond cookies she had that were all assembled. I could just bake them and pass them off as my own! I was momentarily tempted, but remembered I aspired to be a better baker, so I forged on with the pumpkin squares. They came out fine, and I feel a bit better about myself. Next: The Needham Project.

Chocolatey Pumpkin Bars
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup pecans, very finely chopped
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tspns baking powder
1 tspn ground cinnamon
1/2 tspn baking soda
1/2 tspn salt
4 large eggs, beaten
1 15 oz can 100% pure pumpkin
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup 1% lowfat milk
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (or more, if they just "happen" to spill into the bowl)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a 15X10X1 baking pan (jelly roll pan).
2. In a large mixing bowl, mix all dry ingredients (except chocolate chips)
3. In another mixing bowl, beat the eggs then add all wet ingredients. Mix wet ingredients into the large mixing bowl, add the chocolate chips and stir to combine.
4. Spread the batter evenly** into the pan and cook for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
** this is important. I did not take care to really smooth it out and it looked a bit like a topographical representation of a moutainous region.

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