Fall Time’s Perfect Pumpkin Caramel Bars

Fall weather, fall leaves, fall activities, apple cider, and fall time treats go hand-in-hand this time of the year.  Trader Joe’s seems to have stocked its shelves with anything and everything that can be pumpkin spice-ified.  Pumpkin flavored cheerios,  really now? But, alas, case in point.  

Don’t get me wrong, I love pumpkin and squashes of all shapes, sizes, tastes, and textures.  In sweets & in savories, I am game!  By the time New Year’s rolls around, my husband doesn’t even want to hear the word “pumpkin.”  He is more of a sugar cookies with thick butter cream gooey-ness on top.  So I earned my “good-wife” badge by appeasing his request.

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In reviewing my week-night meal plan for this week, I probably should have moderated the squash intake a bit, but beggars can’t be choosers.  Thats right, I’m talking to you my lovely family.

Who else is loving my $6 HomeDepot-impulse-buy scarecrow?! :)
Who else is loving my $6 impulse-buy scarecrow from Home Depot?! 🙂

So amidst the pumpkin patch-ing, dog walking amongst color changing leaves, and cuddling up with a good book a time or two; I have been soaking in the flavors of Fall with some baking.  Thus far, my experiments have resulted in a couple of “share worthy” recipes.  Maybe you have even tried these Salted Caramel Apple Crisp Bars…If not, you should!  ….Unless you don’t like apples, caramel, or delicious things.

Harvest party, anyone?
Harvest party, anyone?

So I believe I may have mentioned my pumpkin fandom, right?  But in case you fell asleep back there, I LOVE pumpkin.  Pumpkin Caramel Bars seem like a no-brainer because pumpkin + caramel + brown sugary-shortbread crust are, to quote The Sound of Music: “These a few of my favorite things…”  And, combining them = AMAZING!

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Before I launch into the recipe, I have a confession to make.  Pie crust and I are not buddies.  I love pie.  And when I say this, please note that I reallllly LOVE pie.  But I am of the “pie crust is an art form” line of thinking, and this is one form of art that I have yet to master.  So the charm-factor that accompanies homemade pumpkin pie is negated with the thought of battling it out with pie-crust.  So these bars have all of the pumpkin pie goodness on top with a way more awesome and way more simple base – same base as I used on the Salted Caramel Apple Bars!! So pumpkin lovers, consider yourselves warned, these addicting.

Perfect Pumpkin Caramel Bars

For the Base

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • shy 1/2 tsp. salt
  • shy 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour

For the layer of Caramel 

  • 1/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt (or to taste)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

For the Pumpkin Filling

  • 1 can of pure pumpkin puree
  • 1 can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 3 tbl. flour
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  In a separate bowl combine rest of crust ingredients, then add 1/3 at a time to the butter mixture.  Mixture should be crumbly. Press mixture into the bottom of  a parchment lined 13 x 9 inch pan.  Bake for 10-12 minutes and then remove from oven.

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Increase oven temperature to 375 degrees.

Now to the caramel.  Melt the butter in a sauce pan and then add the brown sugar. After the sugar crystals have dissolved but before the mixture starts to bubble heavily, slowly stir the cream into the mixture.  Continue to stir over heat until a thickened sauce forms and it can coat the back of a chilled spoon.  This should only take a couple of minutes.  Remove from heat and immediately pour an even layer over the partially baked crust.

For the pumpkin filling, combine pumpkin, condensed milk, and brown sugar in a stand mixer until completely combined.  Add beaten eggs a little at a time, mixing between each addition.  In a small bowl, combine flour, salt, and spices.  Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture 1/3 at a time.  Mix until combined but don’t over-mix.  Pour the pumpkin mixture over the caramel layer and return the pan to the oven.  Bake for an additional 25-30 minutes, or until the center of the pumpkin mixture has set.

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Allow the bars to cool in the pan, removing them while the pumpkin mixture is hot can cause them to lose their shape.  Cool completely before eating.  For best results, store in the refrigerator.

Yummm….

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