Pumpkin on Oatmeal: Sweet, delicious bars

Oatmeal Bars are deliciousI couldn’t find the recipe I used a few years back. Back then it was a lovely fall idea I got from the top of an oatmeal tin. If I saved it I couldn’t find it with my other recipes, oh well! Off to the interwebs! Sadly, I couldn’t find something that matched what I remembered. So instead I kind of kludged together a few suggestions. I made it very much not as sweet as it could have been. It was softer, more cake like, than before and I’m sure it was sweeter the first time I made them, but none of these things are really bad, it just depends on what you’re in the mood for I suppose.

I found three for pumpkin, date, and sweet potato bars that looked pretty good. Basically they had:

2 1/2 to 3 c oats, flour, and nuts,
3/4 to 1 c butter,
2/3 to 3/4 c brown sugar,
some salt, and sometimes baking soda, vanilla.

Their filling had:

2 to 3 c dates/pumpkin,
sugar, salt, and varying amounts of egg, milk, nuts, and spices.

You have to make sure to salt and season every component (two, in this case). I decided I wanted something a bit less sweet so I could eat it for breakfast instead of just dessert. Which means, it’s healthier, but really, if I’m eating it for breakfast instead of dessert then it probably means I’m being less healthy. Oh well! (: It does have sugar, but other than that, everything else is really good–a serving of vegetable, some flour and oats, some protein in egg and milk. And this is what I decided on:

Top and bottom crumble crust (aka the oatmeal cookie):

Mix it all together before cutting in the butter (or mashing it in with your hands!).

2 cups oats
1 1/2 c flour or a little more (whole wheat if you want)
scant 2/3 c. brown sugar

(I love the taste of brown sugar, and tend to favor it instead of white sugar,  but don’t like using molasses. Weird, huh?) Note: always measure b. sugar tightly packed not loose. This is true of all recipes. Brown sugar has a much more radically varying density when loose than white sugar or even flour.

1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda (Note: break apart any clumps first and whisk/fork/sift into the flour to distribute before adding butter. I crush clumps in a little bowl with the tablespoon before measuring)
3/4 c butter (a stick and a half)

Sift or whisk or mix well with a fork the dry ingredients, add the oats, cut in the butter. I just left the butter out all morning till it was soft. Then cube and add the butter into the dry mix and used my hands to form it into a crumb–but using a food processor works well too. Smashing a lot with a wooden spoon or cutting with a pastry cutter probably works too.

A Note about working butter into flour: The cooler the butter the more it’s like a layered flaky pastry, the warmer and more hand-worked the more like a crumble crust. Both are very delicious, so I do whichever is easier at the time, but be aware that the results are a little different. With scones I really prefer the flaky cold worked butter, but with these I don’t notice much difference. If you aren’t going to cut it in (if you use your hands or other means to mash instead of cut) then warmed butter is easier than cold. If you melt the butter the crust might be flat rather than fluffy, but it won’t be ruined.

Press the oatmeal crust flat with the heel of your palm.

I followed the advise of one of the recipes and both greased the bottom and sides and then lined the very bottom with a rectangle of parchment. I might try it again, they were really easy to cut and get out! It took most of this to make a thin crust in the 8 x 12″ pan I was using.

With what was left I ended up reserving 1 1/2 c loose topping for the top crust. Press into the pan with the heel of your palm till it’s nice and compressed to make the final product not fall apart as easily.

Pre-bake the crust about 15 minutes at 350F or at 375F. I compromised doing the whole thing at 350F and then crisping the top at 375 at the end when I saw it was still very moist and the pumpkin filling was almost done.

Filling (aka the pumpkin pie):

Mm, flecks of cinnamon!

1 can (about 2 c) pumpkin puree
half a can (about 3/4 c) evaporated milk
1/2 c brown sugar (measured packed, as always)
1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Pour pumpkin onto warm crust (careful you don’t burn your fingers on the hot pan!). Sprinkle remainder of crust crumble onto the top. It will fall a little into the pumpkin and stick. Basically grab a handful at a time with cleaned hands, squish it to form crumbs, then move your hand around as you move your fingers to drop crumbs and leave it wherever it falls. Return to oven to bake till a toothpick comes out clean. I’m afraid I was trying out different temperatures, baking at 350F till it was nearly done and then turning it up to 375F to crisp up the crust a bit. Your mileage may vary, but as starting values: bake 30-40 minutes at 350F.

Oatmeal pumpkin bars, grab one quick before they disappear

Refrigerate if you don’t eat it all before it cools. Delicious fresh, or later both hot or cold. Keeps about a week.

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