RICK RODGERS / COOKBOOK AUTHOR "AUTUMN GATHERINGS"
Pumpkin Hazelnut Bars
When you're asked to bring dessert to an autumn potluck, or holiday buffet, these pumpkin pie squares should be on your short list of possible recipes. First of all, baking and transporting a few pumpkin pies is no small feat, but this big pan of bars with a crisp hazelnut crust and creamy-spicy filling is a snap. If you wish, top each square with a rosette of whipped cream and a sprinkle of minced crystallized ginger.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup toasted and coarsely chopped hazelnuts (see Note)
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
One 15-ounce can solid-pack pumpkin
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter a 13 by 9-inch baking pan. Pleat a 22-inch-long piece of nonstick aluminum foil or parchment paper lengthwise to make an 8-inch-wide strip. Fit into a pan like a sling, letting the excess hang over the ends to act as "handles." Dust the buttered sides of the pan with flour and tap out the excess.
2. To make the crust, combine the flour, hazelnuts, and salt in a food processor fitted with the metal chopping blade. Process until the nuts are ground into a powder, about 20 seconds.
3. Beat the butter and brown sugar in a medium bowl with an electric mixer set on high speed until the mixture is pale, about 1 minute. With the mixer on low speed, mix in the flour mixture to make a soft dough. Press the dough firmly and evenly into the bottom of the foil-lined pan. Bake the dough until it looks set and is beginning to brown around the edges, about 15 minutes.
4. To make the filling, whisk together the pumpkin, brown sugar, eggs, cinnamon, salt ginger, and cloves in a medium bowl to dissolve the sugar. Gradually whisk in the cream.
5. Remove the crust from the oven and pour in the filling. Return to the oven. Bake until the filling is set in the center when the pan is gently shaken, about 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire cake rack and cool completely.
6. Run a knife around the inside of the pan to release the pastry from the sides. Lift up on the foil handles to remove the pastry in one piece from the pan. Cut into 24 bars. (The bars can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days.) Serve chilled or at room temperature. Makes 24 bars
Note: To toast and peel hazelnuts, spread the hazelnuts on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven, stirring occasionally, until the hazelnuts skins are cracked, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a kitchen towel and let stand for a few minutes. Wrap the nuts in the towel and use the towel as an aide to rub off the skins. Do not worry about removing every bit of skin. Cool completely.