Saturday, November 22, 2014

Dark Pumpkin Squares with Maple Frosting and Pepita Crunch

These pumpkin squares were made on a whim. I wanted to bring something over to the in-laws for a laid back Sunday afternoon but didn't want to go grocery shopping. Oh how I love thee, lazy Sundays. Per a quick survey of the cupboard, there was just enough of sugar and pumpkin to pull off this basic recipe with a few minor revisions.

Traditionally, I make this recipe with granulated sugar and vegetable oil. To switch things up and go easy on the sweetness, I halved the original amount of sugar and substituted the difference with coconut palm sugar. You can technically replace regular sugar with an equal portion of coconut palm sugar, but know that there is a subtle flavor difference so the recipe will taste different.

The jury is still out in regards to the health benefits of coconut palm sugar- it has been marketed as a healthier alternative to traditional sweeteners because it possesses nutrients. That doesn't mean it is to be abused as a miracle food. At the end of the day, it is still sugar and should be treated as such. I like to bake with it for the earthy flavor and density that it provides.

Instead of using vegetable oil, I went with the healthier alternative of apple sauce. It has nutrients and fiber that vegetable oil lacks and cuts calories without sacrificing flavor. Note, there is a subtle flavor added when using apple sauce in baked goods but in this case it's a welcome addition. Love to all the tastes of fall baked goods!

The original frosting was a simple cream cheese base with a pinch of cinnamon. Again, I tried to find healthier alternatives and went with Greek cream cheese. This is a new contender in our humble kitchen! I stumbled upon it while reading the nutritional labels of all the variations of cream cheese in the grocery store. It had the least amount of fat and the benefit of a little protein kick. With a kiss of maple syrup whipped into the mix, it has won my respect as a substitute for traditional cream cheese. 

The final modification was the pepita (pumpkin seed) crunch topping. All you need to do is mix pumpkin seeds with egg white, a sprinkle of sugar, and bake until a beautiful golden brown. It helps to provide texture to an otherwise super moist cake as well as add dimension.

The husband and I are divided on this component; he doesn't like pumpkin seeds but I love any toasted nut. My side of the story is anything toasted immediately creates a distinct flavor. He stuck his guns though and said, "leave that off my slice" as I shoved fistfuls in my face. To each their own.

Drizzle a touch of maple syrup on the final product and serve! It's moist, subtle, and lovely. It's not super duper pumpkin tasting but it has the look and spirit of fall. This cake was a hit with the fam and I hope that you like it too.

Dark Pumpkin Squares

Pepita Crunch Topping (optional)

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup pumpkin
4 ournces unsweetened apple sauce
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon maple syrup

Set oven to 350 and grease a 8x8 baking pan. I like adding a sliver of parchment paper for easy removal from the pan.

With an electric mixer, blend sugar and eggs for about 2 minutes. Add the pumpkin and apple sauce and beat on a low speed until fully incorporated.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, spices, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add to wet ingredients and mix for another minute, until combined.

Bake for 35-40 minutes.

Maple Greek Cream Cheese Frosting
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup

Beat Greek cream cheese with butter until well combined and smooth. Add confections sugar a quarter cup at a time. Finish with maple syrup and beat until smooth. Store in fridge until needed.