Oh, pumpkin, we’ve done you wrong.
We took what was a straightforward fall dessert — classic pumpkin pie — and blithely grafted its flavors onto cookies, breakfast cereal, dog treats, vodkas, yogurts, lattes, pasta sauces, bagels and so much more.
Worse, we tricked you up with pumpkin pie spice, a concoction of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice and cloves. Any three of those spices suffice, as the good people of Libby’s know from their famous recipe on every label of their canned pumpkin.
But five? That’s a lot of froufrou for a humble squash.
Still, let’s not throw the pumpkin out with the pumpkin spice latté deodorant. (Yes, it really exists.)
Besides, pumpkin is good for us. Its fiber, potassium and vitamin C content supports a healthy heart. It has scads of vitamin A, which is a powerful antioxidant. You want more? Try thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, iron, magnesium and phosphorus.
Here’s a bar recipe that pairs pumpkin pureé plumped with cream cheese and a chocolaty brownie. The brownie part lures in those who have given up on pumpkin, while a light touch with the spices lets us rediscover the flavor of this vibrant vegetable. Swirled together like a marble cake, this treat also is a looker on any plate.
It’s easy to make, and the pumpkin flavor deepens with an overnight chill in the refrigerator, making it a perfect do-ahead treat.
It’s time to restore the honor of pumpkin. And if it takes a little chocolate, so be it.
Pumpkin cheesecake swirl brownies
Makes: 1 (9- by 13-inch pan, cut into 48 bars)
1 cup chopped pecans
8 ounces cream cheese (not light or low-fat), room temperature
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup pumpkin purée (from a 15-ounce can)
6 eggs, divided
2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
1 3/4 cups flour, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups brown sugar (light or dark)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Lightly toast pecans in a dry sauté pan until fragrant.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9- by 13-inch pan with parchment paper or greased aluminum foil, letting edges extend a few inches above the pan; you’ll later use them as handles.
For the pumpkin cheesecake batter: Beat the cream cheese and granulated sugar together until smooth. Beat 2 eggs with a fork and beat into cream cheese, with the pumpkin and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Stir in 1/4 cup flour, cinnamon and ginger. Set aside.
For the brownie batter: Melt the butter and chocolate together in a medium saucepan over low heat until smooth, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat. Stir in the brown sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla, then with a whisk, beat in 4 eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each. With a wooden spoon, stir in 1 1/2 cups flour, baking powder and salt until no floury streaks remain.
Spread half of the brownie batter into the baking pan. Drop alternating spoonfuls of the pumpkin batter and the remaining brownie batter into the pan, then sprinkle the toasted pecans over all.
Run a table knife through the batter in a zigzag motion to make attractive swirls. Don’t overdo it or the colors will lose their definition.
Bake 35 to 37 minutes until the edges are firm and the middle is just set. Let cool completely on a wire rack, then cover well and chill overnight in the refrigerator.
The next day, use the “handles” of the parchment or aluminum foil to lift the bars from the pan. Peel off the paper, then slice.
Note: Stir any remaining pumpkin purée into your oatmeal or yogurt.
Nutrition information per each of 48 bars: 130 calories, 9 g fat, 40 mg sodium, 11 g carbohydrates, 4 g saturated fat, 6 mg total sugars, 2 g protein, 40 mg cholesterol, 1 g dietary fiber
Exchanges per serving: 1 carb, 2 fat.