“Are you ready for me to eat four of these in a row?” asked my husband. He was standing at our dining table, holding up the whiteboard backdrop in the above photo since I couldn’t keep it propped up no matter what I’d tried.
I smiled to myself at the thought. I knew he fell for these pumpkin bars, a Martha Stewart recipe, after trying one from my test batch. Both he and I dig the combination of the earthy pumpkin spices with the semisweet chocolate chips and the bars’ dense yet cakey texture.
Still, eating four in a row? At the time, he was training for the 150-mile Bike MS Bay to Bay Tour and eating healthy was his go-to. So, I naturally assumed he was joking. Later, when I checked on the container in which I’d stored the rest of my latest batch, I noticed that four bars were indeed missing.
“I warned you,” he said.
To make these squares, I stocked up on all purpose flour, baking soda, salt, 2 sticks of unsalted butter that I’d left out to come to room temperature (an important detail!), granulated sugar, large eggs, vanilla extract, a 15-ounce can of pumpkin puree, a 12 ounce-package of semisweet chocolate chips, and pumpkin pie spice (a seasonal ingredient I was able to find at Trader Joe’s).
If you aren’t able to find pumpkin pie spice, Martha Stewart says you can make your own by combining 1 1/2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon, 3/4 teaspoons of ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg, and 1/2 teaspoon each of ground allspice and ground cloves.
As for baking tools, the big-ticket items I gathered were a 9-by-13-inch baking pan, a medium mixing bowl, a large mixing bowl, measuring cups for dry ingredients, and my stand-up electric mixer (though a hand-held electric mixer will do).
Want to give it a go?
Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees and preparing the baking pan. While Martha recommends lining the pan with foil, I prefer greasing it with butter then dusting it with flour. This way, the bottom, edges, and corners of the resulting cake are smooth instead of occasionally indented from hairline creases in the pressed-out foil.
Whisk 2 cups of all purpose flour (each of which has been spooned into a measuring cup and leveled), 1 teaspoon of baking soda, 3/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1 tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice in a medium mixing bowl until well combined. Set aside.
Next, in a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to combine 1 1/4 cups sugar and both sticks of the room temperature unsalted butter until smooth (if you’re using a stand-up mixer and the paddle attachment, you’ll see it go through stages a-d below). Remember, you won’t get the necessary smooth texture unless the unsalted butter is at room temperature.
Beat 1 large egg and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract into the creamed butter and sugar until well combined.
Then beat 1 cup of pumpkin puree into the wet ingredients, and don’t worry if the mixture looks curdled. It isn’t; it just appears that way.
Now, mix in the dry ingredients from the medium mixing bowl into the wet ingredients until just combined. If you choose to use your electric mixer to bring the ingredients together, dribble the dry ingredients slowly and carefully. As for me, I do this part by hand to reduce the poofing of dry ingredients into the air as I add it to the wet ingredients. Lebron James, I am not.
Just keep in mind: If you also opt to do this part without the use of the electric mixer, drizzle a half cup of the dry mixture onto the wet mixture at a time until it’s all been incorporated. Be careful not to overmix!
Finally, fold in the chocolate chips.
To make sure the batter is spread evenly throughout the prepared pan, I spoon lumps of the thick batter across the pan, then spread it from the center out to the edges and corners.
Then, bake the beautiful beast on a rack set in the center of the preheated oven until the cake’s edges just begin to pull away from the sides and a toothpick inserted in the center of the pan comes out with few moist crumbs attached, about 35-40 minutes.
Let the cake cool completely in the pan. Once cooled, getting the cake out of the pan depends on how you’d prepared the pan:
- If you buttered-and-floured the pan like I did, cover the top of the pan with a cutting board that’s wide enough to cover the pan top, carefully turn the pan and cutting board over so that the pan is sitting upside-down on the cutting board, and watch the cake slowly slide itself onto the board.
- If you lined the pan with foil, carefully lift the cake out of the pan by the foil overhang, set a cutting board on top of the cake, flip both over so that the cake top is resting on the cutting board and the foil side is facing up, and peel the foil off of the cake.
Then, use a serrated knife to cut the cake into 32 squares and prepare to defend the dessert from any pumpkin-pastry lovers in your household until you’re ready to serve them.
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars
Recipe from Martha Stewart
Makes 32 squares // 30 minutes prep, 35-40 minutes to bake
2 cups all purpose flour, spooned and leveled
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice (such as found at Trader Joe’s during the fall)
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 12 ounce-package semisweet chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9-by-13-inch baking pan, either by greasing the bottom, sides, and corners with butter and then dusting it all with flour, or following Martha Stewart’s method of lining the entire baking pan with enough foil to leave an overhang on all sides.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt until you no longer see dark clumps of pie spice. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, cream the room temperature butter and sugar on medium-high speed until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat the mixture until just combined (you should no longer see bubbling from the egg or dark streaks of vanilla). Beat in the pumpkin puree until the mixture appears curdled.
- Slowly mix in the dry ingredients from the medium bowl into the wet ingredients in the large bowl until just combined, being careful not to overmix (you shouldn’t see any streaks of dry ingredients). Fold in the chocolate chips.
- Spoon batter into prepared pan and spread it out evenly. Bake on a rack set in the middle of the 350-degree oven until the cake’s edges just begin to pull away from the sides and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with few moist crumbs attached, 35-40 minutes. Cool completely in the pan.
- If you buttered-and-floured the pan, cover the top of the pan with a wide-enough cutting board and carefully turn the pan over to release the cake onto the cutting board. If you lined the pan with foil, gently lift the cake out of the pan by the overhang, set a cutting board on the cake top, flip the cake and board so that the foil is facing up, and peel off the foil. Use a serrated knife to cut the cake into 32 bars.