I come from a long line of German women who feel compelled to produce baked goods pretty much nonstop from October to January. I'm not even fudging this fact a bit. I refer to the phenomenon as "extreme baking," or the condition during which our collective kitchens are completely dusted with flour and sugar, all of our tupperware containers have been filled with sweets and handed over to neighbors, and our feet ache from standing over too many mixing bowls, yet we continue to bake without ceasing. I suffer from the condition, and I don't even have a sweet tooth.
Our family's specialties run the gamut from simple to elaborate: there are artfully decorated sugar cookies, coconut bon bons, cranberry tea loaves, and candy cane twists. My mother's most popular offering has always been Brown Sugar Squares--a sort of chewy blonde brownie studded with pecans and rolled in powdered sugar while warm. I've been missing those squares mighty hard lately, but also wanted something pumpkinated, so I dug her recipe out of our old church cookbook and adjusted some proportions to include pumpkin and its favorite spices. These squares turned out ultra-moist and light, not chewy at all, but sweet and autumnal. I like them both rolled in sugar and naked. To stay balanced, I recommend having one of each.
pumpkin-brown sugar squares
- 10 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
- 1/3 cup white (granulated) sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 cup pureed cooked pumpkin (canned is fine)
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon powdered ginger
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- about 1 cup sifted powdered (confectioner's) sugar, for rolling
- Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour an 11x7-inch baking dish or brownie pan.
- Melt butter. While still warm, place in a medium mixing bowl, stir in sugars until dissolved, and let mixture cool till just slightly warm.
- Add egg, stirring well. Add pumpkin and stir until well-mixed.
- Add remaining ingredients except powdered sugar. Stir until well combined, then spread batter into prepared pan, smooshing down slightly with a rubber spatula to remove any air bubbles.
- Bake at 350 for 35 minutes, or until edges are just starting to crack and a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached.
- Cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Cut into 1 1/2" squares while still warm, and roll some or all of them in powdered sugar* (if the sugar doesn't stick you can smear it on with your fingers). Roll exactly half of your squares in sugar to create a checkerboard.
makes about 24
*The powdered sugar will soak in and disappear after about 6 hours, so if you make these in advance of serving, roll the sugared ones closer to serving time.