The winter months find me seeking comfort and warmth in every kind of root vegetable. That might sound silly coming from someone who lives in California, where even in the northern half of the state, the temperatures rarely get below 45 degrees even at the coldest part of the night. But I feel cold more often, and I feel as though nature intended us to spend more time indoors, playing games or doing puzzles in front of a roaring fire and eating plenty of soups and roasted things.
My pantry is currently stocked with three kinds of squash, onions, carrots, shallots and lots of sweet potatoes. I think of every excuse to incorporate some deep yellow or orange-colored vegetable into our meals–roast meats and vegetables one night, carrot soup the next, baked sweet potato fries often, etc.
But I can only bake and consume so many pumpkin pies before I begin to feel glutinous. Which is why I was thrilled to see a recipe last month for squash dessert bars. Naturally sweet and slightly nutty, these bars immediately became our favorites. (Actually, there’s another bar recipe I promise to post soon that we also love, that doesn’t even require cooking.) I hope you like these as much as we do!
Squash walnut crumble bars (recipe adapted from Love & Lemons)
For the crust:
1¼ cups all-purpose flour, regular or gluten-free* (see my mix below)
1¼ cups walnuts, chopped fairly fine
1/4 cup brown sugar
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 Tbsp ground flax seed
1/4 teaspoon salt
*I use 1/2 cup GF flour, 1/2 cup sorghum flour,1/4 cup almond flour/meal with great results.
For the squash layer:
1 cup cooked squash puree or mash from buttercup or butternut squash, or sweet potato (avoid canned)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1-2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 375F degrees.
Note: This step can be done in advance. Cut a buttercup or butternut squash in half and scoop out seeds and anything stringy. Place the squash cut side down on a parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet. Using a toothpick, skewer or fork, poke a few holes in the top of the squash halves and roast until you can easily slide a knife or fork in and out, about 45 minutes. Let the squash cool then scoop out the flesh into a bowl, and mash the cooked squash with a fork until the consistency is fairly smooth. Set aside.
Reduce the oven temperature to 350F.
Line an 8×8-inch baking dish with parchment paper with the paper going up the sides of the dish. Using a pastry cutter and bowl or a food processor on pulse, mix together the flour, walnuts, brown sugar, butter and salt until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs (with some pea-sized). You can add a few drops of water if the mixture seems too dry.
Set aside 1/2 cup of the crumble mixture for the topping.
Dump the rest of the crumble mixture into the baking dish. Using a large, fairly flat spoon or the palm of your hand, firmly and evenly press the crumble mixture into the dish. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly golden on the edges. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes.
While the crust is cooling, mash together 1 cup of the squash puree with the butter, maple syrup, cinnamon and salt. Stir until smooth. (Adjust spices to your taste.).
Evenly spread the squash puree over the crust. Evenly sprinkle the remainder of the crumble mixture over the squash layer. Bake an additional 10-12 minutes or until the crust turns lightly golden.
Chill bars in the fridge for 3-4 hours to set before slicing. To slice, carefully lift two opposite sides of the parchment paper out of the pan. Use a sharp knife to slice bars into nine squares or 2×3-inch rectangles. The bars will keep for 3-4 days in an airtight container in the fridge.