This recipe started out with me wanting to make a gluten- and dairy-free pumpkin dessert that could be eaten by hand at a party. But I didn’t just want to make regular one-layer pumpkin bars or pumpkin blondies, and I wanted it to have a little more to it than pumpkin pie – but it definitely had to have a crust. I found recipes for pumpkin layer bars, but they all had coconut or coconut butter, which I feel takes away from the pumpkin-ness a bit.
After much research, inspiration, and experimentation, I present to you: Four-Layer Paleo Pumpkin Bars. Almond meal crust, date-cashew butter caramel, creamy pumpkin custard, and crisp maple pecans. They’re a bit of work, a little rich, and ultimately indulgent… but best of all they’re clean as can be. No refined sugar or anything :)
Be sure to keep the bars refrigerated until serving, otherwise the pumpkin and caramel layers will soften and become much harder to eat with your hands. If you don’t mind the mess or prefer to eat them with a fork (perhaps topped with some dairy-free ice cream?) then disregard this and do yo’ thang.
This recipe is:
• Refined sugar free
Four-Layer Paleo Pumpkin Bars
Layer 1: Almond Meal Crust
• 2 cups almond meal
• 1 tablespoon raw cacao powder
• 1/2 tsp pink himalayan sea salt
• 1/2 tsp baking soda
• 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
• 3 tablespoons grade B pure maple syrup
• 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 325°F. In a medium bowl, mix dry ingredients together.
2. In a small bowl, combine wet ingredients. Whisk until oil is no longer separated.
3. Pour wet ingredients into dry and stir to combine.
4. Press the “dough” into the bottom of a 9 x 13″ pan. Use the palm of your hand to press the dough about 1/4″ thick.
5. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
Layer 2: Date-Cashew Caramel
• 2 cups (about 15) Medjool dates, pitted
• 1 tablespoon warm water
• 3 tablespoons coconut cream
• 1/2 cup cashew butter (grind 1 cup raw cashews in food processor for 10-15 minutes)
• 1/2 tsp pink himalayan sea salt
1. Blend dates and water in food processor until no longer whole. Add the coconut cream and process until combined.
2. Add in cashew butter and sea salt and blend until smooth.
3. Spoon the caramel over the cooled crust and spread into a smooth, even layer.
4. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours until set, or leave overnight.
Layer 3: Pumpkin Custard
• 1 can BPA-free pure pumpkin (or 1 3/4 cup fresh)
• 2 eggs
• 1/4 cup coconut cream
• 2 tablespoons grade B pure maple syrup
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
• 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
• 1/8 tsp allspice
• 1/8 tsp cloves
1. Combine all ingredients except eggs in a medium sized saucepan, stirring gently to combine.
2. Whisk eggs in small bowl until foamy. Gently fold into pumpkin mixture.
3. Continuously whisk pumpkin mixture over medium heat until bubbling (be careful, it may splash!)
4. Whisk for about 3 more minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a separate bowl and let cool.
5. Spread the pumpkin mixture over the caramel layer and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Layer 4: Maple Pecans
• 1 cup pecans, chopped
• 1 tablespoon coconut oil
• 1 tsp cinnamon
• 3 tablespoons maple syrup
1. Heat coconut oil over medium heat. Add chopped pecans and stir constantly – otherwise they will burn!
2. As you stir, add the cinnamon and maple syrup. Continue until pecans have toasted slightly, about 3-4 minutes.
3. Remove from heat and let cool. Break any pecans apart that have stuck together and sprinkle evenly on the pumpkin layer.
Are you ready for it? Last step:
Cut into squares and take a second to admire all your hard work. Aren’t they pretty?! Alright, enough of that. Dig in!
edit: This post is part of Allergy Free Alaska’s Whole Food Fridays – Thanksgiving Edition!