Pumpkin, salted caramel pair tradition, trendiness

Just as foods that evoke pumpkin pie are riding a wave of popularity, salted caramel has been a food darling for some time now. Salted-caramel lattes can be found on coffee-shop menus along with pumpkin ones, mentioned in a recent food-section story. And salted-caramel stouts have even cropped up to complement the pumpkin beer craze of the past few years.

So it’s only natural to combine trendy salted caramel with traditional pumpkin throughout this month and through the cold season when warming spices and decadent desserts are most welcome. Try this recipe, one of several featuring pumpkin that I’ll share in the next couple of weeks, courtesy of Tribune News Service. The salted caramel sauce could be drizzled over your pumpkin ice cream, too, or swirled into your latte.

Tribune News Service photo

Salted Caramel-Swirled Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

1 stick unsalted butter

1 cup graham cracker crumbs

3/4 cup light-brown sugar, packed

1 tablespoon cornstarch

Pinch salt, optional

1 egg

6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature and very soft

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/3 heaping cup pumpkin purée

2 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 cup thick salted caramel sauce (reipce follows; or use store-bought, but not use ice cream or sundae sauce made with corn syrup listed as the first ingredient; it will be too thin)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on 2 sides, and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.

For crust: In a medium, microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter, about 1 minute on high power. Add the graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar, cornstarch and salt, if using. Mix well with a fork to combine. Pour crumbs into prepared pan and use a spatula to pack mixture firmly into pan in an even, flat layer. Set aside.

For filling: In a medium bowl (you can use same, unwashed bowl), combine the egg, cream cheese, sugar, pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice and vanilla, and whisk (or use a mixer) until smooth and combined. Softer cream cheese makes it easier for mixture to come together. Add the flour and mix just to incorporate. Do not overmix.

Pour filling into crust. Top with the caramel sauce, swirled in a fanciful design.

Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes or until center is set with very little jiggle; some looseness is OK, but there should be no sloshing in center. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out mostly clean or with just a few moist crumbs. Cool bars in pan for 1 hour before lifting out, using the foil overhang, and slicing. They are best when served chilled: Cover pan with foil and refrigerate 2 hours or overnight before slicing and serving. Bars will keep in an airtight container in refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Makes 12 servings.

SALTED CARAMEL SAUCE: In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine 1 cup granulated sugar and 1/4 cup water. Heat over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. Raise heat to medium-high and bring to a boil without stirring. Carefully use a wet pastry brush or damp paper towel to wipe down any crystals that cling to sides of saucepan. Failure to remove them could result in a grainy sauce. Boil until mixture is a deep amber color, for about 5 to 6 minutes; it will turn color fairly quickly. Remove pan from heat and carefully whisk in 3/4 cup heavy cream; mixture will bubble up vigorously. Add 1 tablespoon vanilla extract; it will bubble up again. Stir in 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste (if using table salt, use less — perhaps 1/4 to 3/4 teaspoon). Transfer caramel to a glass or heatproof jar with a lid. Caramel sauce will keep airtight for months in refrigerator. Makes about 1 cup.

Recipe from “Cooking With Pumpkin” by Averie Sunshine.

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  • Blog Author

    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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