Chewy, Gooey Pumpkin Bars

Lately, I’ve been involved in a head-on battle with what I’ve now dubbed my¬†Achilles¬†heel of baking: muffins. Truth be told, I’ve always considered myself more of a “cook” than a baker, but I’ve had my fair share of successes, of which I’ve posted on this site. But muffins have always brought me some difficulty. Issues with texture, dryness, sweetness and flavor plague my muffin endeavors more often than not. Occasionally I get it right. Usually I don’t. For some reason, though, I decided that this week would be the week I mastered muffins. Judging from this post, I think you can guess that muffins, it turns out, “mastered” me. Well, let’s just say we’re currently at an impasse, and I’m contemplating my next move. Just to give you an idea of how many muffins I’ve made in the past week, take a look at the collage of muffin photos I’ve taken:

…and that’s just a sampling.

In the meantime, I decided to go a different route. With fall permeating the air (the cool breezes, the shorter days, the Cicadas chirping in the evening…) my muffin-weary mind naturally turned to pumpkin. My intention was to create a cake-like bar, and was thus disappointed upon realizing these bars turned out far from cakey. I was not in the mood for another baking failure. But upon reconsideration, I opened my mind to the notion of a chewier bar. My mind was even more open to this idea when I tasted one bite. Then another. Then another…until I realized I was slightly addicted to these enigmatically chewy little bars.

My trusty taste testers (who had mixed reviews on many of my muffin attempts) were all unanimously fans of these as well. Phew. I couldn’t take another recipe “failure.” Though shouldn’t say the word “fail”… In my state of muffin frustration, my dad shared with me Thomas Edison’s view on the concept of failure: “I have not failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

I appreciate Mr. Edison’s sentiment, but there’s a fundamental flaw in applying his logic to baking: testing light bulbs, as far as I know, won’t make you fat.

Gluten-Free Chewy, Gooey Pumpkin Bars:

2 cups brown rice flour

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 1/2 cups canned (unsweetened) pumpkin

1 cup coconut nectar

1 cup hot water

1/3 cup coconut oil

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce

Frosting:

1 cup raw cashews, soaked for 1 hour

1/4 cup coconut nectar

1/4 cup lemon juice

3 tablespoons canned pumpkin

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

water as needed

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, xanthan gum, salt and spices. Add wet ingredients (in no particular order) and whisk until everything is incorporated. Pour batter into a greased, 9×13″ and bake in preheated oven for 50-55 minutes, or until center bounces back when pressed. Let cool on a wire rack.

3. To make frosting, blend all of the ingredients in a high-powered blender until smooth, adding water as needed until frosting reaches desired consistency. Spread frosting over pumpkin bars as they cool. Let cool completely before slicing. I actually like chilling these in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours, as the flavor tends to intensify and texture improves, though this is optional.

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