Recently, a friend was cooking at a dinner for eighty people, one of these social events where everyone pitches in to help cover the costs of the food. Being from the panhandle of Florida, she was preparing a Cajun-inspired menu and asked if I would help with the dessert. While I was originally going to make sweet potato pie, plans morphed and we ended up with pumpkin bars, which turned out nicely nonetheless.
Sweet potato pie would have been much more authentic for a Cajun dessert but local sweet potatoes are very small and the larger imported sweet potatoes are ridiculously expensive. I opted instead for pumpkins, which are plentiful and much less expensive. Scaling up from a recipe that serves maybe 16 people, I wasn’t sure just how much pumpkin I needed, so bought six.
After cutting them, steaming them, and peeling and mashing the flesh, I had a lot of pumpkin puree. In fact, it was about half again what I ended up needing. That’s okay – you can freeze pumpkin puree.
Instead of a usual pie crust, I decided on a recipe that used shortbread. Shortbread is not only easier to make than pie crust, it also adds a different dimension to the texture – providing a crispier base versus a tender and flaky one.
Instead of pies, which would be more difficult to transport, I opted for four large aluminum trays that came with plastic covers. I spread the shortbread dough on the bottom and then baked it for about 15 minutes until it started firming up and tanning.
The filling was pumpkin puree, brown sugar, cream, egg yolks, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger powder, and cloves. I whipped egg whites in a separate bowl and folded them into the mixture, creating a lighter texture.
The filling baked in about thirty minutes. After cooling to room temperature, I put the four trays in my refrigerator and carried them to the event the next afternoon. A little chilling helps film up the pumpkin pie and makes it much easier to cut and serve.
The end product, shown from a smaller test batch I did two days before. This version didn’t have the egg whites whipped separately, so the filling isn’t as tall as in the final version. Still just as tasty, though!