Eric Akis: Double up on pumpkin spice with squares and a latte

Eric Akis

If you enjoy the taste of pumpkin you’re in luck, because today I’m offering a sweet way and a hot and foamy way to enjoy it.

The sweet way is a recipe for pumpkin squares that tastes similar to pumpkin pie. They are a bit richer and more divine, though, because of the buttery base and sweetened pecan topping. You can eat the squares as is or create a more fanciful looking plated dessert by topping a square with a dollop of whipped cream and a pecan half as shown in the photo.

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The hot and foamy, not to mention comforting, way to enjoy the taste of pumpkin is a homemade version of a pumpkin spice latte.

As you’ll see in the recipe, it’s not hard to make and involves warming milk with some pumpkin purée, vanilla and spices. You then aerate the hot milk mixture until very foamy on top and pour it into a cup that has espresso or other strong coffee in it. The foam you held back when pouring the milk into the cup is then spooned on top of the latte, some cinnamon is sprinkled on, and it is ready to sip and enjoy on an autumn day.

Pumpkin Squares with Pecans and Spice

Rich, pumpkin pie-like squares with a buttery oat base and a pecan topping. This recipe yields 20 to 24 squares depending on how large you cut them. If that’s too many, freeze the squares you won’t eat now on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. When frozen solid, individually wrap each square and store in a freezer container until ready to thaw and enjoy.

Preparation time: 25 minutes, plus cooling time

Cooking time: 85 to 90 minutes

Makes: 20 to 24 squares

1 cup + 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour (divided)

1 cup packed brown sugar (divided)

1 cup large flake rolled oats

1/2 cup cold butter, cut into small cubes

4 large eggs

1 (796 mL) can pumpkin purée (see Note)

2 (354 mL) cans evaporated milk

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/2 cup pecan pieces

2 Tbsp soft butter

• whipped cream, to taste, and pecan halves, for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line the bottom on a 13- x 9-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Place 1 cup of the flour, 1/2 cup of the brown sugar and oats in a medium bowl and mix to combine. With two forks, a pastry cutter or your fingers, thoroughly cut in the cubes of cold butter until mixture is crumbly. Spoon the mixture into the baking pan. Now firmly press on and evenly compact the mixture creating a base for the square. Set pan in the middle of the oven and bake base 20 minutes, until light golden brown.

While base bakes, make filling by placing eggs in a bowl and beating until well blended. Add the pumpkin, evaporated milk, granulated sugar, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves and whisk until very thoroughly combined.

When base has baked 20 minutes, carefully pour the filling in to the pan. Bake 50 minutes more.

While filling bakes, make topping by placing remaining 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 Tbsp flour, pecans and 2 Tbsp soft butter in a bowl. Mix until thoroughly combined and crumbly.

When filling has baked 50 minutes, sprinkle the topping evenly over the square. Bake 15 to 20 minutes more, until filling is set.

Set baking pan on a baking rack and cool square to room temperature. Now refrigerate square until firm enough to cut into squares, at least two hours. (The square can be made a day or two in advance of serving. Keep covered and refrigerated until needed.)

If desired, top plated servings of the square with a dollop of whipped cream and pecan half.

Note: If you can’t find a 796 mL can of pumpkin, use two 398 mL cans instead.

Pumpkin Spice Latte

Here’s a homemade version of the popular autumn drink sold at coffee shops and other establishments at this time of year. The recipe makes one drink but could be doubled or further expanded.

Preparation time: a few minutes

Cooking time: a few minutes

Makes: one serving

1 cup homo or 2 per cent milk (see Eric’s options)

1 1/2 Tbsp canned or homemade pumpkin pure

1 1/2 tsp brown sugar, or taste

1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/8 tsp ground cinnamon, plus some for sprinkling

• tiny pinches ground cloves, ginger, nutmeg and sea salt

1 or 2 shots of espresso or 1/4 cup strongly brewed coffee

Place milk, pumpkin, sugar, vanilla and spices in a small to medium pot. Set over medium heat and whisk milk until very hot and just below a simmer (do not boil).

Remove pot from heat and use an immersion (hand) blender to whirl milk mixture until it’s very foamy on top. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you could rapidly whisk milk mixture with until very foamy.

Pour coffee into a large coffee cup. Pour the milk mixture into the cup, holding back some of the foam with a spoon when pouring it. Now spoon that foam on top of the latte. Sprinkle latte with a little cinnamon and serve.

eakis@timescolonist.com

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