There is just something about the month of November that I love. I can't put my finger on exactly what makes it so special, but it has always been one of my favorites. It may be the cold, the crispness of winter arriving with leaves flitting through the air, the cranes trilling as they fly to the river each evening, the fact that it gets dark and quiet around 5:30 (I both hate and love this), being able to spend more time with my family, or maybe it is the anticipation of the holidays. I assume it is a combination of all of these things and more.
Lately, our family has been discussing family traditions. At first, we thought that our lifestyles did not permit the establishment of traditions. But as we talked about it more, I began to think that traditions are really just customs that set the mood for special occasions. For instance, for the past eight or so years, we drove to my grandparents house in a small Northern New Mexico town for Thanksgiving. Each time I was there I would walk around the quiet neighborhood and for the first time realize how cold it is in late November. I would help my grandmother and mother cook all day long, enjoying the company, the warmth, and the smells of the kitchen. My brother, my grandfather, and I would all settle in their cozy living room to watch the Macy's day parade.
Even though we no longer go to my grandparents house and do these things, I still always associate Thanksgiving with images of the leaves carpeting the sidewalk on their street, the elegant table setting my grandmother set out, the picture of the extravagant parade on the screen of their old fashioned television, and the wonderful conversations we had while sharing the feast. For me it was those simple traditions we had that created memories that I will always remember.
My family is always experimenting with different recipes, so we only have a few foods that we traditionally make. These pumpkin chocolate chip bars are one of them. They are very nostalgic for me because my mother always made them around this time of year. This is the first time I attempted making them gluten free, but I was pretty satisfied with the results. For me they are just one of those baked goods that the moment you take a bite, you are brought back to earlier days. The spices, melty chocolate, and pumpkin marry together to create a perfect memory.
Pumpkin and Chocolate Chip Squares (GF)
makes 12 to 24 squares depending on size
1 cooking pumpkin or 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
2 cups Pamela's store bought gluten free flour mix (I used the bread mix and flour blend)
1 tablespoon pumpkin- pie spice
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 package (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1. If using a cooking pumpkin, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Depending on the size of the pumpkin, cut it into quarters or eighths. Scoop out and discard the seeds and fibers. Place the pumpkin pieces skin-side down in a shallow roasting tin. Roast for 45 minutes, or until the flesh is tender. Leave to cool for a while, then scoop out the flesh and blitz it to a puree or mash well.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line bottom and sides of a 9 by 13 inch baking pan with foil, leaving an overhang on all sides. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour mix, pie spice, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
3. With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed until smooth; beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in pumpkin puree (mixture may appear curdled). Reduce speed to low, and mix in dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
4. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Bake until edges begin to pull away from sides of pan and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely in pan.
5. Lift cake from pan (using foil as an aid). Peel off foil, and use a serrated knife to cut into 12-24 squares.
Recipe slightly adapted from Martha Stewart Living