Pumpkies (pumpkin chocolate chip bars)

By | November 27, 2012

This recipe and story first appeared in the Nov. 19, 2012 edition of “From Tali’s Kitchen,” my biweekly cooking column in Binah magazine.

I have exactly one memory of baking cookies with my mother, and it’s from my teenage years. We did lots of other things together – leisurely mother-daughter shopping trips, scrapbooking workshops – but baking wasn’t one of them. My family didn’t make a big deal out of dessert (though my siblings might have done things differently if it had been up to them). Suffice it to say that there weren’t any cookie jars on our kitchen counter.

But one November day about 15 years ago, my then-2-year-old brother came home from nursery school with a recipe sheet in his tiny backpack. The recipe was for pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, and my mother decided to give it a try.

Not surprisingly, she made a few adaptations to make this dessert more health-conscious: swapping out the all-purpose flour for whole wheat, using honey instead of sugar, and opting for organic chocolate chips (the standard in our house). She also made them as bars instead of cookies, which was a logical choice given that honey makes this batter considerably softer.

But we all loved them. And a family tradition was born.

Year after year, for as long as I can remember, my mother made trays of pumpkin chocolate chip bars in the fall, often doubling the batches in an effort to get them to last longer than a day or two.

When my sister was 14, she started making them throughout the year, adding a splash of (organic) caramel or hazelnut syrup, depending on what was in the cabinets. She often slid a second tray into the oven while my brothers finished off the first one (I might have helped a little).

Five years ago, they even began to make a regular appearance at my Grandpa’s Shabbos morning kiddush in Miami. Every week for the last 25 years, he’s been a regular at the local hashkama minyan. Grandpa leaves the house at 7:00 a.m., returns around 9:15, and makes kiddush at home (unless it’s Shabbos Mevarchim, in which case kiddush is held in shul). For many years, his standard kiddush fare was a handful of (store-bought) chocolate chip cookies.

When Grandma died in 2007, my mother and her siblings worked together to make Grandpa’s newfound household tasks easier to handle. To help with the cooking, my mother flew to Florida with copious amounts of frozen homemade kugel and pumpkin chocolate chip bars. She chose the bars as a treat for his Shabbos morning kiddushim.

My aunt organized the full-size freezer in my grandparents’ house and taped an inventory of its contents to the door. The bars froze (and traveled) well, and Grandpa gave them a hearty thumbs-up.

It was actually he who coined the name “pumpies,” alluding to the fact that they’re similar to brownies, just with a pumpkin base. The name later morphed into “pumpkies,” which is what we all call them today.

American pumpkies use canned pumpkin, but when you live in a country that doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, the canned version is not a viable option. (This still cracks me up. Has it really never occurred to Israeli food manufacturers to produce canned pumpkin? You don’t have to participate in Thanksgiving to bake with the stuff.)

Fortunately, though, fresh pumpkin is readily available in Israeli supermarkets, and it’s certainly simple enough to make a pumpkin puree. Just chop it up, boil for twenty minutes or until soft, and mash. I make this puree in large quantities and freeze it in half-cup portions so I have it at the ready for cooking and baking. Intimidated? Don’t be. Besides, fresh ingredients are always, always better.

As you enjoy the season’s bounty this fall, give your family their first taste of pumpkies. The batter comes together quickly, they’re a more wholesome option than traditional brownies, and they can be tweaked to fit individual preferences.

Try making half the batter with just chocolate chips for the kids, and the other half with raisins or nuts for the adults. For a cake-like consistency, replace the sugar with an equal amount of honey. (If you prefer a more fudgey texture, stick with the sugar as directed.)

Pumpkies make a great on-the-go breakfast, after-school snack, or dessert. But beware: You might find yourself with a new family tradition.

One year ago: Chocolate-drizzled granola bars


12 Comments

Elana on November 28, 2012 at 10:04 am.

was just looking for a good fresh-pumpkin-baked goods recipe – can’t wait to try it!

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Sara Widis on December 4, 2012 at 5:18 pm.

Just tried this recipe. Amazing!

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Miriam on December 6, 2012 at 5:20 pm.

Do I really need to add the milk/soymilk in order for this to turn out?

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Tali Simon on December 6, 2012 at 7:31 pm.

So…I tested this recipe three times before publishing it in the magazine, each time for a different ingredient’s influence. I wasn’t able to test it a fourth time without the milk to compare it to the with-milk versions, but because we’re only talking about a teaspoon in an entire batter (and it’s not like it’s an extract or something powerful), I would imagine that the pumpkies would come out well without it, too.

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Elisheva on April 12, 2013 at 9:06 pm.

Just wondering if you ever find you need to bake this longer…I just made it for the second time and found that I needed to double the time to get the middle done (I put a piece of foil over it lightly – so it wouldn’t burn on top)…delicious both times though :) … I also find that I always need to bake banana cakes longer – I wonder if it’s related

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Tali Simon on April 14, 2013 at 10:20 pm.

I never had that problem in the past, and I was confident that it would be the same when I made a double batch today (in a 9 x 13 pan). But oddly enough, it went exactly as you described. After the 25 minutes, the top looked done but the inside was still raw…

I’m not sure what the issue is, but I’ll have to try it a couple more times to figure it out.

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Tali Simon on May 30, 2013 at 10:47 am.

The problem was that my oven was broken! It became clear a few weeks later, when nothing was coming out properly. All good now.

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Lonie on April 14, 2013 at 11:26 am.

I’m pretty sure they’re second cousins.

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Renee on September 16, 2014 at 10:10 pm.

Can the dark brown sugar be substituted with any other type of sugar? (I can easily use white sugar, demerara, or stivia)

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Tali Simon on September 16, 2014 at 10:24 pm.

Dark brown sugar is moister but I do think you can get away with white or demerara. I don’t have experience with stevia so I can’t comment on that one. I’d love to hear how it works if you go with something other than dark brown!

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Renee on September 21, 2014 at 9:46 am.

Made them with granulated white sugar and they were delicious! Lighter and “cakier” than it seems like they would be with dark brown, but very, very good.

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Tali Simon on September 21, 2014 at 10:39 am.

Good to know! Thanks for reporting back.

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