October 17, 2012

Pumpkin Bars with Browned Butter Frosting

Umm, did you guys know that NaNoWriMo is only 14 days away?

14. As in two weeks. As in less than half a month. As in 23,338 words (based on the average 1667 you need to write everyday in order to write 50,000 words in 30 days).


It's cool, though. Cause I has a plot. Actually, I even have a title and and a cover.

See? There's my novel info page. Ta da! Doesn't it just feel all official and pretentious-like?

Look, I know I had some problems gearing up for Camp NaNoWriMo this summer, but the sh**storm that hit is responsible for that. The main November session is sacred. It's been going on for 13 years at this point (whereas Camp was only in its second year), and there are hundreds of thousands of participants, all with their own special rituals and hints and tips, available on the forums day and night. There's even a forum called "NaNoWriMo Ate My Soul" specifically for people having a tough time of it. There's also a forum for people breezing their way through it, but I wouldn't suggest going on there unless you're doing the same, otherwise you feel like a loser and an underachiever. There's forums for newbies where they can find mentors and ask questions that they might feel are a little bit stupid without fear of ridicule. There's forums for age groups, genres, technical writing skills, technology, even a forum for off-topic discussions.

The community is what makes NaNo special. You can have friends and family cheering you on, but it's not the same as thousands of people doing the exact same thing you are. If I say to someone, "I can't write these last 500 words because my MC (main character) and I are no longer on speaking terms," all I get are blank looks and business cards for therapists. If I say it to another wrimo, I get, "Dude, you don't even want to know what my characters did to me yesterday," or, "I've been there. So I killed him off and got a new one."

Wrimos can be very violent. We're under a lot of pressure, and our characters often insist on having minds of their own and not doing what they're told.

I'm not crazy. My mother had me tested.

But this is why everyone should do NaNo. Have you ever said to yourself, "One day, I should write a book"? Do you know how hard that is to do by yourself? Without the motivation of the blue stat bar of doom (it used to be red...)? Give me a reason why you can't, and I'll give a reason why you can. Don't have the time? Trust me, you have more time than you think. And meeting your daily word count goal is easier than you may think. Don't have inspiration? Visit the Adoption Society forums. It's where I picked up my title, and that inspired my plot (I had the premise, just not the plot). Need to bake for Thanksgiving? Here's your solution:
And how much did you love that segue?
Easy peasy, no mixer needed, season appropriate pumpkin bars with amazingly yummy browned butter frosting. Hardware is two bowls, a whisk, and a baking dish. Mixes up in 10 minutes and is completely foolproof (I know, because I messed it up like 12 times (Okay, that's hyperbole, but it was at least three times. (At least) and they still came out really good). As for the frosting, the hardest part is browning the butter. Then you mix all the ingredients together (Okay, here you do need a mixer, but you could just use a whisk if you don't mind an upper body workout.) and you get this super delicious frosting with that sort of smoky, caramely flavor unique to browned butter. I think I ate more frosting than I put on the bars, to tell the truth.

The bars weren't too sturdy, but that might be because of my screw-ups. I under baked it a little, and I confused my nutmeg with my cinnamon so I had to scoop it out, but I ended up scooping out a lot of the leavening, so I think I overcompensated for that. Still, they were super moist and delicious (though not hugely pumpkin-y, which is probably why I liked them).
I got the recipe from last year's Better Homes and Gardens Fall Baking magazine, and while it seemed like a good one, it also seemed a little plain. So I subbed half the flour with whole wheat, and 3/4 of the oil with applesauce. The other 1/4 I replaced with melted butter, because I find it has a better flavor than oil. Then I swapped out half the sugar with brown sugar and added in some nutmeg (probably more than I had intended. XD)

So you know, these are kind of health food. Whole wheat, vegetable from the pumpkin, fruit from the applesauce, dairy from the butter, protein from the eggs, you've got the whole pyramid here.

And sugar. Lots of sugar. But that just gives you energy to write your novel. And constant typing burns off calories fairly well. So you know, it evens out.

Look, I promote NaNoWriMo like it's my job (it's not. In fact, I donate money to them), but I wouldn't do that if it wasn't something that I loved and believed in. The hardest part of writing is just getting it down. NaNo gives you that chance, and gives you permission to do it poorly. It gets you out of your headspace, puts your inner editor on lock down, and just lets you get the words out.

And trust me: winning? Best. Feeling. Ever. Especially if it's your first. So if you're curious, or want tips on time management, or want to know all my writing secrets, please feel free to email me. We're internet buds; I'm here for you, bro. Word.

Pumpkin Bars with Browned Butter Frosting {Printable Version}
Yield: 15 bars

For the bars:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground cloves
4 eggs, lightly beaten
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup packed brown sugar
15 oz. pumpkin puree
¾ cup unsweetened applesauce
¼ melted unsalted butter

For the frosting:
6 tbsp. unsalted butter
3 cups powdered sugar
3-4 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour, or line with parchment paper, a 9x13 inch baking dish. In a mixing bowl, mix together flours, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg, salt, and cloves. Set aside. In a large bowl, mix the sugars with the eggs until the sugar is mostly dissolved. Mix in the pumpkin, applesauce, and melted butter until well combined. Whisk in the dry ingredients until smooth. Evenly spread the batter into the prepared baking dish and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until firm. Cool on a wire rack.

For the frosting: In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Continue to heat until it is a light golden brown. Take off the heat and let cool slightly. In a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the sugar, 3 tbsp. milk, and vanilla. Add the butter and beat on low speed until just combined. Increase the speed to medium and beat until spreading consistency. Add more milk if necessary.

Spread the frosting evenly over the bars and slice into squares. Store in the refrigerator.

Tip: The frosting spreads more easily if the bars are still warm. For fluffier frosting, use whipping cream instead of milk and whip on high speed until smooth and fluffy. Cool bars completely before frosting with the whipped version.

Recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Fall Baking magazine