Low sodium, gluten-free pumpkin bars

This is the same recipe as my gluten-free pumpkin pie, but baked in a 9x13 inch cake pan and served in small squares. I prefer this over a standard pie for two reasons. First, it's easier to make. That alone sways me to make this over a standard pie most days. Second, the servings are smaller. I love pumpkin pie but I'm often so stuffed on Thanksgiving I only have room for a little. I get 24 small bars from this recipe. It's hard to cut a 9 inch pie into 24 small slices. The smaller, square servings also make this easier to serve a large crowd in a buffet setting. If you want more, just take a second piece.


An average pumpkin pie has 2,378 mg of sodium (according to the USDA). This one is just 158 mg of sodium for the entire recipe, leaving you plenty of room for all your other Thanksgiving favorites.

Servings: One 9x13 inch pan, cut into 24 small bars

Sodium: 158 mg for the entire recipe, 7 mg sodium per bar

Time: 30 minutes to prepare, 35-40 minutes to bake, and at least 4-5 hours to cool and chill


Crust ingredients:

2 cups fine or super-fine almond flour*

71 g (5 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened but not melted (or use 4 tablespoons butter plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil)

1/4 - 1/3 cup white sugar (this is a matter of taste, I prefer 1/4 cup)

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp vanilla


Filling ingredients: One 15-ounce can of pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)

1 tablespoon cornstarch

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice*

1 cup heavy whipping cream*

2 eggs

*See TIPS below


1) Preheat oven to 350°F.


2) For the crust - mix all the dough ingredients in a large bowl and stir with a wooden spoon, and then with your hands, until you have a soft dough (it will feel crumbly but should stick together when pressed).


3) Line a 9x13 inch baking pan with parchment paper so that it hangs over the sides (so you can pull it out easily after baking). Press the dough evenly into the pan. My four year old loves helping with this part!




4) Prepare the filling - the fast and easy way to do this is to add all the filling ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and mix until combined. If you have more time and energy, then you may want to heat the filling up a little bit. In a small saucepan (mine is 1.5 quarts), combine the pumpkin puree, brown sugar, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice and heat on medium until just warm, about 4-5 minutes. Add cream and stir to combine, and then add eggs and whisk until the filling is smooth. I like this step of heating the filling just a little but you really can skip it if you want. It makes the filling just a little smoother and gives it a head start on the baking. Don't get it hot, you don't want the eggs to cook, just warm enough that the sugar dissolves. It makes your house smell really nice, too.



5) Pour the filling onto the crust. Bake 35-40 minutes in the center rack at 350°F. Let the bars cool completely before serving. When you make pumpkin pie, most recipes tell you to take the pie out when the filling is still "jiggly" in the middle. Not so for these bars, which is another reason I prefer them over pie. The middle should be pretty set when they're done.


I prefer to cool for 2-3 hours and then refrigerate for at least a few hours (or overnight) before serving.




Here's a picture of the pumpkin pie bars. I cut mine into 24 little squares.




TIPS ON INGREDIENTS:


-I've tried this with two different kinds of almond flour, one made from whole almonds (with the skin) and one made from blanched almonds (without the skin). The whole almonds are darker, and make for a grittier, slightly harder crust. The blanched almonds make the crust taste more like a shortbread cookie, and it's much lighter in color. Either works fine and I like them both, but I'm guessing most people would like the blanched almond flour more because it tastes more like a shortbread cookie.


Here's a picture of the two different types of almond flour, the blanched, and then the whole almond flour. There's a significant difference in color and texture but both work fine.


-I used a heavy whipping cream that has no sodium, and that's partly how this pie is so low in sodium. I've noticed many others have 5 mg of sodium per tablespoon, which would add another 80 mg of sodium to this pie. Just a note to make sure you check your labels.



-If you don't have 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice, use 1/2 tsp ground ginger, 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg, and 1/8 tsp ground cloves instead.


-It's really important for us to keep this as low sodium as possible but if you have a little room to add more sodium, I would start by adding an egg to the crust and then adding an egg to the filling (an extra 140 mg of sodium total). The egg will bind the crust and make it a little less crumbly, and it will also help bind the filling as well. That said, I think this version is really good (especially with some fresh whipped cream!) and allows us a little more freedom in planning the rest of our Thanksgiving menu.


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