We’ve just finished up some ultra-baking at work lately because of the Co-op’s annual member meeting, which has included making a lot of dessert bars. When you have to feed 800 people, cutting up a big pan of brownies is a lot easier than most things in the baking world. At home, I don’t bake a lot of bars, mostly cookies and rolls and cakey things, but for some reason I’ve lately been into the idea. Actually, I have a vision for raw-ifying the Vegan Dream Bar from my old job sometime soon, which I don’t think will be too hard. But lately I’ve been hit by the pumpkin bug, like many of my fellow bloggers.
Not content with the pie or cookies or brownies route, I also wanted to challenge myself to make something sugar-free. There are many definitions of sugar-free out there, some scary and chemical-laden, others based on anti-candida guidelines. For me, sugar-free means I use no refined sugar (primarily, no granulated sugar), but I do use sweeteners with some nutritional value, like maple syrup, blackstrap molasses, dates, and fruit. Agave occasionally, too, but less of it these days. Lately I’ve been experimenting with stevia, which I haven’t had a ton of great experiences with (I think the powdered version was used in too high amounts for my taste in the first few recipes I tried), but I’ve been growing to enjoy more. Because stevia is sweetly-flavored without actually containing any sweetener (in fact, 200-300 times as sweet as sugar) it is really pretty bitter in larger amounts, and over-using it can lead to some pretty nasty results. I always start with a few drops and adjust as needed. And because it’s fall, and I love maple syrup AND figs, I also used a little bit of those to get a richer flavor.
This is more of a snack bar than a dessert bar, and isn’t necessarily something I’d feed to just anyone; being gluten-free as well means it doesn’t have “normal” ingredients and therefore a slightly different flavor. But for my health-minded and gluten-free and/or sugar-free friends, I think this is pretty darn tasty. The key is to wait for it to bake and cool and then ice it for maximum yummy-factor (I was honestly a bit nervous when I first tried the pumpkin filling before baking it…how was this going to turn out, really?).
It looks like a HUGE list of ingredients because of the various layers, but many of them are repeated, so don’t be alarmed. And there you have it: a rice flour shortbread crust topped with a gooey spiced pumpkin-date filling topped with a crunchy quinoa flake-amaranth topping AND iced with a vanilla coconut-nut butter icing. It’s true and it’s tasty and it’s refined sugar-free!
GF Pumpkin Fig Bars with Vanilla Coco-Nut Icing
makes 1 8×8 pan
1 1/2 cups brown rice flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt
4 tablespoons solid coconut oil
3-4 tablespoons unsweetened non-dairy milk (I used almond)
5 drops liquid stevia
12 dried black mission figs, hard stems removed
1 14.5-ounce can pumpkin puree
2 teaspoons garam masala or pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons arrowroot powder
1 cup quinoa flakes
1/4 cup amaranth
2 tablespoons sunflower oil (or other neutral tasting oil)
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons coconut oil, firm
2 tablespoons raw almond or cashew butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons unsweetened non-dairy milk (I used almond)
1 teaspoon maple syrup
Preheat your oven to 375F.
In a small bowl, use a fork to break up the coconut oil into the rice flour, salt and cinnamon until it resembles small crumbs. Add the stevia and enough non-dairy milk to make a dough that holds together when pinched between your fingers. Press into a lightly greased 8×8 pan and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven but leave the oven on.
Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Chop the figs by hand or with a food processor into small pieces and set aside. In the bowl of a food processor, puree the pumpkin, spices, lemon zest, maple syrup, vanilla, and arrowroot until smooth. Pulse in the fig pieces until well-distributed. Spread this mixture over the shortbread crust.
In a small bowl, stir together the quinoa flakes, amaranth, maple, sunflower oil, and cinnamon and sprinkle over the pumpkin filling. Bake for 35 minutes or until you see the pumpkin filling just slightly pulling away from the sides of the pan. (The filling may seem loose, but it will firm up as it cools.) Let cool.
To make the icing, blend the coconut oil, nut butter, non-dairy milk, vanilla and maple in a food processor until smooth. Pipe decoratively over the cooled bars and chill in the freezer for a few minutes to firm up the icing (this is especially important in warmer weather). Cut into squares and enjoy!