Whole Wheat Pumpkin Bars

Posted by hsimpsongrossman on October 1, 2014

I used to envy American bloggers for having an annual pumpkin festival, commencing just before September and lasting well into the winter.

Sadly, pumpkins as well as autumn and Halloween associated with them, are pretty much irrelevant in the Holy Land, where autumn is all but non-existent and Halloween is something we read about in Harry Potter books.

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Bars November in Union Square
November in Union Square

In general, the concept of using vegetables in cakes, while not as unheard of as it was a decade or so ago is still not as common over here as it is overseas.  In fact, in those older Israeli cookbook,  which do contains recipes for carrot or zucchini cakes, such recipes are usually preceded by an assurance that no one will guess there are carrots/zucchinis in the cake as “it tastes just like honey cake!” (which begs the question, why then, aren’t we baking a honey cake to begin with?!)

The national indifference towards those flavorful, moist cakes might explain the lack of canned pumpkin purée in supermarkets over here.  Only select few who chose their residence wisely and live near one of numbered specialty stores selling products tailored towards the English speaking community have access to such luxuries.  The underprivileged ones make special trips or prepare pumpkin puree at home.  And the natives-they don’t even know that they’re missing on anything.

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Bars Homemade Pumpkin Puree No Shortcuts
No Shortcuts

A big believer in When in Rome, I gave up on ever talking about pumpkin cakes and bakes in my (Israeli based) blog (which, by the way, will have a Hebrew version.  One day), when surprisingly, salvation came from an unexpected direction-religion! It seems that while we were in NYC, a trend of adopting the colorful Sephardic list of Simanim (symbolic foods customarily eaten on Rosh Hashanah) over the limited Ashkenazy variety, had swept the country.  And guess what? one of the newly embraced holiday symbols is… Pumpkin!  I grabbed the opportunity with both hands and can finally talk about pumpkin dishes around the same time my peers over the Atlantic do!

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Bars Pumpkin at Last
Pumpkin at Last

I bumped into these moist, cake-like bars on the King Arthur Flour blog I substituted half of the flour with whole wheat flour and used less sugar.  I did not add nuts as it is not our custom to eat nuts during Rosh Hashanah, but will definitely add nuts next time I make these.  The original recipe offers cream cheese frosting but I opted against it since I wanted to keep mine non-dairy as part of the dessert options for the long holiday.  I’m happy to report the frosting was not missed.

Have a sweet and happy (Jewish) new year!

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Bars Three Shades of Raisin
Three Shades of Raisin?

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Bars on the Spot: Mix dry ingredients.  Beat wet ingredients.  Incorporate dry ingredients with wet ones.  Bake, cool and cut.  Voilà!

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Bars

Adapted from a recipe from the King Arthur Flour site

Ingredients, for about 36 2×1.5 inch bars:

1 cup (7 oz., 200 ml) vegetable oil

1/2 cup (3 ½ oz., 100 grams) brown sugar

1/2 cup (3 ½ oz., 100 grams) granulated sugar

4 large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup (9 ½ oz., 250 grams) pumpkin purée, canned (NOT pumpkin pie filling!) or homemade

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice, or 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon each ginger, nutmeg, and cloves

1 cup (4 ¼ oz., 120 grams) all-purpose flour

1 cup (4 oz., 115 grams) whole -wheat flour

1/2 cup (2 oz.,) toasted chopped walnuts, optional

1 cup (6 oz.,) golden raisins, optional


Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Grease and flour or line with parchment paper a 9 x 13 inch baking tin.

In a bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, salt, and spice.  Set aside.

Beat the oil and the sugars together until well blended.  Beat in the eggs and then the pumpkin purée.

Stir the flour mixture into the wet ingredients, beating gently, just to combine.

Stir in the raisins (and the nuts, if using).

Pour the batter into the prepared tin, and bake for approximately 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out with tiny crumbs but no moist batter.

Cool the cake in the tin for 10 minutes, then cut into squares or rectangles.

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Bars Solitude

These Whole Wheat Pumpkin Bars will keep well for up to 5 days, tightly covered and refrigerated and freeze wonderfully.

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