These pumpkin squares are homemade from scratch using fresh pumpkin. This is one from many Romanian style pumpkin pie recipes. Two layers of shortbread pastry dough filled with cinnamon flavored fresh pumpkin filling.
In pumpkin season, Romanians are cooking lots of pumpkin desserts and pies. But they differ a lot from American style pumpkin pies.
We are using shortbread pastry, puff pastry or filo dough when preparing pumpkin pies.
We also roast pumpkin slices and consume it just like that, simply roasted.
So, being in season I went to the farmer’s market and purchased a fair enough wedge of one of these big pumpkins you see in the picture above. I cut it in smaller pieces, peeled it and grated it.
I used one third making these squares. I placed the remaining grated pumpkin in two plastic bags and freeze them for later on.
Cause it will be more pumpkin cooking for sure! Now back to our squares. Don’t they look inviting?…
Let’s find out what I used for this pumpkin bars recipe.
🧈 Ingredients For This Recipe
A short list of ingredients used. Complete measurements are filled in the recipe card down page. So, we are going to need:
- Fresh pumpkin – choose a sweet, flavored pumpkin as not all pumpkins are good for desserts
- Butter – high fat unsalted butter (80%) slightly softened
- Icing sugar – for the sweetness of the dough and filling
- Flour – all purpose will do fine
- Egg – just one egg in this recipe
- Lemon zest – freshly grated, organic lemon if possible
- Baking powder – to pump up the shortbread pastry
- Vanilla extract and cinnamon – to enhance the flavor of the filling
- Chopped walnuts – optional but highly recommended
- Semolina / breadcrumbs for the excess moisture
- Pinch of salt
- Vegetable oil
🍰 How To Make These Fresh Pumpkin Squares
We start by grating the pumpkin for the filling. That can be done a day ahead, as I did to have it already at hand and save time.
Step 1: Prepare the pumpkin filling
Place the grated pumpkin in a large enough pot with 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, 5 tablespoons of icing sugar and 2 teaspoon of cinnamon. Turn on medium heat and let it cook and soften for about 10 minutes. Stir from time to time.
Turn off the heat and add the vanilla extract and the walnuts. The pumpkin will become very moist and it is best to let it cool into a strainer / colander to release some of the excess water. Set aside until cools off completely. Meanwhile, start making the pastry dough.
Step 2: Make the shortbread pastry
With the help of a stand-mixer or hand mixer start mixing the butter with the icing sugar until combined. Add the egg, the lemon zest, the salt and the baking powder. Incorporate all well.
Start adding the sifted flour and continue mixing with a spoon. When all the flour is added, transfer onto the working space and bring the dough together with your hands, forming a ball.
We have to move fast and not overwork the pastry because it will harden. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest the fridge for about 30 minutes.
Step 3: Roll the pastry & assembly the pie
Prepare a baking pan / tray and line it with parchment paper. I used a 9′ x 13′ baking pan, but you can adapt the dough rolling it a little more thin for a slightly larger size. There is nothing fixed here, you can even use a large flat tray and place the pie on it – it will not go anywhere.
Preheat oven to 335 F.
Take the pastry out of the fridge and cut it in 2 pieces. Take one of it and roll it into a rectangular form adapting it to the pan. Sprinkle some flour on the working space so you can roll it more easily. Roll it on one side, turn it over, sprinkle some more flour and finish when the size is right.
Transfer the dough into the baking pan and prick all over the surface with a fork. Add the pumpkin mixture and spread it over the dough, leveling it well on the surface. Sprinkle some breadcrumbs or semolina to absorb even more the excess moisture while baking.
Next, roll out the second part of the dough and transfer over the filling. Work with care because the pastry is very fragile and brakes easily. Prick the second layer too.
Step 4: Bake the pumpkin pie
Bake the pumpkin pie in the preheated oven for about 34-40 minutes at 335 F until slightly colored. Take it out the oven and let it rest 10 minutes then sprinkle with icing sugar. Let it cool completely, cut it in squares or whatever forms you prefer and serve.
🍴 Serving The Pumpkin Bars
Transfer them onto a platter, decorate with more cinnamon and walnuts and serve them with a cup of coffee. Yum!! You can also serve them with hot tea or a glass of milk for the kids.
These fresh pumpkin squares are delicious and will be eaten fast, at any hour.
💡 Tips About This Recipe
- You can adapt the sugar quantity to your taste by adding more sugar to the pumpkin filling. This recipe is nor overly sweet, so taste the filling and adjust to your liking.
- Work fast when you make the pastry dough. We must not let the gluten start developing. Overworking will harden the dough when baking.
- Variate! You can use apples instead of pumpkin. We are often alternating between those two fillings. I didn’t decide which one I like more.
Leftovers & Storage
Preserve leftovers in a airtight container in the fridge for about a week. I believe you can freeze them for about 3 months also, even though I never had so many leftovers to have anything to freeze.
Other delicious desserts to try:
- Romanian Chocolate Cake (Romanian style brownie)
- Marble Chocolate Orange Loaf Cake (incredible flavor)
- 3 Ingredient French Pancakes (easy crepes to use with versatile fillings)
- Chocolate Salami (no bake biscuit cake)
Pumpkin Squares With Fresh Pumpkin
- 9' x 13' baking pan
- parchment paper
for the pastry
- 7 oz (200g) unsalted butter (slightly softened)
- 1¼ cups (150g) icing sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 pinch of salt
- 3¼ cups (400g) flour
for the filling
- 1.5 lbs (700g) fresh pumpkin (grated)
- ½ cups (50g) icing sugar (+ more for decorating)
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
- 3 tbsp semolina / breadcrumbs (optional)
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil (neutral flavor)
- Grate the fresh pumpkin ahead to have it at hand. In a large enough pan put together the grated pumpkin, the icing sugar and the cinnamon. Place on medium heat and let it cook for 10 minutes until softens. Stir often.Turn off the heat and add the vanilla and chopped walnuts. Stir and place into a colander or strainer to release the excess moisture while cooling off completely. set aside.
- Make the shortbread pastry dough. Mix the butter with the sugar until combined well. Add the egg, lemon zest, salt and baking powder. Mix until incorporated. Add the sifted flour and mix with a spoon to form the dough. Finish forming the pastry dough onto a working space dusted with flour, bringing all together quickly and forming a ball. Wrap in plastic foil and let it rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 335 F. Line the baking pan with parchment paper. Divide the pastry dough in 2 and start rolling the first half into a rectangular shape about the size of the pan. Transfer gently into the pan and prick with a fork all over.Add the pumpkin filling and spread it well over the dough. Spread some semolina or breadcrumbs over to retain the moisture while baking. Roll out the remaining half and cover the filling. Prick again with the fork and transfer to the preheated oven.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes until very slightly colored. Let it rest 10 minutes and decorate with more icing sugar. Let it cool completely, cut into squares and serve. These pumpkin squares / bars are delicious both warm or cold.Preserve leftovers into a airtight container in the fridge up to a week.