Sunday, February 28, 2010

Snickerdoodle Sweet Potato Bars

Necessity is the mother of invention!  These were supposed to be snickerdoodle pumpkin pie bars, but apparently canned pumpkin is a seasonal item (and pureed sweet potato isn't??).  Hello people!  We're in L.A. There are no seasons here!  It would be more accurate to call it a "holiday" item.  If we went by the seasons in L.A. we'd be serving strawberry shortcake and peach ice cream with our Thanksgiving turkeys.  Since when do people only make pumpkin pie during Thanksgiving and Christmas anyways?  The bakery at the grocery store was selling pumpkin pie!  Totally illogical.  Canned pumpkin should be available year-round for bakeholics who want pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, and snickerdoodle pumpkin pie bars.

Alas, I had to make do with sweet potato.  I guess I wasn't really that inventive, since most people probably can't tell the difference between pumpkin and sweet potato in baked goods anyways (the recipients of my bars were none the wiser).  Personally, I don't think pumpkin tastes anything like sweet potato.  Pumpkin produces a custardy, smooth filling, whereas sweet potato is starchier, and has a slightly ashy taste.  I think the starchiness actually worked to my advantage in this recipe, because I needed to cart the bars to school to bribe my friend, and wobbly custard bars are much harder to transport and handle than sturdy starchy ones.

I borrowed my friend's Planet Earth DVD's last year and only just got around to returning them.  I also borrowed his roommate's favorite DVD set (Rocky) and kept it for a year (I think it's understandable to take an entire year to wade through the entire collection of Rocky DVD's.  Sorry Joe).  Baked goods work really well as a bribe to avoid the loss of DVD-borrowing privileges (with guys, at least. Your girlfriends might accuse you of making them fat.  Your gym-obsessed little brother might also accuse you of making him fat, but he will still eat half of your bars and drink all of your milk, and then he will borrow your car and not put gas in it).  When I handed the bars (and the DVD's) over, I got a delighted high five and the response of, "you should borrow more so we can get more stuff!"  I ran into another friend in the hall with my snickerdoodle bars and he offered to let me keep his DVD's as long as I want if I brought him baked goods.  Haha, I guess I can cancel my Netflix subscription!  These bars were definitely scrumptious enough to do the trick!  (I sampled them before I sent them off, of course).

The finished bars had a pronounced butter flavor, and retained their soft, custard-like texture while being firm enough to cut into small squares (as if I was going to eat just one small square).  The cinnamon-sugar topping took me back to my childhood when I'd slather a river of melted butter on a piece of toasted white bread before burying it in mountains of cinnamon-sugar (no, wait, that was yesterday).  There is something deliciously frivolous and playful about the combination of cinnamon-sugar and snickerdoodle-sweet potato, but despite their cutesy appeal, they are seriously good. 

Snickerdoodle layer 
3 c. all-purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
2 c. packed dark brown sugar
1 c. softened butter
2 eggs
1 T. vanilla

Sweet-potato layer
1 c. sugar (white, granulated)
1/2 c. softened butter
2 eggs
1 1/2 c. pureed sweet potato (pumpkin works too)
1 c. all purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1 t. pumpkin pie spice

Cinnamon-sugar topping
2 T. sugar (white, granulated)
2T. cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350.  Butter a 9x13 in. baking pan, and lay a piece of parchment paper across the middle (for easy bar removal).   

Make the snickerdoodle layer: sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl, and set aside.  Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl.  Add the eggs and vanilla, and beat until the mixture lightens and becomes fluffy.  Stir in the flour mixture until well blended (batter will be thick) and spread in the bottom of the prepared pan.

Make the sweet-potato layer: in your large bowl (no need to wash out the snickerdoodle remnants), beat together the softened butter and granulated sugar.  Mix in the sweet potato puree and the eggs.  In the medium bowl (that previously housed the snickerdoodle flour-mix) whisk together the flour, salk, baking powder, and pumpkin pie spice.  Add the dry mixture to the pumpkin mixture, and beat on low speed until thoroughly mixed.  Spread the pumpkin batter over the snickerdoodle batter in the pan.

Make the cinnamon-sugar topping:  in a small bowl, whisk together the cinnamon and sugar.  Sprinkle mixture evenly over the surface of the batter. 

Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.  You might want to check at 35 minutes in case you have a miscalibrated oven (nothing worse than burned bars!).  The bars will puff up as they cook, and if they do not looked puffed then don't bother poking them; they're not done (wet, sloppy bars might actually be worse than slightly overcooked ones...).  Let the bars cool for about an hour before you cut them.  Don't worry!  They will still be warm and moist.  Devour at your leisure, or use as bribes.

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