I know exactly what happened, too--I used a box of organic pumpkin puree. The organic stuff is fine for taste, but I've noticed in baking pies that it's a lot more watery and takes longer to bake.
Here, I reached the middle of the recipe and poured on the pumpkin. I sprinkled the crumb topping on... and it all promptly sank like it was downed by a U-Boat. Here and there little bits of crumb wreckage poked out of the orange soup, but it was almost invisible.
This vexed me.
But it was my first time doing the recipe, so maybe that's how it was supposed to look? I decided to continue to bake it, because the pumpkin layer might bake down and let the crumbs surface. I baked it for 10 minutes. It looked exactly the same.
At that point, I went into triage mode. The pumpkin had firmed up, so what I needed was more crumb topping. I dug out my tried and true recipe for caramel apple pie and threw the topping ingredients together. I spread the crumbs on and continued baking.
IT WORKED. The crumb topping turned out beautifully.
However, this now meant I did a drastically different recipe than the one I followed, which I clipped from the paper about two years ago. The organic pumpkin puree might be at fault, but using more crumb topping wasn't a bad idea. I rewrote the recipe to figure out how to combine everything, baked it again, and ta da!
I obviously liked the recipe a lot to make it twice. It is seriously yummy. The top and bottom are basically pecan shortbread. It goes magnificently with that pumpkin pie layer in the middle. The bar comes out pretty solid--it doesn't crumble apart--and my husband found them to be very portable to his workplace, though he did tote them in a freezer bag because of the Arizona heat.
Another note: this recipes makes a lot of bars; this would be ideal for a large family gathering or potluck. However, the bars are freezable, so don't feel like you have to cram them all in your belly. Unless you want to, of course.
Pumpkin Pie Bars
Modified from "Cravings beyond Pickles and Ice Cream" by the nurses in the Labor and Delivery Unit at Maricopa Medical Center, quoted in Rescued Recipes by Jan D'Atri in the Arizona Republic (October 29, 2011)
Shortbread base and topping:
1 1/4 cups butter, COLD (2 sticks plus 4 Tb)
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups finely chopped pecans
1 can (15-16 ounces) pumpkin puree (or 28-ounce can of yams, drained and mashed) [NOT ORGANIC]
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup molasses
2 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1)Prepare a 15x10x1-inch jelly roll pan. Line it with aluminum foil and apply nonstick spray or butter it. Preheat the oven at 350-degrees.
2) In a large bowl, use a fork or a pastry cutter to start mixing the butter and sugar, then add flour. Mix until the butter is down to about pea-size. Add the nuts and stir well.
Set aside half of the mix (4 cups) to be the topping.
3) Press the other half of the crumbs into the pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the edges are starting to turn color slightly. It will still be very pale.
4) While that's baking, combine the rest of the ingredients. When the crust is out of the oven, pour the pumpkin mix over it and smooth it out. Sprinkle the reserved crumbs over the top.
5) Bake at 350-degrees for 30-35 minutes; a toothpick in the middle should come out clean. Let cool at room temperature for a while, and then refrigerate to chill for several hours.
Once set, cut into bars and store them in the fridge. Bars can also be frozen after baking.
OM NOM NOM.