Kabocha Squash Bars with a Hazelnut Shortbread Crust
The crust recipe is adapted from Alice Medrich's gorgeous book, Bittersweet.
Feel free to use canned pumpkin puree in this recipe in place of the kobacha squash. It's worth digging around in that big bin of winter squash in the supermarket to find a kobacha, though. Wouldn't it be fun to say you did it just once?
For the crust:
1/2 cup chopped untoasted hazelnuts
1 cup plus 2 tbs all purpose flour
3 tbs sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
9 tbs melted butter
Line a 9 x 9 inch square baking pan with parchment paper. This will help you to get the bars out when they are finished and keep the filling from sticking. Heat your oven to 350 degrees.
Sprinkle the chopped nuts over the bottom of the pan. In a bowl, stir together the flour and sugar. Add the vanilla to the melted butter then stir the butter mixture into the flour. You should end up with a buttery cookie dough which you can pull apart in clumps and press into the bottom of the pan over the nuts. Bake the crust for 15-18 minutes, until the cookie dough is set and lightly golden at the edges. Make the filling while the crust bakes.
For the filling:
16 ounces mascarpone cheese, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 cups kobocha squash (or pumpkin) puree
Cool the bars completely in the pan. Gently lift on the parchment paper to remove the bars from the pan and cut into 16 bars. If you don't plan on eating them right away (why not, may I ask?) store the bars in the refrigerator.