There are few things in life better than a mid-summer watermelon, lemonade when the thermometer hits triple digits, or a peach in August, which is really the only month they should be allowed to be consumed. But it’s getting colder out and most folks’ tastes drift away from the sweet. It’s time for root vegetables, gourds, soups, and desserts that focus more on the spices than the sugars.
Butterscotch Allspice Bars
Here’s what’s weird: the recipe caught my attention because it didn’t sound good at first. The only spice is allspice, which I had always assumed was the combination of several spices — hence the name, “all spice.” Not that long ago, I was looking for an ingredient substitution, and “allspice” being alphabetically at the top of the list, even though it was not what I was looking for, it caught my eye and I took a few minutes to read about it. The name comes from the fact that it tastes a little bit like this, a little bit like that, and little bit like the other, but it’s simply the dried berry of the Pimenta dioica plant. I found it odd that just about everyone has heard of allspice, but the plant from which it comes seems to only go by its Latin name. Although the berry has other names (Jamaican pepper, for one), the tree itself is simply the pimenta tree.
Then there’s the “butterscotch” part, which makes me think of either those hard candies my grandpa always had in his pocket, or the HFCS-heavy ice cream topping. Either way, it just didn’t sound good, but for whatever reason, it made me want to read on, just to see how they made it.
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 Tbs sugar
⅓ cup butter, very cold
½ cup flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 Tbs ground allspice
¼ tsp salt
¼ cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans
Optional for icing
drop of vanilla
~ Tbs milk
Bottom layer crust: In a small mixing bowl, mix the flour and sugar. Then with a pastry cutter, blend in the butter until it resembles fine crumbs. (I made this twice — once by hand with a pastry cutter and once in the food processor. In the food processor, it almost came out too fine, and the crust didn’t hold together as well. Maybe another Tbs of butter would have fixed that?) Press the crumbs into a 9×9 or 7×11 inch baking pan, and bake at 350º for 10 minutes.
Top layer butterscotch-spice blend:
In another small bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, allspice, and salt.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat, and then stir in the brown sugar. Mix until completely dissolved, and then remove from the heat. Beat one egg, add the vanilla, and set aside. First mix in the flour mixture, folding carefully until completely incorporated. Then add the egg and vanilla and again mix until everything looks uniform. Stir in the nuts and pour over the baked crust.
Bake at 345º for about 20-25 minutes until a toothpick* comes out clean. Okay, go ahead, use a 350º oven. But you don’t want the sugar to caramelize, which will make the cookies rock-hard, and sugar melts around 367º, so I dropped it another 5º just to be safe. Probably not necessary.
Cool on a wire rack. If you want, drizzle with the powdered sugar icing. (A little goes a long way.)