Pumpkin Caramel Bars with Bacon


For the Bars-
8 oz. bacon, diced
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1-1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup chopped, toasted pecans

For the Frosting-
2 cups packed brown sugar
1/3 cup water
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 stick unsalted butter, cubed
4 oz. cream cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes
Sea salt

Preheat oven to 350o F. Coat a 9 x 13 baking pan with nonstick spray. Cook bacon in a saute pan over medium heat until crisp; drain on a paper towel lined plate and set aside. Reserve 2 tablespoons drippings.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and table salt for the bars in a medium bowl; set aside. Whisk together pumpkin puree, granulated sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, egg, melted butter, bacon drippings and vanilla in a large bowl until well blended. Stir in flour mixture and pecans.

Spread pumpkin batter evenly into prepared pan; bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting.

Boil 2 cups brown sugar, water and a pinch of salt for the frosting in a large saucepan over high heat, 5 minutes, swirling occasionally to prevent scorching. Whisk in cream and butter pieces. (Mixture will bubble furiously; keep whisking.) Boil 2 minutes more.

Transfer caramel to the bowl of a stand mixer; whip on high speed until sides of bowl are cool to the touch and caramel is thick, 10-minutes, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add cream cheese, 1 cube at a time, until frosting is smooth.  Frost cooled bars.  Finely chop cooked bacon and sprinkle onto frosted bars with sea salt.  Place in the refrigerator to set frosting for one hour.  They keep in the fridge for up to one week.

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