Monday, October 9, 2017

The Number One Hurricane Survival Item

Well, Florida threw us another curve ball in the form of Hurricane Nate this past weekend. I've been slowly amassing my hurricane preparedness kit since Irma couldn't make up her mind last month. Battery-powered lanterns? Check. Tons of flashlights? Check. Enough bottled water to bench press my weight in? Check. So much ramen in my pantry it looks like six college students live here? Check. I had literally everything I thought I needed, down to extra dog food (...for the dogs, not me). I had a lingering feeling I was forgetting something, so I hearkened back to the last several insane winter storms that trapped us in our house for a few days (Clovis was a magical mix of Narnia meets Antarctica during winter). It was then that I remembered the number one item I need in my survival kit: cake. I was still pretty miffed that after spending several hours putting up my Halloween decorations on Monday (and getting sunburned because Florida is just that out of line) that I had to take them all down for this stupid hurricane. This was my first official foray into "spite baking," so naturally my cake needed to be extremely Halloweeny to compensate for my favorite month of the year failing to live up to my expectations down here. And so, out of repugnance and macabre, this ghastly slime cake was brought to life. Or death, really, since it's a ghost cake.
The poor ghost has a broken arm.
Remember the last time I made a surprise inside cake? When it almost failed terribly and I then decided that making these types of cakes are way too stress-inducing and absolutely ridiculous? Yeah, well, apparently I didn't. I'm told time heals all wounds, and I suppose this applies to cakes that make you want to cry while baking them. I did quickly remember my shortcomings last time and tried my best to overcome them only to be met by different obstacles with this cake. I mean, clearly we can all see it turned out okayish, but it was touch and go there for awhile. I was really glad that baking a cake within a cake at least yields a ton of cake scraps for me to eat my feelings aplenty during baking. But in the end, this creepy, wonderfully Halloweeny cake is a yummy mix of chocolate and white cake with a vanilla pudding topping. And since I went the low-cal route, each slice is only 209 calories for a total of 12 slices. It's nice when the shock and horror is related to the spooktacular decoration and not the calorie count.
I buy my black gel dye in bulk during this time of the year.
To make both cakes, you will need to scoop up the following:
  • 1 box of white cake mix
  • 10 ounces of diet creme soda
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 box of chocolate cake mix
  • 10 ounces of diet root beer
  • 2 egg whites
  • Black gel dye
To make the slime topping you'll need:
  • 1 box of sugar free vanilla instant pudding
  • 2 cups cold skim milk
  • Lime green gel dye 
  • Optional: spooky sprinkles for topping
Now, this is a cake that comes together over the course of 24 hours because you'll need to do some freezing. Start by baking your white cake. Mix together the creme soda, two egg whites, and white cake mix for 2 minutes on medium-high in your stand mixer. Grease a 9x13 pan very, very well (especially if your humidity is a balmy "we're on the bad side of a hurricane" level). Pour into the pan and bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. Cakes will always cook quicker when you use soda, so keep that in mind.
Hindsight: literally the pumpkin or the cat would've been a better choice.
Once your white cake has baked, let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then turn it out onto a cooling rack. Place this in the freezer. Your cake needs to be mostly frozen to cut out the ghosties. I got an absolutely adorable set of three Halloween-themed cookie cutters from Amazon because even though I live within 10 miles of a Walmart to both my east and west, I simply refuse to go there because it's bad for my incarceration-free lifestyle to deal with other people once inside of one. 
Sigh, I still thought I knew what I was doing...
Here is where all my plans began to fall apart. See those tiny little cute arms waving in adorable terror? Yeah, they're a reallllll pain to cut out of a soft cake and keep intact. I knew I would need 6 perfectly-shaped ghosts to fill the inside of my cake, and I also knew I would be able to cut out 8 total. I considered the first two practice ghosts. My cake was not frozen enough for practice ghost number one, and he looked like he had died of some sort of wood chipper incident. While my cake was frozen enough for ghost number two, he lost both his arms in an unfortunate out of body experience because my cake was just too moist to pry him out of the cookie cutter. Should you choose to use the ghost with his delicate little birdlike arms (clearly he never hit the gym when he was alive), spray your cookie cutter with so much cooking spray you can taste it in the air. This is the only way to cut out a ghost and allow him to not be a double amputee.
He seems appreciative because he can still high-five you with either hand.
You'll only end up using about a third of your white cake to get six ghosties, but you will completely demolish it, so you can either toss the rest out or save your scraps. We had some scraps with a little bit of lemon curd on top, and it was delightful. Put your six ghosts onto a sheet lined with Parchment paper and leave to freeze overnight. After about 8-12 hours (I literally baked this first thing Sunday morning because I have a real problem with age-appropriate responsibilities), the ghosts are frozen enough to handle being baked again. Mix the chocolate cake mix, 10 ounces of root beer, 2 egg whites, and a large dollop of black gel dye on medium-high for two minutes. Side note, 10 a.m. is way too early to drink the leftover root beer if you've just consumed an apple cider donut.
Ahh the loaf pan, my worst enemy.
Preheat your oven to 350 and grease a 10x6 loaf pan with all of the cooking spray. Seriously. It's a heavy cake, don't leave it to chance! Take half a cup of cake batter and ladle it into the bottom of the loaf pan. Spread out a bit, and then go grab your ghosts (unlike skeletons, we won't keep these hidden somewhere for long).
They mostly have all their arms!
 Gently place each ghost into the cake batter at the bottom of the pan. Stack them close together. There will be a small gap on each end, and you need it so the ghosts can get completely covered up. It's not really a surprise inside cake if you can see the surprise from, well, the outside.
It turns out prettier, I promise.
Now, continue using a half cup scoop and gently plop batter into the cake pan, working to cover up all the ghosts. I had a few ghosts lose an arm during this process, so take your time and work as gingerly as possible, or in hindsight, just use the pumpkin because it is round and easier to deal with. But if you're a crazy person who loves to defy logic, try pouring batter under the arms before you pour it on top. Use a spatula to smooth out the batter as best as you can when you're done covering up your ghosts. Tap gently on the counter to get rid of any bubbles, and then bake at 350 for 50 minutes.
Not a giant bowl of boogers.
While your cake is baking, get out a medium bowl and dump in the pudding mix, 2 cups of cold milk, and a squeeze of lime gel dye. Whisk for two minutes, cover with plastic wrap, and let set in the fridge for a few hours so your slime can firm up. No one wants runny slime...this isn't the Nickelodeon Kid's Choice Awards, after all.
Ahh yes, a perfect black void made of cake.
Once your cake has baked, leave it in the pan and place on a cooling rack for 10-20 minutes (or the amount of time it takes you to get completely soaked while taking your dogs for a walk during the tail end of a hurricane because they are super annoying when they don't get one. Judging by how wet we were, I assume we were gone for 15 minutes). Take a butter knife and gently run it around the edges of your pan to ensure no sides are sticking. Lay a towel out on top of your cooling rack, and place this on top of the cake. Flip everything over carefully, and gently slide the loaf cake out of the pan. It will be upside down at this point, so prepare a cake board or large platter and place this on the bottom of the cake that's facing up at this point. Quickly flip everything over so your cake is right side up. Transfer your cake to the freezer for several hours so it is completely cooled.
Basically, make sure in the end your cake looks like this when its on a prepared surface. Otherwise your ghosts will be upside down, and it's probably not as easy to haunt people if you're not right side up.
 Once your cake is totally cooled, remove your pudding mix from the fridge. Load up a piping bag or plastic baggy with half of the pudding. Save the other half to eat later, torment people with by acting like you sneezed out a booger, whatever your heart desires. Snip the tip off of the bag, and pipe a layer on top of the cake:
Greener than Shrek!
 Smooth out a bit with an angled spatula. Once topped, take your piping bag and drag it up and down the sides of your cake to create slimy drips:
It should look oozy and gross.
 Bonus, the grosser and oozier it looks, the less like you will have to share your cake with anyone else!
Sprinkles: because everything deserves to feel a little pretty.
I finished by smattering some Halloweeny sprinkles on top (the colors bled into the slime, but it looked even cooler) and then set into the fridge to finish thawing out from the trip to the freezer earlier. You will want to keep this cake refrigerated since it is topped with pudding. This will also keep any potential hauntings relegated to the inside of your fridge and not your entire kitchen. Fact.
What horrors lie beneath the surface...
I'm always really worried when I cut into a surprise inside cake that the surprise inside the cake will be that I completely screwed it up. Have we talked about my low level of self-esteem lately? No? Well, too bad, because this is a cake blog, so self-loathing must remain relegated to said cakes.
He's more like a spectral blob.
Well, you can tell they're ghosts, sort of. My arms broke off in a few places causing my ghosties to look more like ethereal shapeless figures, but it still works. In all seriousness, surprise inside cakes are a bit of work, but the end result is always a lot of anxiety fun. At this point, I'm running out of new ways to bake Halloween-themed desserts after blogging for several years, so I have to go for broke. But does broke ever taste delicious! This cake tastes like a marble cake thanks to the combination of vanilla ghosts and chocolate cake. I'm really late to the party when it comes to pudding...I hated the texture until my late twenties, so naturally I'm eating it as much as possible to make up for lost time. It's a nice sweet addition to the cake, and it does help to keep things from getting dry or stale. But what I love best is that the combo of chocolate cake and vanilla pudding make it taste like you're eating a giant Oreo. Since I spent half of the baking process in sheer terror, I feel it's definitely an appropriate Halloween dessert, blobby ghosts or not (seriously, just go with the pumpkin shape). Don't worry, I've still got another one up my sleeve to celebrate the season, so as long as Florida stops actively trying to kill me, I'll be back with hauntingly awesome desserts soon. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!
I' just ooooozing with anticipation...

Sunday, October 1, 2017

A Tasty Trance

It's here! October 1st! The day the switch gets flipped and I go from slightly resembling Wednesday Addams to full blown Winifred Sanderson mode. This is my Christmas morning, but for 31 days straight. This might be why I'm usually sarcastic and mundane the rest of the year because feeling this overjoyed is positively exhausting. Naturally, I have a list of the the creepy items I'm making this month all set and ready to go, and the baking commenced this morning. I've been alternating between rewatching old episodes of the first few seasons of True Blood (you know, when it was still really good and creepy) and Nightmare Before Christmas (I won't be friends with a person that can't admit this is as much as Halloween movie as it is a Christmas one). Even the weather in Florida has decided it's finally going to be fall. Like the moment the calendar page turned, it got cloudy, the breeze got cool, and the temperature felt less like "I think I might be roasting myself right now" outside. My tiny, dark little soul is filled with glee--and cookies. Spooky, trance-inducing cookies. Because everything is bewitching in October.
I put a spell on you...
I'm not going to lie to you--making pinwheel cookies, even when they're bewitching pinwheel cookies, is a giant pain in the ass. They are time consuming in that you have to do a few steps, let dough set, do a few more steps, let the dough set, etc., etc. I am not a patient person. It's my downfall as a baker because I can picture the way I want something to look in my head and get antsy when I can't make it magically appear before me. I realize that makes me sound like I wish I was a witch (I do). But maybe you're not as Type A and can stand taking the time to make something positively amazing and cool. If so, these cookies are definitely for you. And if you slice them thin enough to make 48 cookies (plus 6 made from dough scraps), they're only 74 calories an entrancing pinwheel! But look, they are mostly sugar and butter, so definitely do not leave the lid off the Tupperware for too long, or you're gonna eat them 15 at a time.
I haven't had this much butter out in the open in months.
You're gonna want to peruse the Halloween baking aisle at your local craft store and/or Target to make these spooktacular cookies a reality. Otherwise, the ingredients are fairly simple. Gather up:
  • 3 cups of All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup of butter at room temp
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • Gel food coloring in black, electric green, and violet
  • 1 tube of Halloween-y sprinkles (I got mine at Target)
 Start by plopping that soft, delicious butter into the bowl of your stand mixer and blend until smooth for a few minutes. Be sure to use the paddle attachment for your mixer.
God I missed you, butter.
 Then add in the sugar and blend on high for 3-4 minutes until everything gets light and fluffy:
Butter + sugar = drool
While the butter and sugar goodness is getting fluffy, get a medium bowl and mix the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. Once the butter mixture is done, add in both eggs, the vanilla, the almond extract, and blend well. Once mixed, add in half of the dry mixture and give a stir on medium/low until mostly blended. Add in the rest of the dry mix and blend until just incorporated:
Things may look a little piece-y, but we're not done yet.
Now, split the dough into thirds. Keep one third in the stand mixing bowl. Wipe out the bowl that had the flour mix, and then plop in the remaining dough, split into two equal parts:
Like so. Magic!
Now, plop a bunch of green dye in with the dough still in the stand mixer bowl. Blend on low until everything is the most obnoxiously bright shade of green in the world.
I wasn't kidding.
Turn this out onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Wash out the mixer bowl and paddle attachment. Take another ball of dough, add it to the mixer, and plop a bunch of purple gel dye on it and mix. For these darker colors, after mixing I used my hands to roll the dough around and really ensure there weren't any spots missing gel dye.
Purple--the color of royalty.
Take the purple dough and turn it out onto a separate sheet of plastic wrap. Finally, wash out the bowl one last time, add the last dough ball, and dye this one black. It'll need its own sheet of plastic wrap.
Pictured: the color of my soul.
Now, place another sheet of plastic wrap on top of each ball of dough. You'll want to flatten each dough ball out with a rolling pin to about the size and shape of a piece of 8 1/2 x 11 paper. I hadn't beaten anyone anything with my rolling pin in awhile, so this was a great exercise in stress relief.
Aim for something that looks like this.
Now, ensure each sheet of dough is completely covered in plastic wrap. I placed each sheet on top of some wax paper to make it easier to move to the fridge. Now comes the hurry up and wait part--place each sheet of dough into the fridge and let them set for about 2 hours. I placed each sheet one on top of the other since they were all covered in wax paper and plastic wrap. You can speed up the process by freezing for an hour, but this might make it more difficult to roll up.
So many layers. Like me, in cookie form!
 Now, once the dough has firmed up, take the green layer and remove it from all its plastic wrap. Plop it down on a sheet of wax paper. Take the black dough and remove one side of the plastic wrap. Plop the side without any plastic wrap face down on top of the green dough. Then remove the other side of plastic wrap/wax paper. Finally, repeat this process by layering the purple dough on top of the black. I covered this final sheet with wax paper and smoothed the layers together by rolling over them a few times with my rolling pin.
Then I took a sharp knife and cut any overlapping edges so I was left with a rectangle. Save your scraps! You can roll them up and bake them for 10 minutes at 350 for a few extra cookies.

Very gingerly and gently, start to roll up your dough into a jelly roll shape, a.k.a., a log.
Then I trimmed off my ends so everything was even.
Now comes the fun part! Dump ALL OF THE SPRINKLES into a 9x13 pan.

Then roll your log of dough around, pressing in sprinkles where you need to.
Once fully covered in gloriously spooky sprinkles, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 30 minutes.
 Now, after 30 minutes, take the dough log out of the freezer and roll it around on the counter to get rid of the flat bottom that formed while the dough was firming up in the freezer. Once rounded again, place back into the freezer for another 30 minutes. I told takes forever.
But I'll admit it, they really look awesome.
 Preheat your oven to 350 a few minutes before it's time to get the dough out of the freezer. Once somewhat frozen, take a very sharp knife and cut quickly into 1/4" thick slices. Don't saw--the colors will bleed. Cut straight down with a decent amount of pressure. Not so hard that you'll misshape the log, but firm enough that you can cut cookies into shape quickly. Place Parchment paper down on a cookie sheet and load up with cookie slices.
This is one of my all-time favorite color trios.
Bake 12 at a time, spaced a part a bit since they expand, for 10-11 minutes at 350. While one sheet is baking, prepare another cookie sheet with Parchment paper and slice 12 more rounds of dough. Put your remaining dough log into the fridge to stay firm while both your baking sheets are in use.
Soooo swiiirrrrlllyyyy.
 Once cooked, things will look firm but still a tiny bit shiny. Let the cookies rest on the cooking sheet for 5 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack. Continue baking for 10-11 minutes until you've sliced up and baked all your dough. Let completely cool until storing in an airtight container with a slice of bread (keeps the cookies fresh). These really are the perfect way to welcome you and your loved ones to the best month of the entire year. They're bewitching, and by bewitching, I mean super buttery. Like the Halloween equivalent of a Spritz cookie. Not too sweet, but certainly very rich. And they just look awesome. I giggle with evil delight every time I walk by them in the kitchen. I'm beyond ready to show our neighborhood just how weird I am when I put our outside decorations up tomorrow. Lookout world, I'm here to scare the living crap out of you! While enjoying some bewitching pinwheel cookies. On sugar skull napkins. Because I wholeheartedly throw myself into Halloween like a member of the Addams family. I never had a butler growing up, but otherwise, the similarities between my family and theirs is pretty astounding. A family that scares together, stays together! 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!
You're getting very hungry...

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Easier Than Pie

Trust me, there's no one more surprised than I am that this isn't another pumpkin dessert blog. We finished up the pumpkin toffee bars earlier in the weekend, and I was immediately ready to go for round two of pumpkin spice madness, but I actually don't buy my canned pumpkin in bulk. Shocking, I know. Instead I decided to give my husband a break and bake something else. I know, poor guy, having to put up with my baking all the time. But in all seriousness, I wanted something that was quick and easy. It's still 90 every day with over 85% humidity and the thought of having the oven on for longer than 30 minutes is well, sweltering and makes me want to cry a little. I mean, it's raining right now, and true to my Garbage-loving musical inclinations, I really am only happy when it rains. But much less so when the rain somehow makes it even more hot and humid than it was before it started. Florida even ruins rain for me, so I clearly am harboring some feelings that need to be eaten. And since my usual motto is that "These feelings would go great with pie," I wanted to whip up something that would satisfy my lust for fall foods but take literally no effort on my part. And thus, the apple pie dump cake was created.
It was still hot out, but I felt so much better about it.
The beauty of the dump cake is that you literally just dump your two ingredients in a pan and shove it in the oven. But since I am both complicated and a perfectionist, I used more than two ingredients and employed the use of my stand mixer. But I still promise it's easy. And it's actually super low-cal. My entire cake makes 15 servings at only 126 calories a slice (sans toppings). It's a bit more than that after I pile the Cool Whip Free and caramel sauce on top, but what's an extra 80 calories when I burn that many simply standing outside and sweating in the Florida heat for five minutes. Florida summer: nature's natural weight loss remedy. You can definitely eat this without toppings. Honestly, without the toppings, this would make a great brunch staple. Fluffy angel food cake meets tart and sweet apple filling and a sprinkling of delicious cinnamon-sugar on top. Drooling yet? You should be. And if you think caramel sauce and Cool Whip can be eaten at any time of day, I both applaud you and recommend this can be eaten with any meal at any time.
Six ingredients to pure crisp, apple-y fall bliss.
Six ingredients?! I know, downright absurd for a dump cake. But when you consider I'm calling this an apple pie dump cake, thus fusing together pie and cake, I think you can forgive me for asking you to find six very simple ingredients instead of two. After all, I'm just trying to make the world a better place via dessert. I think we'd all be a lot happier (or at least less inclined to talk) with our mouths full of cake. Gather up:
  • 1 box of angel food cake (the just add water kind)
  • 1 can of apple pie filling (I used lite for lower cal and sugar content)
  • Cinnamon and sugar
  • Caramel Sauce
  • Cool Whip Free
This is literally the hardest step.
 Start by preheating your oven to 350 and greasing a 9x13 pan with cooking spray. Now bear with me, here's where things get extremely complicated. Dump your cake mix and can of pie filling into a bowl and mix on low until ingredients are blended. Whew. Thanks for coming with me on that wild ride.
Did I mention I'm serving this cake with a heavy side of sarcasm?
 Plop your batter into your pan and smooth out with a rubber spatula. Tap on the counter to release air bubbles.
And also serving it with a side of cinnamon sugar.
 Then sprinkle a little bit of sugar and a lotta bit of cinnamon on top of your batter. Apple + cinnamon = the other great fall comfort food. Bake your cake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. The top should be slightly firm (not completely hard) and golden:
I wanted to dive in with a shovel.
Mmmm cinnamon sugar is like crack to me. I refrained from licking the entire cake though, so I'm getting better with my addiction.
Once cooked, set on a cooling rack and let it cool off a bit before serving. I let it cool all afternoon and reheated in the microwave for a few seconds to get the apples nice and gooey again and just because I feel like anything apple cinnamon should be served warmed. 
And then this yummy melty Cool Whip happens.
And I was not wrong...topped with a dollop of  Cool Whip Free and some warm caramel drizzle, this transported me to one of my favorite cider mills in Rochester Hills, Michigan, where we could watch them press the apples to make cider while eating a fresh apple cinnamon donut. And yes, I do have a favorite cider mill. If you don't, go find one that can bring you into a state of childlike glee that fall has arrived (in most of the United States). You can bide the time with this cake though because it is the perfect amalgamation of apple pie and angel food cake. Sweet and tart with that melt-in-your-mouth consistency of angel food cake and a slight crunch from the cinnamon sugar topping. The metaphorical icing on the cake is that its done in a whopping 35 minutes from start to finish. It will make your house smell like fresh cinnamon donuts and turn even the staunchest of summer lovers into a fall fanatic. I mean, you might want to top theirs with ice cream though. Baby steps. With October just around the corner, you can bet I'll be back soon with a plethora of spooky treats. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Brace Yourselves...Fall is Coming

...or so I'm told. After threats of a giant hurricane quickly brought us out of our post-Alaskan adventure bliss, we're left with 88 degree temps in the middle of September here in Northwest Florida. While it may be so hot and humid it fogs up my glasses when I step foot outside, I have total climate (and decorative) control over the interior of my house. Since it's halfway through September, the fall decor is in full swing. I am greeted by Dia de los Muertos skeletons every time I walk in the door, and I am positively twitchy to get Halloween fully rolled out. But since I'm afraid some of my outside decor might actually melt in this heat, instead I decided to fill the inside of my home with a scent I had been longing for since last fall. That's right--pumpkin flavored everything has now begun rolling out of the oven. Florida's ridiculously hot weather better get with it, because I'm cranking the A/C, wrapping myself in a soft blanket, and willing crisp mornings to get here stat. Hell hath no fury like a Kate craving fall weather.
My biggest sin is that I dare to hope.

These mouthwatering pumpkin toffee bars have thankfully taken me to my happy place. Coincidentally, my happy place is just being on my couch surrounded by my dogs, but this time with fall-flavored desserts. I'm hard pressed to decide what I like best about these bars--the pumpkin, the toffee, the fact that my entire living room smells like a giant Yankee candle, or the low-calorie goodness that baking with pumpkin provides. Why yes, I am pretty happy with myself for baking these. Thank you for noticing. What you won't notice is an expanding waistline because an 8x8 pan makes 16 servings at only 164 calories a bar. I mean, you could even pig out a little and cut them into 12 servings for 220 calories. I'm not here to judge your pumpkin intake. In fact, I'm here to encourage it. I will say bars are best served while watching something Halloween-y.
All the ingredients you need to make your very own white girl catnip.
I found this recipe and decided to make a few modifications. Literally the hardest part about all of this was finding Heath toffee pieces at a grocery store (Target saved the day). Usually I keep my pantry stocked with toffee bits (my toffee cravings are the only thing more powerful than my pumpkin ones), but I had since devoured the last of my toffee during hurricane prepping. Nothing brings out my sweet tooth faster than imminent doom! I've been successfully eating all my feeling since 1987. To make these bars, you'll need:
  • 1 box of spice cake mix
  • 1/2 cup of flour
  • 3/4 heaping cup of pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 heaping cup of Heath toffee bits
  • 1/2 cup of fat free sweetened condensed milk
  • Optional: pumpkin pie spice
You will need ALL of the cooking spray.
Start by preheating your oven to 350 and lining an 8x8 pan with foil. Heavily spray the foil--this dough is stickier than a jar of honey but equally sweet and delicious. Mix together the cake mix, pumpkin puree, egg, and flour. Spray your hands with cooking spray, and line the bottom of the pan with the dough mix. I used less than half of the dough mix and just gently pressed it into my pan and partially up the edges.
Like really bad finger paint art.
Now, measure out your heaping half a cup of scrumptious toffee bits and sprinkle, sprinkle away, my friend!
Like tiny little bits of heaven. What? I'm not drooling right now. You are.
Then top your toffee bits with the 1/2 cup of sweetened condensed milk.
 Now, spray your hands with more cooking spray and take small chunks of the leftover dough mix. Flatten it out in your hands and top the condensed milk/toffee goodness until you've either used up the dough or have your bars completely covered. I sprinkled the top of my dough with pumpkin pie spice for some pizzazz and extra pumpkiny goodness. I am not ashamed of how basic my love of pumpkin spice makes me. I only get to enjoy this for three months a year, and then I go back to being Wednesday Addams the other nine months. Once I finished topping my bars, I had about 1/4 of my dough mix leftover. 
Doesn't have to look spectacular. You're going to eat the entire pan faster than you can look at it, trust me.

I took my remaining 1/4 of dough mix, greased a 6" cake pan, flattened the dough into it, and topped it with chopped pecans and a dusting of cinnamon. I baked both my bars and my tiny pumpkin creation at 350 for 20-24 minutes. My 6" pumpkin pecan cake was done at 20 minutes, and my pumpkin toffee bars were done around the 23-24 minute mark.
And the smell made me happier than a bird with a french fry.
Must resist urge to dive in face first.
Let your dreamy pumpkin goodness cool on a cooling rack until completely set. Give this at least four or five hours at room temp or pop into the fridge for two or three hours. These are worth the wait, I swear. 
If you make a small cake with the leftover batter, it's cooled in a half an hour.
I know this because I had a slice with lunch, 30 minutes after I took everything out of the oven. The cake itself is bursting with that spiced pumpkin flavor so quintessentially tied to Autumn. It isn't too sweet, but the cinnamon and pecans on top made it a perfect thing to have with brunch or as a means to tide you over before actual dessert time after dinner.
Pictured: Dessert part deux
Yeah, I had dessert twice in one day. Is this surprising? No. It would honestly be more surprising if I had waited the entire day to get my hands and taste buds on some pumpkin. While the little cake was a good way to keep me from eating the entire pan of pumpkin toffee bars before my husband got home, the main course was so tasty I was transported to a time and place where the wind is cooler, the smell of fall is in the air, and the humidity levels are hovering somewhere around "You can totally have straight hair today" amounts. These pumpkin toffee bars blend two of my favorite treats together into one perfect amalgamation of everything I ever wanted in a dessert. They are sweet, they are spiced, they are laden with toffee. If I could only eat one dessert for the rest of my life...but thankfully I don't have to make that choice because there's like 65 different ways to incorporate pumpkin into dessert, and I'm just getting started. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!
You are the first in a long line of your kind.