Joy the Baker

Creamy Pumpkin Pie Bars

November 10, 2012

creamy pumpkin pie bars

Every once in a while, a recipe deserves a re-do.  I originally posted this recipe in the Fall of 2008, just a few months into the life of my blog.  I was trying to figure out my photography style.  I was trying to figure out what  a dang blog was.  I was trying to find my voice on the internet.  I was trying my hardest not to be a hot-mess.

creamy pumpkin pie bars

I decided that this dish is just too good to suffer from hot-mess-ed-ness.  Hot-mess-ed-ness is a real word (mostly because it’s a real thing that happens).  The recipe has a mostly infallible list of ingredients that includes pumpkin and cream cheese.  These are two great ingredients that in combination are utterly lovely and you know… festive!  It has taken me almost four years to realize that these bars was missing a certain sort of… greatness.  I’ve figured it out.  As is the case in improving most things in life.. we’re going to need more crust.  More dang crust!

Let’s do!

creamy pumpkin pie bars

These bars start with a variation of shortbread crust.  What’s so divine about this situation is that the crust is both a press-in bottom and a crumble topping.

It starts with great ingredients that include (but are not limited to): brown sugar, old-fashioned oats, and pecans.

creamy pumpkin pie bars

All of the dry ingredients are tossed together in a bowl, and then we have to deal with the butter.

Dealing with butter is one of my very favorite pastimes.

creamy pumpkin pie bars

I just use my fingers to bring this crust together.  Quick fingers to smash and break up the butter into little flakes and pea-sized bits.  This is as far as things should go.

creamy pumpkin pie bars

Two cups (or so) of the shortbread crust are reserved, the rest is pressed into a square baking pan. It’s really simple (and incidentally, super satisfying).

creamy pumpkin pie bars

A good chilling in the fridge will set the crust and crumb just right while the filling is made.

creamy pumpkin pie bars

Cream cheese meets pumpkin!  These things will become a thick and creamy spiced bar filling.  There is a trick to this batter… there’s always a trick.  Cream cheese is thicker than pumpkin.  For this reason, cream cheese needs to be super soft and beat in the mixer prior to adding the pumpkin, sugar, and eggs.  This will prevent the cream cheese from being frustratingly chunky.

Oh… and if the cream cheese should happen to get frustratingly chunky, the whisk attachment on a mixer works miracles.

creamy pumpkin pie bars

Creamy filling topped with shortbread crumb topping.  Nothing is wrong with this scene.  Nothing at all…

creamy pumpkin pie bars

Welcome to the land of the crunchy and the creamy.  Welcome to the land of the festive and the spiced.  These bars have some really good proportions.  The crust to filling to topping ratio is spot on.  They’re smooth and creamy with crunch from the pecans and a hearty oat crumble.    I love to serve these bars cold.  Pumpkin pie is totally best served cold, served with extra cold vanilla ice cream.

Ps. Another Fall staple:   Vegan Pumpkin Walnut Bread.   No softened butter or eggs necessary.  It’s a secret weapon, for real.

Some of you might have trouble printing this recipe.  I’m working on solving that for you!  Sorry!  

Creamy Pumpkin Pie Bars

makes 9 bars in a square 8×8-inch pan

Print this Recipe!

For the Crust:

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup old fashioned oats

3/4 cups (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes

1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans

For the Filling:

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 cup pumpkin puree

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg plus 1 large egg white

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon all-spice

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

pinch of salt

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract.

9 roasted pecan halves for topping

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease an 8×8-inch square pan with butter or shortening.  Line with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, and oats.  Add cold butter and quickly but thoroughly break the butter up into the dry ingredients.  When broken down, some butter pieces will be the size of small peas, others will be the size of oat flakes.  Add the chopped pecans and toss to thoroughly combine.

Remove about 1 1/2 (to 2 cup) of the mixture from the bowl and place in a small bowl in the refrigerator.  This will be our crumble topping.

Dump the remaining crust mixture into the prepared pan.  Using your fingers, evenly press the crust into the bottom of the pans.  Try to make sure that the crust has an even thickness across the pan.  Place the pressed crust in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

To prepare the filling place cream cheese in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat cream cheese on medium speed for about 1 minute, until smooth and pliable.  This will help the cream cheese be less chunky when combined with the pumpkin.

Add pumpkin and sugar  to the softened cream cheese and beat on medium speed.  Stop the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl, ensuring that the pumpkin and cream cheese are thoroughly combined.  If the cream cheese looks chunky, switch to the whisk attachment and beat on high speed until most of the cream cheese lumps are incorporated.

On medium speed add the egg and egg white.  Beat to combine (about 1 minute).  Add the spices, salt, and vanilla extract.  Beat to combine.

Remove the pressed crust and loose crumb from the refrigerator.  Pour the creamy pumpkin filling over the pressed crust.  Sprinkle generously with crumb topping and top with pecan halves.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the center no longer jiggles.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before removing from the pan and slicing.  I like to slice and serve these bars chilled.

To store, wrap individual bars in plastic wrap and keep in the fridge for up to 4 days.


172 Comments Add A Comment

  • These pumpkin bars look wonderful! Being Spring I’m not feeling so much like pumpkin but everyone keeps posting it and I feel like its callig me!

  • Wow there are so many good things going on here! Pumpkin meets cheesecake meets crisp. Can’t wait to try.

  • I cringe to think of some of the early things on my blog I need to do-over. I’m still in that early stage of working out this blog thing. These pumpkin pie bars look amazing. Hooray for second chances :)

  • Re-dos are a great thing. There’s always time and there’s always the chance to improve what you have done before (at least on a blog…)
    You just gave me inspiration to do the same and remake some of my oldest recipes!

  • Tis the season for orange food! And this looks smashing. (Yes, smashing. Because ridc delish sounded silly).

    And dealing with butter is one of life’s greatest pleasures :)

  • aw my blog is still in the hot mess stage! which is kind of sad, because there are so many good recipes there whose entries don’t quite do them justice…maybe i’ll get around to redos once i’ve sharpened my skillzzz. meanwhile mmm pumpkin bars! also…’you know, festive…’ are you quoting proof? or am i just a nerd?

  • Joy, my husband was diagnosed with celiac disease and he asked me to undertake the gluten-free diet with him. It is with tearful eyes that I realize I will never try all of your recipes. You light up my life whenever you make a blog post. Your cinnamon bread was to die for. Every recipe I’ve ever made from you is amazing. I’ll miss you. Dearly. No… I’ll keep following you, but it will be painful. I have fresh, homemade pumpkin puree begging to be turned into this recipe. I bet it’s delicious. Thanks for being here.

    • you could use Cup 4 Cup Gluten Free Flour in this recipe, and most others on my blog! Much love to you and your husband!

      • I had no idea! Our doctor told us that baked goods are off the table because gluten free flours don’t work the same. I was *so* bummed that I didn’t do my own research. Thank you SO much!! I love you, Joy!

        • Serena- gluten-free baking is much more possible than you realize, there are tons of resources out there and you can substitute, as Joy noted. There is some learning on which flour blends you like better, but there are tons of possibilities. Check out Bob’s Red Mill, they have LOTS of GF options.

        • Seems like docs should try to be better informed about these things. I was really bummed when I needed to go low carb for health reasons, and it would have been really nice if my doc had pointed me towards alternative flours. Good thing I did my own research. Like the other commenter Jen, I bake a lot and actually more than I used to. For gluten free baking, I’ve had pretty good results with almond flour (the baked goods are denser, but still tasty) and you can also use oat flour in many things, as long as you check that it isn’t processed in a facility that also processes wheat. Coconut flour is my least favorite and harder to work with, but that’s another option. And of course, there are gluten free flour mixes that they make now as Joy mentioned. There are actually a fair number of celiac blogs out there. I just wanted to share and say good luck!

      • What about using whipped cream cheese?

    • Serena,
      My son and husband are gluten-free and I first thought my baking days were over! They have hardly been affected!!! I have done a lot of research about the various types of flours. I bake almost every day which I have had wonderful results! There are some lovely recipes out there! Good luck!!

    • Serena – I was diagnosed with celiac almost 2 years ago and it is possible to bake delicious food with gf flour. For me, once I weighed 1 cup of the gf flour blend I use (adapted from Cooking from Isaiah – wonderful gf and dairy free cookbook) I can then convert the measurements of conventional flour into weight and come up with good results most of the time. I have done this in the past with recipes from Joy’s website and cookbook with great results. Also check out Gluten Free Girl’s website. Most people are amazed when they find out the muffins, cake, cookies, etc I bake are gluten free.

  • These bars look totally ridiculous in the best possible wy. I will be making them ASAP! I relate to the hot-mess-ed-ness of a new blog as I am two months into the throes of my own. Something tells me I will be re-doing plenty down the line. Thanks for the recipe!

  • The land of the crunchy and the creamy looks like an amazing place to be! I love streusel/crumbly toppings of all kinds and I bet the texture with that, and the smooth pumpkin, is such a super awesome contrast. Mmmm, great job, Joy!

  • Going to make these next weekend with my girls!

  • nothing wrong with a do-over. sound and look great!

  • Oh wow, this looks like little bars of heaven. I love it!

  • These bars look absolutely delicious, but then again I love love love pumpkin. The crumble topping looks just perfect, I must make these!

  • I love pecan pie so I am definitely going to have to try this recipe. Thanks for this post.

  • I’m all for dealing with butter – in love with these bars!

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