Every once in a while, a recipe deserves a re-do. I originally posted this recipe for Pumpkin Pie Bars 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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).
A good chilling in the fridge will set the crust and crumb just right while the filling is made.
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 filling topped with shortbread crumb topping. Nothing is wrong with this scene. Nothing at all…
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.Print
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.