It’s about this time of year, every year, that I check in to see if you have everything you need for the upcoming holiday. Mostly I’m checking to see if you have Dad’s Sweet Potato Pie ready to go. This year I’m checking in because I have something you might need, namely, this easy pumpkin pie recipe. We’re talking press-in crust, no-fuss filling, and incredibly impressive toasted meringue topping.
I’ll tell you now that the proportions here are bonkers… and exactly to my liking. We’re talking THICC cookie crust layer, modest but present pumpkin pie layer and TALL VERY TALL layer to toasted meringue. I wanted to worry not about not if, but how much, meringue was going to get on my nose eating a slice of this pie and I answered my own prayers. Essentially we’re left with pie in the eye and I make no apologies for it.
Here’s one for the Thanksgiving dessert table, friends! Let’s get baking.
I mean look at this…. it’s a heavy hitter.
Here’s what you’ll need for this easy pumpkin pie recipe:
• pumpkin puree – yes, I just use canned pumpkin.
• brown sugar and granulated sugar
• evaporated milk for the pumpkin pie filling
• spices for the pumpkin pie filling: pumpkin pie spice with an extra kick of cinnamon and ginger.
• softened unsalted butter
• all-purpose flour
• vanilla extract
• baking powder
• eggs for the pie filling and egg whites for the meringue
• The one bit of kitchen equipment you’ll need is a butane kitchen torch and can of fuel (which I usually pick up at the register at Bed Bath & Beyond). Just imagine all the things you can brûlée: Doughnut Holes, Lemon Bars… honestly you’ll torch everything.
We’ll start by bringing together the shortbread crust.
Think of this as part pie crust, part sugar cookie. It’s a sweet press-in crust that makes a thick cookie layer as the base to our easy pumpkin pie bars.
Cream together softened butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and vanilla extract.
Add flour, cinnamon, salt, and a bit of baking powder.
Press the dough into an even layer across the bottom of a parchment lined square pan (an 8×8 or 9×9 will do ya). I like to gently prick the crust with the tines of a fork before sending it off to par-bake in the oven.
Bake the crust until just set and juuuust beginning to brown around the edges. We’re just adding a hint of crisp before we add the pumpkin pie filling and set it off to bake once again.
Now let’s make the pumpkin pie filling.
Start by whisking together sugars and eggs until well combined.
Add the spices.
Whisk in the pumpkin puree and evaporated milk before pouring the pumpkin pie filling over the partially baked cookie crust.
Carefully place thee pumpkin pie in thee oven to bake until firm through.
I usually give the pan the shake test for doneness. If the filling moves is waves through the pan it still needs time to bake. If the filling moves in a more solid giggle – it’s done!
While the filling bakes – make the meringue topping.
I know I know- meringues might feel intimidating but here’s the thing: you can totally do this.
First bring a medium pan with a few inches of water to a simmer. Place a glass or metal bowl with sugar and egg whites over the simmering water and whisk whisk whisk until the sugar dissolves and the mixture comes to about 145 degrees F. It’ll feel very warm to the touch if you don’t have a candy thermometer. Bringing the eggs whites to this temperature will essentially pasteurize them so there’s no need to worry about eating raw eggs.
Remove the mixture from the pot and use an electric hand beater to whip the sugary egg white mixture to bright white peaks. It’s incredible to know that you and some egg whites have this sort of power.
Dollop and swoop the meringue over the cooled pumpkin bar.
This step is best done just before serving or within 4 to 6 hours of serving. The topped and toasted bars are totally fine together overnight in the fridge – they just tend to weep and slide a bit. Not a huge deal.
I’ve chilled the pumpkin pie bars in the refrigerator overnight and covered with meringue the following day. The meringue will also keep, covered, in a bowl overnight if you need to make things ahead.
Bust out that kitchen torch and brown the peaks and valleys of the meringue.
And look at these classy, toasty bars! An easy pumpkin pie recipe that is part cookie, part bar, part fancy meringue.
Happy Holidays, friends! It’s such a joy to bake with you.
An easy and elevated way to pumpkin pie this year.
For the Crust:
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup (50 grams) lightly packed light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups (252 grams) all-purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
For the Pie Filling:
- 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup (50 grams) lightly packed light brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
- 3/4 cup evaporated milk
For the Meringue:
- 4 large egg whites
- 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
- Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line an 9×9-inch square pan with parchment paper so that the paper hangs over all four edges of the pan about two inches. This will make the pie bars easier to remove after they’re baked. Lightly spray the pan with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
- For the crust, place the butter, sugars, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light and fluffy.
- Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the flour, salt, cinnamon and baking powder mix on low speed until just combined.
- Dump the cookie dough into the prepared pan, lightly sprinkle with flour and press evenly to the edges of the pan. Prick with a fork all over. Refrigerate for 15 minutes before baking 15 to 18 minutes until just golden around the edges. Remove from the oven and set aside while you make the filling.
- To make the filling, in a medium bowl whisk together sugars and eggs until well combined. Whisk in the spices and salt. Whisk in the pumpkin puree followed by the milk. Pour the filling over the par-baked cookie crust and bake until set – 35-40 minutes. The filling shouldn’t have wave like jiggles if it’s baked through. It will shake if you give it a shimmer but won’t jiggle all over the place. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. You can speed up this process by placing the slightly cooked bars in the fridge or freezer.
- To make the meringue, place a medium saucepan with two inches of water over medium heat and bring to a simmer. In a clean medium bowl whisk together egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar. Place the bowl over the simmering water and use a whisk (or better yet the whisk attachment on electric hand beaters) to whip the eggs as the mixture warms and the sugar melts. Whisk the eggs until they reach 140-160 degrees F. Remove the bowl from the double boiler and continue to whip with the hand beater (or place in a stand mixer with a whisk attachment) and beat for another 5 minutes until fluffy, glossy and holding stiff peaks.
- Just before serving, spoon the meringue atop the cooled pumpkin bars. Use an offset spatula to swoop the meringue around the bars edge to edge. Use a kitchen torch to toast the top. Slice and serve! These bars will last several days in the refrigerator though the meringue well get a little slip and slide-y across the top of the bars. Still tastes amazing though!
Photos with my friend Jon Melendez.