Hello again! It’s been a while since my last post. And while I’ve missed baking and sharing the results with you, it was definitely a needed break. I spent the time adjusting to a new job and the new family schedule that comes with it, frolicking with the kids in the fall weather, reading a really great mystery novel (seriously, if you like mysteries please go read The Witch Elm so we can talk about it), working on some embroidery projects, and generally basking in the wonder that is a Michigan autumn. I hope you’ve been enjoying this October as much as I have.
But last weekend, the baking urge took over again and I decided it was time to get back in the kitchen. Trying to be a good mom, I asked my kids what they wanted to make. We’d just been to a pumpkin patch, so naturally they wanted to make pumpkin pie. I’ve said before on this blog that pumpkin pie, American tradition though it is, just doesn’t do it for me. Luckily, Joy The Baker has a recipe for pumpkin pie bars that I made years ago and loved, with a rich and creamy pumpkin filling sandwiched between layers of buttery, flaky, shortbread-y crust. So I found it, made a few tiny tweaks, and we were in pumpkin business.
This recipe is seriously easy. You mix all of the crust ingredients together with a pastry cutter and press half of it into the pan. Then you cream together pumpkin, cream cheese, and all the good pumpkin pie spices (I used a premade blend, because I’ll take all the shortcuts I can get) and spread that on top, sprinkle on the rest of the crust, press it in, and bake. In under an hour your kitchen will be smelling divine and you’ll have a new twist on an old favorite. I let the whole pan cool to room temperature and then stuck the whole thing in the fridge for a while to make cutting the bars easier, but if you can’t wait that long these are also delicious and gooey while they’re still warm.
- 1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup sugar
- ½ cup packed brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup old fashioned oats (I used steel cut)
- ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
- ½ cup chopped pecans
- 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 1 large egg + 1 egg white
- 1 ½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pecans for topping (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9” square pan, line it with parchment paper, and butter the parchment.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, brown sugar, salt, and oats. Scatter the butter pieces over the top and use a pastry blender to break up the butter pieces and mix them into the dough. The butter pieces should be between the size of a pea and an oat flake. Stir in the chopped pecans.
- Set aside 1 ½ cups of the crust mixture. Pour the rest into the prepared pan and press it in evenly with your fingers.
- In a separate bowl, use a hand mixer to beat the cream cheese at medium-high speed for 1-2 minutes, until creamy. Add the pumpkin and sugar and mix to combine. Add in the egg and egg white and mix for a full minute, then add the vanilla and mix to combine.
- Pour the filling on top of the crust and spread evenly with a rubber spatula. Scatter the reserved crust over the top and gently press it in.
- Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the bars no longer jiggle when you move the pan back and forth and the top is golden brown. Allow to come to room temperature before slicing and serving. Alternately, you can chill the bars in the fridge first for easier cutting.