Eventually, you just have to throw a dart. I threw two in my search for the ideal pumpkin cheesecake bar.
Both are really tasty, their flavor profiles similar — fall-seasonal spices and scents paired with creamy fillings and each with a nice, thick, buttery crust.
First, the crunchy, creamy, gooey version from Chelsea’s Messy Apron. What was pretty cool was that she offered versions for both 9-by-9 and 9-by-13 pans (I went with the smaller). Baking is math. Math is not my friend. I’m grateful for all the conversion tools available in 2020, but really, I just want the recipe to tell me what to do.
Also pretty cool? This recipe features two words no food pornographer can resist: caramel and streusel.
Chelsea’s photos were gorgeous and thickly layered. Mine didn’t come out so impressive, but the layering is there. The unholy trinity of buttery-crunchy topping, buttery-salty caramel sauce and buttery-spicy cinnamon graham crust does a lot to make up for looks if necessary. The ugly ones would look great hot in a mug with vanilla ice cream before catching the express train to Tummy Town.
More sophisticated in appearance are marbled bars from a New York Times recipe. Mine didn’t come out with as lovely a color contrast, but the recipe was simple. I loved its light, fluffy texture, but if you prefer results with more density, keep your mixer setting low so you don’t incorporated too much air into the filling.
What I especially loved was the gingersnap crust, delicious and slightly zingy crust.
Also, there’s some good opportunity for a candied ginger add-in here if that sounds good to you.
PUMPKIN CARAMEL CHEESECAKE BARS WITH STREUSEL TOPPING
1-1/2 cups (10-11 sheets) cinnamon graham cracker crumbs (I pulverized them in the food processor)
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
6 tablespoons melted butter
2 8-ounce packages full-fat cream cheese, at room temperature (leave out at least an hour)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin-pie filling)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
>> Streusel and topping
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, softened (not melted)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Salted or plain caramel sauce, for drizzling
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 9-by-9-inch baking pan with parchment (leave an overhang on 2 sides to be able to pull out bars easily).
In a bowl, combine crust ingredients and mix until “dough” forms. Press evenly into the bottom of the pan. Bake 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, make streusel: Using the same bowl as the crust, stir together brown sugar, oats, flour and cinnamon. Add butter and vanilla. Mix until combined. Set aside.
In another bowl, combine cream cheese, (room temperature is important for smoothness, microwaving will give it a bumpy texture) sugar, vanilla and salt. Beat with mixer until smooth and creamy. Add eggs one at a time. Beat until combined.
Remove 1-1/2 cups of mixture. Pour over crust.
Add canned pumpkin, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice to remaining cheesecake mixture and stir until combined.
Being careful not to combine layers, gently pour the pumpkin layer on top of the plain layer. Top with streusel. Bake 30 minutes, or until cake is set.
Allow to cool about an hour. Refrigerate an additional 1 to 2 hours minimum before serving. Top each bar with caramel sauce.
PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE BARs
Courtesy NYT Cooking
10-1/2 ounces gingersnap cookies (preferably the thin, Swedish variety, in which case that’s 2 boxes)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
1-1/2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
6 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 teaspoons pumpkin-pie spice
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease 9-by-13-inch pan, line with parchment, leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 sides to lift bars from pan.
Make the crust: In a food processor, pulse cookies until fine crumbs form (you will have about 2-1/2 cups). Transfer crumbs to medium bowl, stir in sugar and salt. Add melted butter and mix until evenly incorporated. Press crust into even layer in the base of prepared pan.
Bake until crust has browned slightly and appears set, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool completely. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.
Meanwhile, make filling: Clean food processor bowl and place cream cheese, sugar and brown sugar inside. Pulse until fully combined.
Add eggs one at a time, pulsing until incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
Add vanilla and pumpkin-pie spice. Pulse until combined. If desired, reserve 1 cup cheesecake batter in small bowl for making a swirl effect later.
Add pumpkin to remaining cheesecake batter, pulse until fully incorporated. Pour batter into cooled crust. If using, pour reserved white cheesecake batter over the pan in a slow, thin stream. Use a toothpick or wooden skewer to swirl. (If you pour too quickly, the white batter will sink inside the pumpkin layer.)
Bake until edges appear set and center appears just slightly jiggly, 35-40 minutes. Cool at room temperature 45 minutes, then refrigerate until firm (at least 2 hours, up to overnight).
Use a sharp knife to release edges and use parchment to carefully lift cheesecake from pan. Transfer to cutting board. Slice into 15 even pieces, wiping knife between cuts for the cleanest edges.
Nutritional information unavailable.