Welcome to the requisite pumpkin-favored recipe of this fall season. This one comes in the form of a cheesecake, but be not fooled, this cheesecake is so light and fluffy, it is practically a mousse. And in case that does not sound decadent enough for this holiday season, do not worry: the cheesecake layer is sandwiched between a sweet pastry crust and a tangy cream cheese frosting, and it’s all sprinkled with some crunchy toasted pecans. Yes, this is some pure Thanksgiving indulgence.
And while this was not the only dessert I concocted this Thanksgiving, it was surely the biggest hit. Harry and I were fortunate enough to partake in three Thanksgiving celebrations this season, and while the bacon apple pie we made for his office party was surely a crowd pleaser, the smore’s pie I attempted to broil to perfection ended in a pie dish completely engulfed in flames, smoke alarms a-blaring, and a “marshmallow layer”that was more akin to metamorphic rock. But I promise, these cheesecake bars are largely foolproof and sure to leave all around your table satisfied.
Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
Adapted from Baked Elements
Makes one 9 by 13 inch pan, about 20 bars
For the Crust
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup minus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 large egg
For the Cheesecake
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
2 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
For the Frosting
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the Topping
3/4 cup pecans, chopped and toasted
For the crust, butter the bottom of a 9 by 13 inch pan with butter. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and butter the bottom and sides of the pans once again. Pulse the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor until they are well combined. Add the butter and pulse a few times, until the mixture looks sandy. Whisk the egg in a separate bowl, and then add to the food processor, pulsing just until the dough comes together. Shape the dough into a disc, wrap well in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Once the dough has chilled, roll it out on a lightly floured surface, until it is slightly larger than the pan. Place in the pan and make sure it lines the bottom completely, but remove any excess so there is no dough on the sides. Place the pan in the freezer for about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line the crust with aluminum foil, and cover with pie weights or beans to weigh down the crust. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the foil and weights, and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the crust is slightly golden. Let the crust cool while you make the cheesecake layer.
For the cheesecake layer, preheat the oven to 300 degrees. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese until it is smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the sugar, and beat until well combined. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, maple syrup, vanilla extract, and spices. Add the pumpkin mixture to the cream cheese and beat to combine, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until just combined. Pour into the pan and bake for about 30 minutes, until the top is slightly puffy and the cheesecake looks set. Remove for the oven and allow to cool to room temperature, and then refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
For the frosting, beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer until is is smooth. Add the cream cheese and beat until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and beat until just smooth. Use an offset spatula or the back of a large spoon to spread the frosting on the cheesecake layer.
Top with toasted pecans. Cut into bars, or dig right in with a spoon!