I’m being forced to tell you about these pumpkin bars. Ever since I made them, R has been telling me to put the recipe up. He will drop not-so-subtle hints like “You should post those pumpkin bars for U.S. Thanksgiving.” I also had people at my work request the recipe so it’s only fair of me to share it with you as well.
Like a pumpkin pie, you need to make the crust first and then the filling. The bars are easier because it’s just a press-in crust and it’s a better option for parties because you can eat it out of hand and cut the bars small.
The secret ingredient to these guys isn’t really a secret at all. It’s a lot of butter, cream cheese and sugar — ingredients that make almost anything irresistibly tasty. In the recipe you use one pound of icing sugar in the filling and I thought my teeth would fall out from eating one. It actually isn’t overly sweet, but you can always cut back the sugar if you want.
Pumpkin Crunch Bars
From The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 (1-pound) box confectioner’s sugar (4 cups)
1/2 teaspoon grand mace
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3 large eggs
Fresh whipped cream, for topping (optional)
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13-by-9-inch baking pan and line with parchment, allowing the paper to hang over the edges.
To make the crust: Put the butter in a large heatproof bowl, set over a pot of barely simmering water and stir frequently until melted. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar, vanilla and salt. Add the flour all at once and mix until just incorporated.
Press the dough even into the bottom of the pan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until golden on the edges but still light brown in the center. Cool at least 30 minutes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a medium mixing bowl, using a handheld mixer), beat the cream cheese on medium speed until smooth and creamy, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the pumpkin and mix until thoroughly incorporated, about 5 minutes. Turn speed to low, add the melted butter and vanilla and mix until combined, 2 to 3 minutes. Add confectioners’ sugar, mace, cinnamon, nutmeg and eggs, beating until thoroughly mixed. Continue to mix on medium speed until smooth, about 5 minutes.
Pour into the prepared crust. Bake 50 minutes to 1 hour, until the center is firm. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate. Cut into squares and serve chilled with whipped cream, if desired. Refrigerate bars in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Yield: 12 large or 24 small bars.
Excerpted from The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook by Cheryl Day and Griffith Day (Artisan Books)
Book courtesy of Thomas Allen & Son