With the Thanksgiving holiday just a few days away, I think we’re all taking a step back to re-evaluate what things might look like this year. Many of us are cooking for a smaller number of people, and are looking for delicious-yet-scaled-down recipes that still hold on to some tradition.
This year, my husband and I will just be cooking for ourselves and our kids, and although we will make an amazing feast, we don’t need to go all out this year like we typically do.
Pumpkin pie is one of those classic desserts everyone loves and expects on Thanksgiving, but it can be a labor of love… especially if you make your own pie dough. I can speak to this first hand, because every year I make my own dough, roll it out, crimp the edges, make the filling and bake it ‘till it’s perfect. It’s actually my son’s favorite dessert, so I have to make pumpkin pie, right?
Not this year! I’ve decided to streamline our pumpkin pie dessert and merge it with a cheesecake recipe. It’s seriously the best of both worlds. You get 100% of the pumpkin pie flavor, but only spend half the time making it.
The recipe is comprised of two parts: the crust and the filling. To make the crust, you simply mix together finely ground cookie crumbs and butter. I like to use ginger snaps because of their spicy flavor, but graham crackers or another other type of shortbread cookie works, too.
You can buy the cookies already finely ground (I love this shortcut!), or place whole cookies in your food processor, and process until they are finely ground. It takes a good 2 to 3 minutes, so be patient with this step. If the cookies are not ground finely enough, your crust will not be very sturdy.
You pack the crumbs into your baking sheet (I use a 1/4 sheet tray), and set them aside while making the filling. I love using the more utilitarian sheet trays for my baking dish, as they are so versatile. Place your order for one today for curbside pickup at our Lincoln Square location!
To make the filling, you beat together room temperature cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in your eggs, then the pumpkin puree, spices and vanilla extract.
Pour the filling onto the crust, and using an offset spatula, even out the top of the filling. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes or until you have a cohesive jiggle.
Allow the cheesecake to cool at room temperature, and then place in the fridge until cold. Once cold, cut into squares, and top with a dollop of whipped cream, just like you would a piece of pumpkin pie! This is certainly not the lightest dessert, so in order to add a little zing and color to the plate, I spoon a dollop of cranberry sauce right on top of the whipped cream. It’s like jewels cascading over the side of the cheesecake! I actually have a bit of history in pairing pumpkin and cranberries.
Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars with Whipped Cream
Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe
Yield: 2 dozen squares
Active time: 25 minutes
Start to finish: 50 minutes
For the crust:
2 cups cookie crumbs such as graham crackers, shortbread or gingersnaps, finely crushed
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
For the filling:
1 pound cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
One 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 375°. Brush the bottom and sides of a quarter sheet tray or 9”x13” baking pan with butter. Tip: Use a bit of the melted butter from the crust portion of the recipe.
- To make the crust, combine the crumbs and melted butter in a bowl until thoroughly mixed. Press firmly into the bottom of the pan. Refrigerate while making the filling.
- For the filling, beat together the cream cheese and sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the pumpkin puree, spices and extract until combined.
- Pour the filling over the crust, spreading to an even thickness. Bake until golden, puffy and no longer liquid in the center, 20 to 25 minutes. Allow to cool, and then place in the refrigerator until cold.
- When ready to serve the cheesecake, prepare the whipped cream. In a large bowl, measure together the heavy cream, powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Using a whisk or electric mixer, whip the cream until you have medium peaks.
- Cut the cheesecake into squares, and serve with a dollop of the whipped cream on top.
The best thing about this recipe? It’s so easy to share with neighbors. I’m going to load up a plate of these bars, and drop them off on my neighbor’s porch for them to enjoy. I’m very thankful for my good friends that live right across the street.
Still craving that traditional pumpkin pie? I get it! Lucky for you, we’re baking apple and pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving, so place your order now to reserve one.