November 24, 2008

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

Every year the holidays seem to really sneak up on me, as it seems they do for most people. We spend so much time prepping for these big and exciting days that we don't really spend the time savoring how sweet this time of year really is. I applaud the many people who try and simplify their holidays a bit and concentrate on more important things than having the perfect gift or tree. That being said, certain "obligations" of the holidays are not to be taken lightly and are deserving of our efforts, regardless of what kind of stressed out tizzy they spin us into. In my opinion, one of these is the simple act of handing out baked goods to our friends, family and other important people (hairdresser, doorman, dog-walker, etc.).

My mom is the biggest champion of using baked goods to show her love and appreciation for people. When I went to college, she would send a huge care package at least once a month (sometimes multiple times a month!), filled with all kinds of goodies and usually decorations for whatever holiday was coming up (even if it was just flag day). This continued, without fail, all 4 years I was in school. Needless to say, my sorority house and roommates will forever be indebted to her. She now not only sends these lovely packages to both my little brother and sister at their respective schools, but she also sends packages to my husband at work. You can imagine the spectacle that goes down when a huge trading desk filled with hungry men ravage one of these packages. My mom is known as a saint around their office and was positively bombarded at our wedding when she met most of them for the first time.

I guess some of this must have rubbed off on me, because I love to give baked goods out to people around the holidays. It's amazing the kind of reaction you get when some realizes that you didn't just run to Bloomies and buy them some prepackaged cookies or candy, but actually put in the effort to make something from scratch.

I've been hanging on to this recipe since last December when I didn't get a chance to make it. These bars are very simple to make, and if you cut them up into a few bite-size pieces, it yields about 2 dozen. At first I was really thrown by the idea of toasting the flour in a skillet to make the crust, but it gave it a nutty flavor and worked well in the end. The filling tastes just like pumpkin pie with a slight tang from the cream cheese. And the pecan crumble topping adds just that bit of crunch that is missing since the crust is pretty soft. The icing on this recipe is that it is slightly healthier since Cooking Light parred down on some of the fat and calories. Which just means you can eat more, right?

Although the original recipe called for these to be eaten at room temperature, they are much much better chilled and eaten straight out of the fridge, accompanied by a big helping of whipped cream. Since I like these best cold, I might not hand them out like cookies, but I rather think they would make a great hostess gift, so that the host can throw them in the fridge and save them for later.

I'm going to send this over to Susan at Food Blogga, who has started a collection of Christmas cookies. Be sure to go to this site for lots of great ideas!

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
Adapted from Cooking Light

1 1/2 cups AP flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 teaspoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
Cooking spray

1 1/4 cups canned pumpkin
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 8-ounce package 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup egg substitute
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 large egg

1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 teaspoons water
  • Preheat oven to 350℉.
  • For crust, heat flour in a nonstick skillet over medium to medium-high heat for 5 minutes, or until light brown.
  • Place flour in a bowl to the side to cool completely.
  • In a food processor, combined the cooled flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/8 teaspoon salt.
  • Pulse until mixture is combined, then add butter. Pulse until mixture has a fine meal texture.
  • Coat a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  • Take 1 1/2 cups of flour mixture and evenly pat into bottom of the baking dish.
  • Bake for 10 minutes or until crust is lightly browned.
  • Meanwhile, for filling, spread the canned pumpkin out in a layer between paper towels to remove some of the moisture. Let stand for 5 minutes.
  • Place sugar, dark brown sugar and cream cheeses into a bowl.
  • Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes or until mixture is smooth.
  • Add pumpkin, egg substitute, cinnamon, vanilla extract, allspice and egg to mixture.
  • Beat until smooth.
  • Spread mixture evenly into baked crust.
  • For the topping, combine the remaining flour mixture and pecans and sprinkle with water.
  • Mix topping together and crumble over the filling.
  • Bake for 40 minutes or until filling is firmly set.
  • Cool completely in pan placed on a wire rack.
  • Refrigerate until chilled, then cut into desired size pieces and serve.


Emily said...

Yes! They're light! I would soooo eat more than one.
They look delicious!

Hope you have a good Thanksgiving.

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Your mom sounds like my mom. Aren't care packages from home just the best? These pumpkin cheesecake bars look wonderful. And who wouldn't like receiving them as a gift? Thanks so much!

Maria said...

These look divine!! Perfect for the holidays! Have a great Thanksgiving!

Culinarywannabe said...

Hi Emily - Well, if you insist then maybe I will down a few more. :) Have a great Turkey Day too!

Hi Susan - Care packages are the best. I don't think I'll ever outgrow loving them!

Hi Maria - Hope you Thanksgiving is wonderful as well!

Lisa said...

I just found your beautiful blog. I love that these bars are lighter than usual. You have a great mom!

jesse said...

Wow, they look so silky and ...sweet. *drool* Happy Thanksgiving!

Joanna said...

these look great!! i love pumpkin!! i can't get enough of it, just like every other blogger and person alive haha

Grace said...

given that i'm not much of a pumpkin fan or cheesecake fan, i can't figure out why your creation looks so tempting to me! it does, though, and eating it just might make me change my mind about those things. :)

Karen said...

I love to bake for people, too. It seems like such a homey loving thing to do! These cheesecake bars look yum!

Culinarywannabe said...

Hi Lisa - She is wonderful, and I'm looking forward to more of her holiday goodies soon!

Hi Jesse - They were super silky and yummy.

Hi Joanna - I know, pumpkin is everywhere!!

Hi Grace - I can't believe you don't like cheesecake! My hips wish I didn't! :)

Hi Karen - It's such a nice gesture to bake for friends and family. I'm sure they are looking forward to your holiday goodies!

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