Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Maple Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

Just because Thanksgiving is over, doesn't mean we have to stop eating pumpkin, right? I sure hope not. Pumpkin is one of my favorite things and when the holidays come around, I can't get enough of it. Plus, pumpkin is great for you! Here are just a few benefits of eating pumpkin:
  1. One cup is about 50 calories and it has three grams of fiber (I am 80 years old at heart and love my fiber!)
  2. Pumpkin contains lots of vitamin C and it's great for your skin
  3. Pumpkins are full of beta-carotene, an essential antioxidant that fights cancer
And those are just to name a few. Not to forget, it's totally yummy and can be used in sweet and savory dishes (pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin risotto and the list goes on and on). One of my favorite ways to eat it (besides pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread, duh) is putting a dollop in some oatmeal or even substituting it for the oil, eggs and water in a brownie mix. Bet you didn't know you could do that now did you? You can. I'll show you that sometime soon. Promise.

Okay, back to maple pumpkin cheesecake bars. I told you I get sidetracked easily. I made these bars for a potluck lunch we had at work to say goodbye to one of my favorite security guards, Sargent Thomas. It was sad to see him go, but he is on to bigger and better things with the state of California and I wish him the best of luck! Needless to say, I wanted to make him something special, different and something that brought in the thanksgiving pumpkiny goodness. As soon as I saw this recipe, I knew I had to make it. Come on now. It brings in two of my obsessions - maple and pumpkin! How could you go wrong? Plus, the crust is made from crushed gingersnaps that give the bar this spicy kick that just puts them over the top delicious. These bars are a cinch to make. I am not kidding. I know the word cheesecake might scare you, but these are easy peasy.

First you will bake your crust - gingersnaps, butter, sugar. Quite honestly the best crumb crust ever. I could just eat this plain. No baking. Just straight from the bowl. Wait, did I just admit that? Just make sure to really pack the crust in your pan really, really well. I thought I had, but I guess not enough. When I poured the batter over the cooked crust, part of the crust came up. Not much, but I had a mild panic attack that it was ruined. Okay, a major panic attack. The good news, is that it wasn't. So here is my tip. After the crust comes out and while you are making the filling, let the crust cool about 15-20 minutes. This will help it firm up a bit. Then, once you have the velvety pumpkin and maple filling ready to go, pour it gently over the crust and then bake. That's it. No water bath. No fussing with it. Just bake it. Now for the hardest part - letting it cool. These babies will fill your home with holiday goodness, but don't touch, lick or eat them until they are fully cooled! Just trust me on this one and no, I did not lick mine when they came out of the oven. I just wanted to clear that part up.

magic ingredients

mmm, crust

make sure to line with parchment or foil to get the bars out easy!

weeeee, evaporated milk

cinnamon and cloves are a must

my bff and a bowl of pumpkin heaven


a close up. please don't lick the screen.

Maple Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars (

For the Crust:
42 gingersnap cookies (about 10 ounces, give or take.)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the Filling:
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree (about 2 cups)
2 eggs
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch ground cloves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13-inch baking pan and line with parchment paper or non-stick foil so that it extends over each long side of the pan.

Make the Crust: In a food processor (if you don't have one, just put the cookies in a ziploc bag and break the cookies up with a rolling pin or a heavy pan), pulse together the gingersnaps and sugar until they become fine crumbs. Add the melted butter and pulse a few more times to incorporate. Press the crumbs evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 12 minutes. 

Making the Filling: While crust is baking, prepare the pumpkin filling. Beat together the cream cheese and the brown sugar on medium speed until smooth and creamy, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed, about 3 minutes. Add the pumpkin and mix on low speed until completely incorporated. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well until fully incorporated and scraping down the sides of the bowl between each addition. Add the evaporated milk, maple syrup and vanilla, and beat until well combined, about 1 minute. Add the cinnamon, ginger, salt, and cloves and mix on low to incorporate.

Pour the filling over the prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter to remove any air bubbles. Bake until the filling is set in the center, about 35 minutes. Remove from oven and set on a wire rack to cool. Once the bars have cooled to room temperature, you can cut and serve them, or you can refrigerate them and serve them chilled. Using the parchment paper overhangs, lift the bars from the pan and onto a cutting surface. Cut into squares and serve with whipped cream, if desired. Store the bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days (if they even last that long).

Pumpkin is not just for Thanksgiving anymore!

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