From Sarah Kieffer’s new cookbook, 100 Cookies, these airy cream cheese pumpkin pie bars with a buttery graham cracker crust and spiced pumpkin pie swirls are the perfect fall treat!
Sarah Kieffer’s beautiful book, 100 Cookies, arrived on my doorstep in August. At the time, I was overwhelmed by a host of things – trying to make my daughters’ summer seem semi-normal, juggling all kinds of work, and trying to deal with an onslaught of tomatoes. I wasn’t ready to even think about baking.
And then, the weeks ticked by, the weather cooled, the tomato plants gave all they had to give, and suddenly fall baking season was underway. So far, we’ve made Sarah’s pan bang oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and these cream cheese pumpkin pie bars twice. I tend to make most of my cookies around the holidays and have several of Sarah’s recipes bookmarked, like chocolate sugar cookies, bourbon sablés, every single blondie recipe, and of course, the chocolate chip cookies.
If you’re new to baking, love cookies, or just want a fresh spin on classic recipes, I highly recommend 100 Cookies. It’s a delight to flip through and would make an excellent holiday gift. Sarah’s book is on backorder through Amazon, but you can grab a copy at Barnes and Noble. And the good news is that it’s being reprinted, so it should be widely available again soon. Get it!
Cream Cheese Pumpkin Pie Bars: A Delicious Pumpkin Pie Alternative
Now, about these cream cheese pumpkin pie bars. Apparently, some people do not like pumpkin pie. Those people are of course wrong, but we can still try and make them happy. These bars are tangy and light, just as a perfect cheesecake should be. They’re swirled with an on-point autumnal combination of pumpkin puree (from scratch or canned), cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, brown sugar, and maple syrup – all the best fall things in one perfect swirl.
To make Sarah’s cream cheese pumpkin pie bars, you’ll want to be sure your cream cheese is fully at room temperature. You’ll also need to allow lots of time for the pumpkin bars to cool after you’ve baked them – 4 hours on the counter plus more time in the fridge.
- 1 1/2 cups [150 g] graham cracker crumbs (slightly more than 1 sleeve of graham crackers)
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 4 tablespoons [57 g] unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup [224 g] unsweetened pumpkin purée
- 1/2 cup [100 g] brown sugar
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated or ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 24 ounces [678 g] cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups [300 g] granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup [120 g] heavy cream
Adjust an oven rack to the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F [170 degrees C]. Line a 9 x 13 in [23 x 33 cm] pan with a parchment sling, leaving an overhang on two sides.
Whisk together the graham cracker crumbs, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and ginger in a medium bowl. Add the melted butter and mix with a spatula until evenly incorporated.
Press the mixture onto the bottom of the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool. After the pan has cooled, wrap the outside sides of the pan in two layers of aluminum foil, with the shiny side facing out (this helps keep the sides of the cheesecake from browning).
In a medium bowl, combine the pumpkin, brown sugar, egg, maple syrup, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt, and mix until completely combined.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, or using a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until light and completely smooth, 4 to 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl often, making sure all the cream cheese is silky smooth. Add the granulated sugar and beat on medium speed until completely incorporated, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and salt, and beat on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating on low speed after each addition until just combined. Add the heavy cream, and mix on low speed until combined. Using a spatula, give the filling a couple of turns to make sure it is fully mixed.
Pour the cream cheese filling over the cooled crust and use an offset spatula to smooth the top. Dollop the pumpkin pie filling over the top. Use the tip of a butter knife to swirl the pumpkin into the cream cheese batter, being careful not to cut into the crust. Bang the bottom of the pan on the counter a few times to help get rid of any air bubbles.
Bake the cheesecake until the center of the cheesecake registers 150 degrees F [65 degrees C], 30 to 35 minutes. The outside two to three inches [5 to 8 cm] of the cheesecake will be puffed and fairly firm and set, but the center will still be jiggly at this point. Turn off the heat, open the oven door just a crack, and let the cheesecake rest and cool in the warm oven for 30 minutes.
Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool. Once the cheesecake is completely cool, place a piece of parchment over the top of the pan (this helps keep condensation off the top of the cheesecake) and transfer it to the refrigerator. Let chill for at least 4 hours or overnight. Slice the bars and serve. The bars can be served cold or at room temperature but keep best in the refrigerator for up to a week.