Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars | October 26, 2016

We are in the throes of pumpkin season. In my opinion, it is a little out of control. I understand pumpkin pie spices in baked goods, lattes, and caramel but I have seen some disturbing uses of pumpkin spice this year. Have you tried Pumpkin Spice Peeps? (If you did, please resist admitting it.) There are Pumpkin Spice potato chips, English muffins, coffee, cereal, and “chocolate chips.” I can taste the artificial aftertaste as I type. I am drawing the line at pumpkin spice filled Hershey Kisses.

I am an adventurous cook and eater but I think you can have too much of a good thing. To go back to the classics, I made Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars with Caramel Swirl. The caramel is homemade (venturing a guess that it doesn’t have much in common with the inside of the Pumpkin Spice flavored Hershey Kiss.) If there is leftover caramel or if you hold back a little, the caramel is DELICIOUS on vanilla ice cream. I used a gingersnap crust because I thought the gingersnaps would complement the caramel without being too sweet. However, if you really like chocolate and pumpkin together you could use chocolate wafer cookies instead.  (The original recipe is from epicurious.com and uses a chocolate cookie crust.)

The recipe comes together pretty easily. You want to make sure that the cream cheese is really smooth before adding any of the other ingredients. The pumpkin puree is going to change the texture pretty quickly because it is wet. The key to a good cheesecake is the baking.  I cannot stress this enough – cooking cheesecake in a water bath will keep your cheesecake silky smooth and will help cook it all the way through.

Fun hack – if you put the cake in the freezer once it is cooled, you can use a Tovolo Cookie Cutter and make fun coffin or pumpkin shapes!

PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE BARS

YIELDS 13″x9″ pan |  PREP TIME  20 mins. + 60 mins. for baking  |  PRINT PDF

INGREDIENTS

 

CARAMEL

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons heavy cream

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Salt

 

CRUST

13 ounces gingersnap cookies, crushed (about 3 cups)

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

Salt

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

 

CHEESECAKE

1 1/2 pounds cream cheese, softened

3/4 cup sugar

One 28-ounce can pumpkin puree

1/4 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

4 large eggs

Hot water

DIRECTIONS
    1. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and 2 tablespoons of water and bring to a boil. Using a wet pastry brush, wash down any crystals on the side of the pan. Boil over high heat until a deep amber caramel forms, about 6 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and carefully whisk in the cream, butter, vanilla and a pinch of salt. Let the caramel cool to room temperature.
    2. Preheat the oven to 350° and butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. In a food processor, pulse the gingersnap cookies with the sugar and a pinch of salt until fine crumbs form. Add the butter and process until the crumbs are evenly moistened. Using your fingers, press the crumbs into the prepared baking pan in an even layer. Bake the crust for about 10 minutes, until set. Let cool completely.
    3. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese with the sugar at medium speed until blended. Beat in the pumpkin puree, sour cream and vanilla, then beat in the eggs until just incorporated.
    4. Set the pan with the crust in a large, deep roasting pan. Pour the pumpkin cheesecake filling over the cookie crust and carefully drizzle the caramel mixture over the top. Using a toothpick, decoratively swirl the caramel sauce. Transfer the roasting pan to the oven and carefully pour in enough hot water to reach halfway up the side of the baking pan. Bake the cheesecake for about 55 minutes, until the filling is barely jiggly in the center. Transfer the roasting pan to a rack and let the cheesecake cool completely. Remove the baking pan from the water bath and refrigerate the cheesecake overnight. Cut into bars and serve.