Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
Makes 15 bars
I took two holiday favorites and combined them into one scrumptious dessert. Cheesecake and pumpkin with a graham cracker and pepita crust, topped with cajeta and more pepitas. It's an easy dessert to assemble, stores well in the refrigerator, and looks as good as it tastes. What more could you want from a dessert?
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
3/4 cup toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (see testing notes)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 – 8 ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar (divided use)
3 large eggs (divided use)
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 1/4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (see testing notes)
1 cup 100% pure canned pumpkin
1/4 to 1/3 cup cajeta
1/4 to 1/3 cup toasted pepitas
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare an 11 X 7-inch baking dish by buttering it, then creating a sling with parchment paper to cover the bottom and the sides of the dish, leaving 1-inch overhand on all sides. This will help when removing the bars from the pan. You'll also need a large roasting pan that this dish can fit in, to create a water bath. Heat enough water to fill the roasting pan halfway up the sides of the baking dish.
In a medium bowl, mix together the dry crust ingredients. Stir in the melted butter to moisten the crumbs. Press into the bottom of the baking dish.
Beat together the cream cheese and 1 1/4 cups sugar with an electric mixer until smooth. Add 2 eggs, 1 at a time. Scrape down the sides of the bowl between additions to make sure that the cream cheese is completely incorporated. Stir in vanilla.
Transfer 1 cup filling to a separate bowl. Add the remaining egg, final 1/4 cup sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and pumpkin to this bowl. Whisk together until smooth.
Spread half the plain cheesecake mixture in the bottom of the prepared pan. Pour the pumpkin mixture over the top. Dollop on the remaining plain cheesecake mixture and using an offset spatula, spread it out evenly. You’ll start to create a swirl pattern on the top as the pumpkin filling mixes with the plain filling. Then, using the spatula or a knife, gently swirl the fillings together being careful not to disturb the crust.
Set the cheesecake inside the roasting pan and place in the center of the oven. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the cheesecake. Bake for 50 – 60 minutes or until the center is just set, it should still be slightly wobbly.
Cool completely, then chill, loosely covered for at least 6 hours.
After the 6 hours, you can remove the cheesecake bars from the pan using the parchment sling and cut into 15 portions.
When you’re ready to serve, warm the cajeta in the microwave. Drizzle over the top of the bars and then sprinkle on the pepitas.
I prefer the pumpkin pie spice mixture that The Spice House sells and it’s available year round. If you live in the Chicagoland area, they have 5 locations, otherwise you can buy it through their internet site.
It’s important to chill the cheesecake bars before removing them from the pan since they need to firm up before you slice them.