Light(er) Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

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Halloween is quickly approaching which means I’ve entered into my annual pumpkin-obsession stage. From about mid-October to early December I am pretty solidly in this stage, consuming everything from pumpkin lattes to pumpkin ravioli. Of course the annual must-have is pumpkin pie for thanksgiving, although I’ve also experimented with a few other pumpkin-based desserts such as pumpkin cupcakes and this year’s masterpiece: pumpkin cheesecake bars.

This recipe is good because it is a lighter version of the traditional pumpkin cheesecake bars, which are absolutely delicious but very heavy. It uses light cream cheese, Greek yogurt, and very little sugar. Indeed, I feel I must put in a warning that the final product has only a hint of sweetness due to the limited sugar used. It goes very well with ice cream, for those who want that extra bit of sweetness alongside the pumpkin. I also topped mine with a candy corn (near impossible to find in Britain…very kindly brought over by a friend from New York!) to give it a particularly Halloween feel!

Light(er) Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

Ingredients:

Crust:

  • 1 cup (200 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (80 g) powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup (115 g) butter

Cheesecake:

  • 8 ounces (225 grams) cream cheese, room temperature
  • ⅓ cup (75 grams) unrefined or granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1⅓ cups (310 grams) pumpkin puree
  • ¼ cup (54 grams) plain full-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice

Directions:

Crust:

  1. Combine flour, powdered sugar and room temperature butter until coarse crumbs form.
  2. Put into greased pan (can also line pan with wax paper to avoid sticking) and bake for 15 minutes at 350F (176C).
  3. Remove from heat until filling is ready. Reduce oven to 300F (150 C).

Cheesecake:

  1. With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar until fluffy.
  2. Add the eggs and mix until combined.
  3. Add the remaining cheesecake ingredients and mix just until combined.
  4. Pour the filling over the crust and bake for 35 minutes at 300 F (150C) or until the middle of the cheesecake bars appears set and no longer jiggles when you move the pan.
  5. Open the oven door and let the bars cool completely before removing from the oven. This is to prevent the cheesecake from cracking.
  6. Cover and store the bars in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

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Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

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During the autumn months, my attention is consistently drawn to pumpkins, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and other colorful gourd vegetables. Pumpkin is a particular favorite, and I’m constantly looking for new recipes to incorporate this obsession into. The most recent that I’ve enjoyed are pumpkin cupcakes, which we had for desert at our Bagna Cauda dinner party. (See Bagna Cauda post). These cupcakes have a great pumpkin spice flavor and the cream cheese frosting is light with a hint of cinnamon.  Nothing better for the pumpkin-crazy months of October and November!

Pumpkin Cupcakes 

Makes about 24 small cupcakes.

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup pumpkin puree

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 large eggs

Directions:

Preheat over to 350 F (175 C). Prepare muffin tin with paper liners.

In large bowl, combine flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.

In another bowl, whisk together pumpkin puree, sugars, vegetable oil and eggs.

Pour mixture over dry ingredients and stir using rubber spatula until moist.

Scoop batter evenly into muffin try. Bake in over for 15-18 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Remove from oven and cool on wire rack before frosting.

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Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:

12 T (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 8-oz package (1 cup) cream cheese, at room temperature

3 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

Beat butter and cream cheese in a bowl with an electric mixer, until light and fluffy, approximately 2-3 minutes. Slowly add confectioners’ sugar with mixer on low speed. Add vanilla and cinnamon until well combined. At medium speed beat until frosting is light and fluffy, 1-2 minutes.

Optional: Top the cupcakes with chopped walnuts or other autumn-themed decoration 

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