Maple Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

Earlier this month, when I made a batch of maple-walnut ice cream, I mentioned how any mention of maple reminds of a classic episodes of Friends, as well as Buddy the Elf. Truth be told, both Ross and Buddy knew what they were talking about. Maple is such a pure, clean flavor, and unfortunately, it often times takes a backseat to other favorite fall baking ingredients, like pumpkin and apple. In an effort to increase my maple syrup consumption leading up to multiple viewings of Elf starting in November, I picked up a ginormous bottle of pure maple syrup and hit the kitchen. This recipe certainly encompasses the best that fall has to offer – maple, pumpkin, gingersnaps and cheesecake, not to mention cinnamon and the usual suspects when it comes to fall spices. If you’re looking for fall flavors, these bars are a total win.

While I love, absolutely love¬†cheesecake, there’s no denying that it’s a lengthy process to make one from scratch. They are totally worth the effort, but between the long bake time, cool time and chill time, sometimes you don’t get to taste your creation until the next day. These bars are the perfect compromise. They are essentially a pumpkin cheesecake filling, spiked with maple, and poured on top of a gingersnap crust (which means they can be thrown together quickly), but you can eat them as soon as they cool to room temperature. There are plenty of times in life when we need to practice patience; eating these bars is not one of those times. You can save up your patience for a trip to the doctor’s office, or the grocery store on a weekend morning ;-)

I love that these bars encompass all of my favorite flavors and textures of the season, and that they are contributing to my seasonal maple consumption. What’s your favorite flavor to bake with during this time of year?

One year ago: Salted Caramel Popcorn, Pretzel & Peanut Bars
Two years ago: Pumpkin Cinnamon Chip & Pecan Granola Bars
Three years ago: Potato Rosemary Bread
Four years ago: French Toast
Five years ago: Soft Pretzels, Part II

Maple Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

Yield: 24 bars

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

A maple pumpkin cheesecake filling sits atop a gingersnap crust, for a fantastic fall dessert. No forks required!

Ingredients:

For the Crust:
42 gingersnap cookies (about 9 ounces)
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

Directions:

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

2. Make the Crust: In a food processor, 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 10 minutes.

3. 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.

4. 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 30 to 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.

5. Using the parchment paper overhangs, lift the bars from the pan and onto a cutting surface. Cut into squares and serve with whipped cream and candy corn, if desired. Store the bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

(Recipe adapted from Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy)