Cook the Book: Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
When I first flipped through our new cookbook, America’s Favorite Food, I landed on the Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars page pretty quickly with no need to search any further. I chose to try out this recipe for a few reasons:
1. I am a sucker for anything Halloween-themed and the end result is just so darn cute!
2. It seemed like a challenge - mostly because the last time I used my electric mixer was... well, honestly I have never used it.
3. With the main ingredients being cream cheese, pumpkin puree and crème-filled chocolate sandwich cookies (hello Oreo!), how could I go wrong?
The truth is, this dessert isn't something you can whip up in a hurry but if you have the time and patience, it is a hauntingly good, crowd-pleasing confection. I would recommend making it as a special treat for your kids or for a Halloween party that you are hosting. If you try to travel with this dessert, your whipped cream ghosts may end up a melted mess and that would be downright ghastly!
I started out by grinding up the cookies in a food processor and adding the butter to make the crust. The dangerous part? The recipe only calls for 20 cookies and there are about twice that number in the package!
While the crust baked at 350° for 12 minutes (and I finished munching on a few more Oreos), I got started mixing the filling. This process went smoothly although I found myself wanting to add more pumpkin puree than the recipe stated.
The base of the filling is cream cheese but you can trust the measurements. The flavor of the puree is strong enough to stand out especially when paired with the pumpkin pie spice and vanilla extract.
Next, I poured the mixture over the crust evenly and put the square pan on a larger wide-rimmed baking sheet. The instructions said to fill the baking sheet with hot water until almost full.
I am not sure what this does but I suspect the steam helps the cheesecake cook more uniformly.
The hardest part of making this dessert was all the waiting! Once you pull the cooked cheesecake out of the oven, it needs to cool completely before being chilled for at least 3 hours. Once it has done its time in the fridge, the real excitement begins. Using a plastic ziplock bag to pipe the whipped cream ghosts was much easier than I anticipated (although mine resemble the Michelin Man a little more than I would have liked). Making the ghosts and adding the mini chocolate chip "eyes" are festive and fun finishing touches that would make a great job for that little helper who is lurking around the kitchen. Don't forget to share because these bars are as rich as they are delicious so one goes a long way.
And when they're all gone? Well, that's just how the Oreo cookie crust crumbles!
NOTE: Definitely don't skip lining your pan with foil! I found the foil very helpful in lifting the cooked cheesecake out of the pan after it cooled. I think trying to slice and scoop out the bars inside the pan would have made for a disastrous result.