Baking with Olivia and Caroline

November 2023 Recipe – Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

By Published On: October 28th, 2023

Our recipe for last November was a pumpkin chiffon pie. We are going to keep the pumpkin theme again for this November and probably many Novembers to come! This year we upped it a bit by roasting our own sugar pumpkin. If you haven’t tried it, don’t be intimidated by the process. It is easy and very satisfying. Plus, you can save the seeds for a tasty and healthy snack. You can also use butternut squash or kabocha squash, which will be thicker and more orange and will probably taste even more pumpkin-y.

In researching pumpkin purées, we found that canned pumpkin isn’t made from the orange, jack-o-lantern pumpkins you’re thinking of. Libby’s canned pumpkin purée, for example, is made from Dickinson pumpkins (aka Dickinson squash). They are pale skinned, oblong shaped, and have dark orange flesh. This proprietary pumpkin has an excellent taste and texture, which is what makes Libby’s so great. Other canned pumpkins use winter squashes like butternut. You can roast your own squash or take the easy route and use canned, but our roasted pumpkin seeds came out absolutely delicious so it’s worth it to at least try.

Starting at the bottom 

We tend to use graham crackers for our cheesecake bases, but we wanted a bit more spice for the base of these bars. We hope you have some leftover gingersnaps from last month’s recipe! We didn’t; we ate our leftover cookies sipping chai lattes. So, we bought the gingersnaps again and made a brand new crust that pairs perfectly with the pumpkin cheesecake. 

Add these to your Thanksgiving dessert table or Friendsgiving potluck, or just enjoy them because it’s pumpkin season. We used to bring these bars to my eldest daughter’s college field hockey tailgates, and they were always a big hit. We occasionally dress ours up with maple whipped cream on top, but that is totally optional. We hope you enjoy! 

Crust ingredients

40-45 crushed gingersnap cookies
6 tbs butter, melted
¼ tsp salt

Cheesecake ingredients

2 packages full-fat cream cheese, room temperature
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 ½ cups pumpkin puree
4 eggs, room temp

If you want to roast your own pumpkin or squash, then preheat oven to 400˚F. Cut off stem and cut squash into two halves lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out seeds and pulp from center, then rub flesh generously with butter or melted coconut oil and a sprinkle of salt. Bake cut side down on a baking sheet for 35-55 minutes or until skin is easily pierced with a fork. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before scooping out the insides with a spoon. Purée in a blender. If using sugar pumpkin, you will need to pour the cooked flesh into a cheesecloth and let drain until the desired consistency is reached. You can also cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until enough water has evaporated, and it becomes thicker.

This process may not be necessary if using other squash.

Gingersnap crust

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Combine the crushed ginger snaps, salt, and melted butter in a bowl. Press the graham cracker mixture into a parchment-lined 9×13 inch baking pan and bake for 8-10 minutes to set, then set aside. 

Pumpkin cheesecake

Lower the oven temperature to 325˚F. Cream the softened cream cheese, granulated sugar, and brown sugar with a paddle attachment until smooth. Add in the cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, salt, vanilla, and pumpkin purée and mix again to combine. On low speed, add the eggs in one at a time until combined. Pour the cheesecake batter into the baking pan with the graham cracker crust and place it in the middle rack of the oven. 

Bake the cheesecake for 45-50 minutes, or just until there is a slight wobble in the center. Turn off the oven and slightly prop the oven door open. Let the cheesecake cool for 30 minutes before pulling it out to cool down fully at room temp. Refrigerate the cheesecake for 4 hours or overnight before cutting into it. Serve as is or with whipped cream and enjoy!

Bonus recipe! 

While the oven is still hot, turn it back up to 350˚F. Put your cleaned pumpkin seeds on a cookie sheet and season generously with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Drizzle with olive oil and stir to coat. Roast until golden brown, 8-10 minutes. (I soaked the seeds in water while making the cheesecake bars so they were ready and clean and they cooked more evenly once the oven was freed up).

Also! Help me in wishing Caroline luck on her new adventure. She will be moving out of our area this month. Thankfully, she has agreed to continue to be my baking partner, but virtually. I am going to miss her terribly, but this is a wonderful way to keep us connected. •

Olivia and Caroline are enthusiastic foodies and bakers who are constantly in the kitchen, as well as explorers who create their own adventures in our area – and did we mention they are mother and daughter? Follow Olivia on Instagram to see her many creations at @oliviawvalentine.