Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

Without fail, every year at Thanksgiving and Christmas there's an outcry over the number of pumpkin pies made. As in not enough. Never enough.

Scarcity mindset kicks in. Personal claims to leftovers are made. Arm wrestling matches have - on a number of occasions - taken place at the dinner table.

Despite the anxiety that comes with trying to be the first person into the kitchen to grab leftovers and out the door before anyone is the wiser, pumpkin pie belongs on exactly two dinner tables per year. It can't just be whipped up on any given night; that would break tradition. And so the need for pumpkin squares...

These bars combine everything I love about their circular counterparts: creaminess, a strong pumpkin flavour, and just a bit of sweetness. They're casual enough for lunchboxes and afternoon tea, but can also be dolled up with candied ginger and whipped cream for a crowd pleasing dessert. 363 days a year, you're welcome.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

Ingredients

6 full graham crackers (the large rectangular size before they're broken in half)
3/4 cup Apple Pecan granola (or more graham crackers, or a combination of oats and pecans)
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter cut into chunks
1 8 oz package cream cheese at room temperature
1/2 cup demerara sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon clove
2 eggs


Directions

Preheat the oven to 350. Line an 8 x 8 pan with parchment paper.

Pulse the graham crackers in a food processor until coarse crumbs. Add the granola and pulse a few more times to break up clumps. Add the butter and pulse until it all comes together in wet clumps.

Push the crumbs into your prepared pan, using a spatula or back of a spoon to make sure it's compact and even.

Bake for 18 - 20 minutes. Don't go around thinking you're smarter than the timer (like some people) and cook the base too long... it really should be just golden.

While the base cooks beat the cream cheese and sugar in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until light and creamy. Add in the molasses, pumpkin, and spices and mix to combine. Then beat in the eggs, one and a time, until fully incorporated.

Pour the cream cheese mixture. Onto the base while it's still warm. Return to the oven and bake an additional 25-30 minutes. The centre will be just set and the top will be slightly puffed when it's done.

Allow to cool for 2-3 hours before serving. Store in the fridge after completely cooled.