Bless me, Father...it has been roughly two years since my last rant on pumpkin spice-flavored things. I just scoured the blog to see how many posts I've written with recipes containing pumpkin. In the nearly eight year history of this blog, there have been exactly four recipes with pumpkin. Today I will bring you Number 5, but not before I go on another tiny rant.
Let me say that I am not anti-pumpkin. I know I am very late to the Pumpkin Appreciation Society party. I don't exactly understand the deep love that some have for pumpkin spice things. Every year it seems that the grocery stores have yet another endcap full of items flavored with the squash, and some mixture of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves. I'm not the only one who thinks the overabundance of pumpkin spiced things is a little over the top. You can see for yourself in this article published on Eater last year. I'm also sure that since this article was published, there have been even more pumpkin spice flavored foods created.
Despite not understanding the obsession, my appreciation is true. I just don't need a cabinet full of Pumpkin Spice Oreos, Pumpkin Spice Cheerios, Pumpkin Spice marshmallows in my hot chocolate, or Pumpkin Spice Creamer in my morning coffee. Or Pumpkin Spice Eggnog...just because.
But if you ask me what I think of a pumpkin bar with a spiced wafer crumb bottom and swirled with cream cheese? Well...I will say, yes, please, and thank you...do you mind if I have two? The cookie crumb will get even better the second day they're around (if they don't last that long...it's okay.) I made these in an 8x8 inch pan, which I love. It's manageable and still gives you enough to share if you feel like it.
I used my favorite Fall cookie here for the crumb. If you're in the greater Philadelphia, PA area, I suggest running to the grocery store and picking up a box or two of Sweetzel's Spiced Wafers. It's good to have family back East who send you your favorite Fall cookie. If you don't have them, gingersnaps would work just as well. You could also use graham crackers, but the spice in the crumb really makes these great. You can happily and easily use canned pumpkin (be sure it's not pumpkin pie filling) or grab a sugar pie/pie pumpkin from the grocer's or the farmers market and make your own puree. It's as easy as halving a pumpkin, scooping out the seeds, drizzling with some oil or butter, and roasting for 40 minutes in a hot oven. I just find making my own so satisfying.
Pumpkin Cream Cheese Swirl Bars
Makes one 8x8 inch pan
1 ¾ c spiced wafers cookie crumbs
6 tbsp butter
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
¾ c sugar
4 tbsp flour
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
12 oz pumpkin puree
1 tbsp milk
For the crust: Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. If using whole cookies, break them into pieces, put in a food processor and process until fine crumbs. Put in a bowl with sugar and salt and mix well. Melt butter on stovetop, then add butter to crumbs, mixing well. Line the pan with parchment, pour the crumbs into the pan, pressing down and into corners with a spatula until crust is evenly spread. Bake for 6 minutes, remove from oven, and allow to cool. Turn oven up to 375 degrees for baking bars.
For the filling: In a medium bowl, cream sugar, flour, and cream cheese. Mix until smooth and reserve about a half cup of the mixture to the side. Add the pumpkin pie spice, eggs, and pumpkin puree, mixing until incorporated and smooth. Pour batter into 8x8 pan and spread evenly. Mix milk with reserved cream cheese mixture until smooth. Spoon sporadically onto batter and make swirl with the tip of a knife.
Bake until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Approximately 45-50 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Once mostly cool, chill for at least 4 hours or longer. Remember to run a knife edge along inner edges of bars if you plan on removing from pan.