"These hit the bliss point!" were the words my daughter uttered after she took a bite of one of these amazing Pumpkin Silk Bars. My husband was silent, but I took that as a sign that he was silently reveling in my amazing ability to produce things wondrous for him--of course it could have also been that his mouth was full!! Whatever the case, these bars seriously give pumpkin pie a run for its money in a why-bother-going-to-the-trouble-of-making-pumpkin-pie-when-these-are-outrageously-good-kind-of-way. Pumpkin pie beware: you may have gotten bumped from the Thanksgiving table this year!
I have to admit that pumpkin pie is really not one of my favorite pies at all, but I LOVE these bars. A big part of this is due to the irresistible crunchy shortbread crust and the perfect way it pears with the creamy filling. And, and this is a biggie, these have all of what makes pumpkin pie so special, without all of the work! If you're a bit nervous about making the perfect pie for the holiday but definitely want a pumpkin dessert gracing your table, this is the dessert for you!
You start by making an easy shortbread that's only composed of 5 simple ingredients which get mixed together and spread into a baking dish.
The batter bakes up buttery and golden brown.
On top of that you spread a mixture of cream cheese, pumpkin puree, butter, vanilla, cinnamon, eggs, and confectioners' sugar which all gets easily mixed together using an electric mixer.
And that's it, folks. All you still have to do is chill it for at least a few hours or even better yet, overnight, which makes the actual day of Thanksgiving so much easier as dessert is all ready to go!
You just need to cut it into bars and serve.
And maybe top it with a bit of lightly sweetened whipped cream! Hits the bliss point indeed! Back tomorrow with another Thanksgiving classic, tweaked just a bit from the original. Happy Tuesday!
Pumpkin Silk Bars
Makes 12 large or 24 small bars
For the Crust
- 1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
For the Filling
- 1 eight-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
- 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 4 cups confectioners' sugar (1 pound box)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 3 large eggs
Lightly sweetened whipped cream (optional)
1. Make sure rack is in the middle of oven and preheat to 350ºF. Spray a 9x13-inch baking dish with vegetable cooking spray and line with parchment paper so that there's an overhang on both ends for easy lifting out when all is finished. Set aside.
2. To make the crust: Place the butter in the top of a double boiler and set it over a pot of barely simmering water. Stir often until fully melted. Remove the heat and stir in the sugar, vanilla and salt with a spoon. Pour in the flour and mix until no traces of flour are visible but don't over mix.
3. Press the dough into the bottom only of the prepared pan (not up the sides) and spread it out evenly. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the shortbread is golden on the edges but light brown in the center. Let cool on wire rack for at least 30 minutes.
4. To make the filling: Place the cream cheese in the large bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium speed for 5-7 minutes, until smooth and creamy. Add the pumpkin and mix for about 5 minutes, until thoroughly blended in. On low speed, add the melted butter, and vanilla and mix for 2-3 minutes, until well combined. Then add the confectioners' sugar, cinnamon and eggs and mix well until the ingredients are combined. Scrape down the sides and mix for another 5 minutes.
5. Pour the filling over the baked crust and smooth the top. Bake for 50-60 minutes until the center is firm and the top is golden with darker brown spots here and there. Transfer to a baking rack to cool completely, then cover well and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
6. Cut the cake into bars and serve chilled as is, or with a dollop of whipped cream. Leftovers will last 4-5 days in an airtight container in the fridge. If making this for Thanksgiving, definitely make it the day before (it'll save you a lot of time and hassle) but don't cut the bars until right before serving--they'll stay better that way.
Note: Recipe adapted from The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook by Cheryl and Griffith Day. I omitted 1/2 teaspoon mace and 1 teaspoon of nutmeg from the filling. If you want to add these in, do it at the same time you add the cinnamon.