Remember the joys of early air travel? You know, those days where they showed you a movie that you could hear without having to pay for ear buds, stowed your luggage without a fee and actually fed you a free meal on any flight that was longer than two hours? I’ll admit, the food wasn’t exactly fine dining, but depending on the airline, it wasn’t bad. I remember flying to Rome on Alitalia many years ago and being served a pretty darn tasty veal cannelloni and a nice Pinot Grigio to wash it down with too. Oh, yeah. Those were the days…
Now, all you get for free is a plastic cup filled with watered down soda or juice, and a choice of peanuts or cookies. Seriously! Have you seen those tiny packets of peanuts? They’re miniscule! The cookies are a much better bet. At least you get two full-sized cookies. And, they’re really, really good cookies too. In fact, those cookies have become so popular, that the company that makes them now imports them all over the world – including my very own local supermarket.
Biscoff Cookies are made by Belgium-based Lotus Bakeries. They are crispy, crunchy little spiced cookies, very similar to gingersnaps. And, I’m telling you people, they are addictive. They also make a very nice piecrust, which is where I was going with this story.
Now that we’re firmly entrenched in Autumn, I was looking to make something with pumpkin – maybe a pie or a cheesecake. Since I had several boxes of cookies lying around, I figured that I could use some of them to make the crust. I ended up deciding on Maple Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars with a Biscoff cookie crust.
The recipe for these bars is super easy and virtually foolproof. I essentially took a basic pumpkin pie recipe and tweaked it by adding cream cheese and maple syrup to the filling, and of course, by using my Biscoff cookies for the crust. I also saved a little time and minimized the clean up by mixing up both the crust and filling in my food processor. Who wants to wash a bunch of extra dirty bowls?
I loved, loved, loved these! The bar format worked out great. I could cut them into any sized squares I wanted and decorate each square individually. They were also neater and easier to eat than a pie or cheesecake because you didn’t really need a fork. And, the taste? My, oh my, did these taste amazing! They were like a silky, smooth pumpkin cheesecake laced with spice and a hint of maple. Topped with a splotch of whipped cream and candy corn, these bars are a perfect little Halloween treat!
Maple Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
For the cookie crust:
- 1 package Biscoff cookies (Gingersnaps can be substituted.)
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 5-6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
For the maple pumpkin filling:
- 1 8-ounce brick cream cheese, softened
- 2 large eggs
- 1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin puree (approximately 2 cups)
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
- 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- Fresh whipped cream and candy corn for garnish (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and place a rack in the center of the oven. Line the bottom and sides of a lightly buttered 9 x 13-inch baking pan with aluminum foil that extends at least 3-inches over each end of the pan. You will use this overlap to remove the baked bars from the pan. Lightly butter the foil.
- To make the crust, pulse cookies and sugar together in a food processor until you have fine crumbs. Add 5 tablespoons melted butter and pulse a few more times to incorporate. The crumbs should look like wet sand and hold together when pinched. If the crumb mixture is too dry, add an additional teaspoon of butter at a time until the right consistency is achieved.
- Press crumbs evenly into the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes. Rinse and dry the bowl of the food processor.
- While crust is baking, prepare the pumpkin filling. Combine all filling ingredients, except the whipped cream, together in the bowl of the food processor and process until smooth. Pour the filling over the pre-baked crust and tap the pan down on the counter a few times to release any air bubbles. Bake until the filling is set in the center, about 30 – 35 minutes. Remove from oven and set on a wire rack to cool.
- Run a knife around the inside edges of the pan to loosen the pumpkin bars. Using the foil, carefully lift the bars from the pan and onto a cutting surface. Peel back the foil and cut into squares with a warm, sharp knife. Serve chilled or at room temperature, with a dollop of whipped cream and a candy corn on top, if desired.
- The bars can be stored, covered, in the fridge for about 4 days.
Makes approximately 24 bars.