It’s been brought to my attention (by my completely appalled friends), that some people think I might be a pumpkin hater because I posted a while back that I was sick of hearing about pumpkin spice lattes while there were still tomatoes and eggplants at the farmers’ markets. Well. I hope we can clear that up today.
I don’t hate pumpkin. I do strongly dislike the fake pumpkin syrup flavor that seems to permeate everything as soon as the calendar rolls around to September. If you like it, I’m glad. I don’t judge you. I occasionally enjoy far more nefarious food additives than pumpkin flavoring, believe me. I just don’t like all the pumpkin spice stuff. I do, however, like actual pumpkin. Pumpkin pie? Yum. Pumpkin bread? Delicious. Stuffed pumpkin? Yes, please. Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars with Walnut Streusel? Oh dear goodness, it doesn’t get much better than this, folks.
Suffice it to say I may have found my favorite pumpkin recipe. So much so that I’m considering making these bars for Thanksgiving instead of my favorite pumpkin pie. They are just that good. I think that streusel and pumpkin are a match made in heaven. The streusel in this recipe also serves as the crust when pressed into the pan, and the crumbly, buttery lightness melts into the creamy custardy pumpkin cheesecake filling. The walnuts in the streusel on top get all nice and toasty and fragrant, and as it turns out, walnut and pumpkin are pretty heavenly together, too.
If you wanted to fancy this up, you actually could make it in a pie dish and cut it into slices instead of squares, making it possibly into a nice plated dessert topped with a dollop of whipped cream. Worthy of any Thanksgiving feast if you ask me. On the other hand, these are simple and easy enough that, cut into little squares, they are a great contribution to a pot luck or an easy afternoon treat with a mug of cider or tea. Or a latte. Whatever floats your boat.
Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars with Walnut Streusel
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup packed brown sugar, separated (into 1/3 cup and 2/3 cup)
5 tablespoons very cold butter
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 8 oz package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup pureed pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice or baking spice
In a large bowl, combine flour and 1/3 cup brown sugar. Rub in butter between your thumbs and fingers until crumbly. Stir in the walnuts.
Press remaining crumb mixture into a greased 8-in. square baking pan.
Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, 2/3 cup brown sugar, and pumpkin until smooth. Beat in the eggs, vanilla, cinnamon and allspice. Pour this batter over the baked crust. Sprinkle reserved streusel mixture on top of the batter.
Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the streusel is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack, then refrigerate. Cut into squares. Store in an air tight container in the refrigerator.