Salted Caramel Swirled-Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
And the rest of the title is, with a Brown Sugar-Graham Cracker Crust.
They’re a happy accident that came to be after a recipe fail.
I was goofing around with some crescent roll dough and I don’t know how anyone can mess up dough-in-a-tube, but I did. I over-stuffed it and it was 3am. I used to still be out drinking at 3am on Friday nights, now I’m baking. Life sure changes.
I usually bake in the wee hours so that when daylight breaks, my goodies are cooled and camera-ready. Normally I have a bucket list a mile long of things I want to make, but with moving last weekend, my daughter starting her first week back at school this week, I was drawing a blank.
I saw a container of light cream cheese from a recent Trader Joe’s trip and bam, cheesecake bars, with pumpkin came to me.
And a half-used jar of Salted Caramel Sauce from Trader Joe’s caught my eye for swirls. Perfect.
The bars are modeled after the Peanut Butter-Swirled Cheesecake Bars with Brown Sugar-Graham Cracker Crust
I added pumpkin and plenty of pumpkin pie spice to the cream cheese, so they have a nice pop of comforting pumpkin flavor.
Normally I pick around crust and am not into crust, but this crust recipe is my new go-to for graham cracker-based crusts. The brown sugar and butter caramelize, and add so much more flavor than typical graham cracker crusts.
I add a tablespoon of cornstarch to prevent the crust from getting overly brittle. It’s definitely got some snap, but it’s not so rigid it cracks or crumbles.
The tanginess from the cream cheese, coupled with the pumpkin and spices, balance some of the sweetness from the crust and caramel sauce.
About the only thing that could top peanut butter swirls are swirls of gooey, creamy, rich caramel. The caramel sauce really brings out the caramel tones that develop in the crust while it bakes.
The slight saltiness from the caramel mitigates some sweetness, and adds a bit of the salty-and-sweet element that people seem to love.
Don’t use ice cream sundae sauce that’s runny, thin, and the first ingredient is corn syrup. It will get lost in the bars. Make sure the brand you use is nice and thick.
The bars are rich, satisfying, and there’s so many layers of flavor, from cream cheese, pumpkin and spices, to brown sugar and caramel.
And they’re also a texture lover’s dream. A crisp crust, with a soft yet dense and firm middle, coupled with rivers of caramel flowing over the surface.
The best part is that they’re fast and easy to make, and way less intense than trying to make a whole cheesecake. Plus, I don’t want or need a whole cheesecake. This little 8×8-inch pan was plenty.
Every now and then I don’t mind a recipe fail because what’s created instead trumps the original plan.
The bars turned out infinitely better than anything with dough-in-a-tube could have.
Salted Caramel Swirled-Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars with Brown Sugar-Graham Cracker Crust
These bars are a texture lover’s dream with a crisp brown sugar-graham cracker crust, a soft yet dense pumpkin cheesecake layer, and gooey soft salted caramel swirls the run like a river over the surface. They’re tangy and the pumpkin is pleasantly spiced with a nice pop of fall flavor. The buttery, brown sugar-graham crust caramelizes while baking, and complements the caramel sauce that’s swirled in. The bars are impressive enough to serve at holiday parties, but are so much faster and easier to make than traditional cheesecake – and I prefer them.
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon cornstarch
pinch salt, optional and to taste
1 large egg
6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature and very soft (light is okay, micro for 10-15 seconds if you forgot to set it out to soften)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
heaping 1/3 cup pumpin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
2 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (if you don’t have it, add pinches of cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg and cloves)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
heaping 1/3 cup salted caramel sauce (don’t ise ice cream sauce that’s made with corn syrup as the first ingredient because it’s too thin; thicker is better or make homemade salted caramel
- Preheat over to 350F. Line an 8×8-inch pan with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray; set aside.
- For the Crust – In a medium microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter, about 1 minute on high power.
- Add all remaining crust ingredients and mix with a fork to combine.
- Turn loose crumbs out into prepared pan and using a spatula, pack mixture firmly into pan in an even, smooth, flat layer; set pan aside.
- For the Filling – In the same mixing bowl (no need to wash it), combine egg, cream cheese, sugar, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla, and whisk until smooth and combined, or beat with an electric mixer. The softer the cream cheese is, the easier the mixture comes together.
- Add the flour and mix to just incorporate; don’t overmix.
- Pour filling over crust.
- Drizzle salted caramel sauce over batter to create swirls. To create the marbled pattern shown, drizzle caramel over batter in 5 wide, evenly spaced, parallel lines, each spanning the length of the pan. Like 5 rows of long train tracks. Rotate pan 90-degrees. With a toothpick, starting at the top of the pan, “draw” 5 evenly spaced lines through the caramel. You’re dragging the toothpick perpendicularly through the first set of lines to create the marbling.
- Bake for about 40 minutes, or until center is set with very little jiggle; some looseness and a very slight jiggle is okay, but there should not be sloshing in the center. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out mostly clean, or with a few moist crumbs, but no batter. Allow bars to cool in pan for about 1 hour before lifting out with foil overhang and slicing. I prefer to serve these bars chilled. Cover the pan with foil to prevent fridge smells, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight, or until chilled before slicing and serving. Bars will keep airtight in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
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Thanks for the entries in the Deluxe GIR Kitchen Spatulas Giveaway
What’s your favorite type of cheesecake? Or recipe using pumpkin or caramel?