Love Fall. Love pumpkin. Not that crazy about pumpkin pie. No matter how hard I try, my pumpkin pie is usually a disappointment. In fact, after nearly 35 years of fruitless attempts I have only received one compliment from Neeners. It was several years ago on Thanksgiving Day, and time for dessert. Neeners very reluctantly took a piece, tasted it, and said “Good pie this year…..Finally”. Since I didn’t bother to write down the recipe I made up that day, replicating it is an impossibility. So we will punt – how about some Pumpkin Streusel Bars? Gingersnap cookie crust, rich and creamy pumpkin pie filling, and a buttery streusel topping with just a touch of cinnamon. This recipe makes nearly the equivalent of two pumpkin pies, so feeding a crowd is a cinch. Perfect for a tailgate, potluck, or Thanksgiving dinner.
Oh! And the other nice thing is this entire dessert can be made in a food processor if you happen to have one hanging around. Let’s begin, shall we? The whole thing begins with a Gingersnap Cookie crust. I usually buy a bag of Nabisco Gingersnap cookies, but choose whichever kind you like. Pulverize the daylights out of them in a food processor (or put them in a Ziplock bag and beat them with a rolling pin until the cookies turn to crumbs and you have no more aggression left in your system). Mix in some sugar and melted butter and that’s all there is to it. Press the crumb crust mixture into the bottom of the baking dish. Here’s a nice trick: You can use a pint jar, drinking glass, or any such thing to push the crumbs down firmly and to help push some of them up the sides of the dish. Bake this guy in a 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes. You want to see the edges crisping up so the crust doesn’t get mushy.
Here is your first decision point – you have two choices: This recipe can make enough for a 13×9 inch glass baking dish with enough custard mix left over to make a small loaf pan sized separate pumpkin filling. The last time I made this, I baked it in a Williams & Sonoma rectangular metal baking pan and it fit perfectly, so keep an eye on the filling, and be sure to leave a good 3/4 inch or room for this guy to rise in the oven. We do not want spillovers – this would totally ruin our experience. Anyhow, if you happen to have extra filling, it comes in handy if you have gluten free guests or if you want to keep some all to yourself and take the rest to your relatives for the holiday. If you don’t want to do that and have an 11×15 (5 quart) baking dish, this recipe fits that size perfectly. For purposes of illustration and because I like to hoard some for myself, I made the 13×9 inch batch and a mini-me for snacking.
Next on our agenda is making the streusel topping. Another simple exercise: If you have a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, butter and cinnamon If you don’t have a food processor, you can use two butter knives to cut the butter into the flour. When you’re finished putting it together, just set aside.Step 3 is making the filling. Back to your food processor (or just combine all of the ingredients into the bowl of your mixer. No mixer? Everything can go into a large bowl and get whipped by hand, or by using a hand mixer.
We are ready for assembly! Pour the filling into your baking dish (or into your baking dish and your mini-me dish). Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes until the top of the custard starts to set. Then grab your streusel topping and sprinkle over the top of your custard. Smoosh it between your fingers while sprinkling to make nice little clumps. There is a method to this madness: Baking your custard for awhile before adding the streusel prevents said streusel from sinking to the bottom of the pan, which would be unfortunate. Back into the oven it goes for about another 30 minutes for a 13×9 inch pan, and probably 35-40 for the larger size. You’ll know when it’s done when a sharp knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Also, give the dish a good jiggle. There shouldn’t be any shimmying going on in the center – the whole works should appear pretty firm. Again, I am speaking from experience since once I did not follow my own advice in this area, and the crust nearly liquified thanks to my desire to yank it out of the oven too soon. I still ate it though – did you even have to ask? And there you have it!
Serve it up warm with ice cream or whipped cream (my favorite) sprinkled with a little cinnamon sugar, or at room temperature. Or cold. You choose.
HAPPY FALL EVERYONE!! xoxoxoxo
- FOR THE CRUST
- 2 ½ cups gingersnap cookie crumbs (you can do this in a food processor, or put into a Ziplock bag and pulverized with a rolling pin – this one is quite fun, especially if you happen to be in a fussy mood).
- 4 tablespoon sugar
- ½ cup butter, melted
- FOR THE FILLING
- 1, 29 ounce can solid pack pumpkin (Libby’s is best)
- 4 eggs
- 2 cans evaporated milk
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon allspice
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- 1 teaspoon salt
- FOR THE STREUSEL TOPPING
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup cold butter
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon sugar (optional-for sprinkling over the top of the streusel)
- FOR THE CRUST
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Spray 13x9 inch glass or metal baking dish liberally with cooking spray.
- In a large bowl, combine the cookie crumbs, sugar, and melted butter.
- Press the crumb mixture into the pan, making sure you get all those edges covered. A nice trick is to use the bottom of a measuring cup or glass jar to press the crumbs down firmly.
- Bake for 20-15 until the crust sets. NOTE: This part is important because it helps your bottom crust stay nice and crispy. When finished, removed from oven and set aside.
- FOR THE STREUSEL TOPPING
- In a food processor, pulse together the flour and sugar until blended. Cut the cube of butter into ½ inch slices, add to the flour mixture, and pulse again until just crumbly. If you don’t have a food processor, you can handle this in a bowl with a pastry blender or two butter knives).
- Set aside.
- FOR THE FILLING
- Using a food processor or mixer, combine the pumpkin, eggs, sugar, cinnamon, allspice, ginger and salt until well blended.
- TO ASSEMBLE
- Pour the prepared filling into the crust. NOTE: It’s possible that you may have too much filling for your baking dish. Fill the pan ONLY as full as about ¾ inch from the top of the pan to avoid spill over. This recipe fits perfectly into my metal 13x9 pan, but it’s too much for my glass baking dishes. Use the extra filling, if you have it, by baking in a small custard dish or whatever oven safe small thing you have handy.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and sprinkle on the streusel topping. Try to smoosh the topping between your fingers to form little balls (better for texture) if you can.
- Return to oven and bake until a sharp knife inserted in the middle of the pan comes out clean. This usually takes right about 30 minutes.
- Remove from oven when finished and allow to cool on a rack for about 15 minutes before diving in. Best warm, but you can always microwave slices for a few minutes or gently warm the whole thing in the oven at 300 degrees for 20 minutes or so if you don’t polish it off all at once.
- PS: I really love this served with something creamy like whipped cream or ice cream.