Pumpkin Pie Bars + 5 Not A Pie Desserts For Thanksgiving!



We threw a “pre-holiday” party last weekend.  Local friends came over for drinks and conversation sans children.  Chatting and drinking with friends we only see at soccer games, school pick-ups/drop offs and fundraisers felt like a luxury.  A luxury? Yes.  Most of the time we see each other harried, running off to the next activity, chatting briefly before a little person tugs on our arm, it’s time to go…again.  As if we are on a treadmill without a stop button, we just keep going.  Saturday night we stopped.  We drank and laughed and ate.

Before long friends left to relieve sitters.  We happily enjoyed our final sips and bites before taking on the mess in our kitchen.  I didn’t mind cleaning up this mess.  There is something beautiful about a post party mess, as if, bits of people are left behind, their energy still enveloping the room.  After we cleaned the last glass, swept the last crumb and recycled the final beer bottle; we collapsed into bed.  It was a perfectly unusual Saturday night for me and Bubba.


Pumpkin Pie Bars with Baked Press In Chocolate Crust

I made these bars for our “pre-holiday” party. The bars are similar to a traditional pumpkin pie, spicy and comforting, but with a slight twist: the crust is chocolate and requires no rolling!  This simple, press-in chocolate crust is much easier to make than a traditional pie crust, so you won’t feel inclined to tear your hair out or chug a bottle of Malbec!  Also, the whole dessert can be made up to two days in advance! 

Makes 12 large bars or 24 mini bars

recipe adapted from Food & Wine

Ingredients for Baked Pressed In Chocolate Crust

2 1/2 sticks of cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons light brown sugar

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

1 tablespoon of water

Directions For Crust:

Pre-heat your oven to 350°F. Line a 9-by-13-inch metal baking pan with parchment paper, leaving about 2 inches of overhang on the long sides. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars at medium speed for a few minutes, 2-3.   With the mixer on low-speed, beat in the sifted flour, unsweetened cocoa powder and salt.

Place the dough in your prepared pan and press it evenly over the bottom.  (The original recipe suggests covering the dough with plastic wrap and pressing with the bottom of a measuring cup.  This sounds like a great idea, but I forgot to do it. Your fingers will work well too!)  Refrigerate the dough in the pan until firm.

Bake the crust for about 30 minutes.   The cocoa powder will make it difficult to tell if it is cooked perfectly, so be sure to remove the pan from the oven at 30 minutes or when the surface looks dry.  Allow to cool completely before filling.  While the crust cools, prepare your pumpkin pie filling.

Ingredients for Pumpkin Pie Filling

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon + more for dusting

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 large eggs

One 15-ounce can pure pumpkin puree

One 12-ounce can evaporated milk

Prepared whipped cream


Preheat your oven to 425F.  In a small bowl whisk together the sugars, all of the spices and salt. Set aside.  In a medium bowl whisk together your eggs.  Whisk the sugar mixture into the egg mixture.  Next, add your pumpkin puree, evaporated milk and vanilla extract.  Whisk until very smooth.

Pour the filling into the crust and bake for about 10 minutes.  Lower the temperature to 350F and bake for another 25-30 minutes or until the filling is set.  It should not jiggle!

Transfer the pan to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.  Cut into bars, large or mini, and serve with whipped cream and a dusting of cinnamon.

I suggest making the bars a day head and storing them in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.  The flavors are more pronounced a day later.  Serve them chilled or at room temperature.  Also, add the whipped cream just before serving or have guests add their own whipped cream.  Enjoy!

5 Not Pie Desserts For Thanksgiving

Looking for a lighter pumpkin cake to serve after the big holiday meal?  Head to Food 52 for Alice Medrich’s Lighter Pumpkin Cake recipe.

Tired of pies and cakes?  Try a crisp.  A pumpkin pear crisp! Bon Appetit has the recipe for you.  Check it out!

Not worried about eating all the calories you need for a week in a day?  Then head to Sacramento Street for Amanda Fredrickson’s Pumpkin Cheesecake Squares with Toasted Marshmallow Frosting.  Wow!  I must make these!

After a big, heavy meal it is nice to have a light and refreshing dessert…sometimes.  Martha has a recipe for cranberry-port sorbet that sounds like the perfect palate cleanser.

I’ve mentioned Zoe’s maple cream snickerdoodle bars before and I am mentioning them again.  I am obsessed and need to make them asap!


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