I’m a fairly tolerant parent when it comes to food. I give in to my daughter Penelope’s chicken finger cravings once in a while, indulge her preference for plain cheese pizza and let her lick the whisk after I’ve whipped heavy cream.
And while you might think kids will eat every sweet placed in front of them, Penelope won’t touch pumpkin pie. Dealing with finicky eaters is not how I want to spend my Thanksgiving holiday, so this year I’m planning ahead and making a separate desert for the kids’ table: pumpkin bars in a gingerbread crust.
These bars are a mom’s dream: a light filling (a fluffy combo of cream cheese and canned pumpkin) is pressed into a gingersnap crust. Make the bars the day before if the oven is occupied with the turkey (and even get the kids to help stir). A dollop of whipped cream on top doesn’t hurt. You might even see some adults ditching the pie and heading for the kids’ table.
For the crust:
8 ounces gingersnap cookies (about 32 cookies), coarsely broken (see note)
¼ cup (½ stick) salted butter, melted
For the filling:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
½ cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature (see note)
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin purée
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Whipped cream, for serving (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.
2. In a food processor, break up the cookies until finely ground and add the butter. Process until moistened. Press the mixture evenly into the baking pan. Bake for 10 minutes.
3. For the filling, combine the cream cheese, sugar, eggs, pumpkin purée, spices and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Mix on medium speed until combined.
4. Remove the crust from the oven and pour the filling into the pan. Smooth it until fairly level.
5. Bake for 25 minutes. (Check the bars around 22 minutes; they should be set and look firm but not brown). Let the bars cool in the pan on wire rack until sliceable, about 15 minutes.
6. You can store the bars in the refrigerator in a sealed container for up to 3 days. Just bring them to room temperature before serving.
Note 1: The eggs should be at room temp for at least 30 minutes before baking. Cold eggs will make the cream cheese mixture seize up.
Note 2: Most boxes of gingersnaps are 12 ounces, so use three-quarters of the box.
Photo: Pumpkin bar with gingersnap crust. Credit: Laura Holmes Haddad