Like the traditional cheesecake, pumpkin cheesecake bars are essentially the classic dessert prepared in a rectangular pan and cut up into individual portions, with pumpkin incorporated into the filling. The bars share most of the ingredients found in a cheesecake, including crust, dairy filling, and sweetener. Pumpkin provides a seasonal add-in that must be prepared and cooked before use as a mix-in for the filling, or the main ingredient in a second layer for a stronger presence and fluffy bar. A variety of other ingredients are found in the bars, and raw cheese topping may be used over a dense, baked version. Preparation typically involves mixing the fillings separately, then combining or layering them.
Cheesecake bars typically consist of a sweet crust of graham cracker, pastry, or dough. The majority of the treat consists of a thick, creamy filling made from one or more fresh cheeses sweetened and sometimes thickened with additional ingredients. Bars resemble a traditional cheesecake, but are prepared in a sheet and cut to form individual portions. Like the classic dessert, cheesecake bars may have a variety of add-ins and garnishes, including pumpkin.
Pumpkin is a large, orange winter squash iconic of the holidays and the pie for which it's perhaps most often used during this season. The gourd's flesh is baked, broiled, or roasted to achieve a soft texture. Skin, a fibrous meat, and seeds are removed from the pumpkin, and the flesh is used as a filling or topping.
For pumpkin cheesecake bars, the squash may be incorporated in a variety of ways. Mixing fresh or canned pumpkin with sugar, heavy cream, and eggs produces a type of pie filling than can be layered below or atop a cheesecake mixture. Pumpkin may be simply mixed into the cream cheese mixture, along with spices like cinnamon and allspice. The result here is a fluffy, pumpkin-flavored and orange-colored bar. The amount and intensity of the pumpkin depend on personal taste and balancing with the slightly sharp taste of cheese.
Many other ingredients are found in pumpkin cheesecake bars. Dairy products or substitutes like cream, eggs, or even tofu help to give the bars body and its creamy consistency. Seasonal spices and extracts are essential in pumpkin cheesecake bars, and the crust typically contains butter or oil, sugar, and flour or graham cracker. Different add-ins can also give the bars a unique texture, including a variety of nuts, candied fruits, or chocolate.
While most pumpkin cheesecake bars are baked, a raw cream cheese mixture may be mixed and spooned over baked and cooled pumpkin bars. This produces something akin to a pumpkin pie topped with a sweet cream topping, while baked cheesecake filling takes on a dense, spongy texture and nutty taste. Typically, the pumpkin and cheese mixtures are prepared separately, then either whipped together or layered atop one another. The pumpkin filling typically has a small amount of cheesecake topping mixed in, if prepared in this fashion, to lighten the texture.