These bars taste the way Autumn feels. The comforting spices of a pumpkin pie married with the creamy tang of a smooth cheesecake with a classic, dense blondie texture. Perfect.
So I did it. I finally cracked the first can of pumpkin my kitchen has seen this season. And by 'cracked' I mean 'spent a solid 8 minutes with a lousy can opener hacking away at.' I needed my first recipe of the fall to be a great one, and there's no better companion to pumpkin than tangy cheesecake. Also, maybe now is a good time to address the inconvenience of a can of pumpkin. I appreciate that the pumpkin is cooked, pureed, and neatly packaged for my consumption, but why 15 ounces at a time? Has any recipe ever called for 15 ounces of pumpkin? Yes. But very rarely. So basically, no. So to eliminate the risk (and high probability) of the remaining puree meeting its mouldy demise in the back of my fridge, I also made an amazing pumpkin loaf today. I haven't blogged about it yet, but when I do. I'll link it in here so you can just hop over there and check it out, too. It's made with 100% whole wheat flour, a bunch of autumnal flavours, a healthy dose of pumpkin and it has a sweet cream cheese filling baked right in. It's a beautiful loaf.
Now back to blondies. This recipe starts out with melted butter, but make sure to let it cool before incorporating everything. Eggs cook easily, hot butter will make quick work of them. For that reason, I mix the melted butter with the brown sugar first, then beat in the egg. The sugar just helps them mingle a bit easier. From there, stir in the puree and vanilla, dump in some seasoning and a bit of flour and you're almost done. These are really simple for being so delicious.
As for the cheesecake component, I like the swirl to be more tang than sweet. I find the essence of cream cheese can really be lost in applications like this one, so I didn't add a lot of sugar to it. Cream cheese is nothing fancy, but that doesn't make it any less wonderful. It's a shame to lose its character by overpowering it with sweetness.
I've included pumpkin pie spice as the flavour component in this recipe. Honestly, it's not something I typically keep on my spice rack. But it's easy to use and it is a perfect blend of just the right spices. For that reason, I recommend it. However, I use an eyeball-ed combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice, so if you're comfortable doing that, I say that's okay too. Just don't omit it altogether. Unless you hate fall or something, in which case, reevaluate.
Okay here's the recipe. If you can get a toddler to help you like I did, go for it. It's not teeth-grinding, tongue-biting, I-love-you-but-omg frustrating at all. DELIGHTFUL.