An ultra-moist pumpkin bar, studded with mini chips and drizzled with a tangy cream cheese frosting – autumn snacking doesn’t get any better.
I’ve been making these bars for years, based on an original Martha Stewart recipe. As luck would have it, the very first time I made them, I made a big mistake. A very great, very tasty mistake! Ever since that day, our family has been enjoying these bars the wrong way, which turned out to be oh-so right. And we haven’t looked back.
I had babies back then, and as one tends to be with littles around, I was distracted. I expected the recipe to use a full can of pumpkin puree. Most recipes do, right? So I just dumped in the whole can without thinking. I’m sure I was short on time, perhaps even holding my daughter, Dylan, on my hip. She used to crawl into the kitchen and climb onto my leg and cry when I was in the kitchen trying to cook!
Sometime during mixing, I realized it was only supposed to be one cup of pumpkin. I had used almost twice the amount! But guess what? They turned out to be spectacular. The earthy, vegetale flavor of the pumpkin shone through, supported by the heady spices of ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. The sugar was tamed, and the chocolate chips took up the slack. Truly, a happy accident! (Love these:)
I’ve been making them this way for years- our family devouring them every Halloween season, bringing them to friends’ houses, potlucks and pumpkin picking festivals. Then, one day, I had some cream cheese frosting leftover from a birthday cake in the fridge. Hmm, why not? It’s a natural pairing with pumpkin cake… all I had to do was thin it out a little with some milk to get the right kind of drizzle. Frosted pumpkin cake is glorious and all, but I wanted something just to help highlight the other flavors, not overwhelm them. After all, they were pretty perfect as-is.
I grabbed a big spoon and splattered them with the cream cheese sauce Jackson Pollack style, which made them super special. Truth be told, you will thoroughly enjoy these with our without the drizzle… though it adds a little sumpin’ extra if you’re looking for a treat with a bit more oomph, plus it makes ’em pretty!
I must mention the spices, as they are super important. You certainly can use pumpkin pie spice, but I discovered long ago, that blending your own pumpkin pie spice if far superior. The flavors are much more pronounced, and you’re able to really dial in exactly what you want. These proportions are exactly what I want… but if you like less cinnamon, more ginger, whatever is is… feel free to adjust. My only warning is be careful with cloves, as they are very strong and a little goes a long way. I suggest to try it my way the first time, and make micro adjustments once you taste it and figure out what you’d like to increase or decrease.
Pumpkin Snacking Bars
- 2 cups (245 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- ¼ tsp ground allspice
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 sticks (½ pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 ¼ cups (250 grams) sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 15- ounce can pumpkin puree, not pumpkin pie filling
- ¾ cup mini chocolate chips
For the drizzle:
- ¼ cup cream cheese at room temperature
- 2-3 tablespoons whole milk
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
- Preheat your oven to 350 F. Butter a 9 x 12-inch metal baking pan and line with parchment paper so that the two long sides have an overhang. This creates a “sling” allowing you to easily remove the pumpkin bars.
- Whisk together the flour, all of the spices, baking soda and salt.
- Beat the butter and sugar in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment for 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat, scraping the sides to make sure the mixture is well combined. Beat in the pumpkin puree, scraping the sides again. Finally, add the flour mixture and beat until just combined.
- Stir in the chocolate chips and pour into your prepared pan. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
- To make the drizzle, place the cream cheese in a mini food processor or beat with electric beaters until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and mix until thoroughly combined. Add the milk, one tablespoon at a time, until it is thin enough to drizzle off of a spoon.
- Remove the bars from the pan, cut into squares, and drizzle with the cream cheese mixture. Bars can be left at room temperature for a few hours, however if they have the cream cheese drizzle, they should be refrigerated after 4 hours.