Ahhhh, yes. It’s the weekend! How was your week? I had a pretty great week consisting of lots of yoga, two puppy play dates, my first post-marathon run, a lettuce eating Instagram video, steak fajitas, pork tacos, and mason jar crafting. Oh, and these sugar cookie bottom, salted caramel swirled pumpkin cheesecake bars. Again, with the pumpkin. And again, with the salted caramel. I KNOW. I just can’t stay away. The combination is pure magic, I swear.
I made these for my co-workers after getting an email from one of them on Monday afternoon, politely asking if I would make treats. The email also included a picture of a kitten. Now, I’m not really a fan of cats and if he really wanted to tug at my heart strings he would have used a picture of a puppy, buuuut the picture was pretty cute. So off to the kitchen I went!
I’ve made a couple different kinds of pumpkin cheesecake before (here and here), but never pumpkin cheesecake bars. I feel like an entire cheesecake usually isn’t made unless there’s an event like Thanksgiving or a birthday, and cheesecake bars are the more casual version. They’re more laid back, less complicated, and don’t crack under pressure (ha. ha. ha.). My kinda dessert.
Since I loved the combination of salted caramel and pumpkin in my pumpkin bars, I decided to fancy up plain ‘ol pumpkin cheesecake bars with salted caramel too. Also, because I can’t leave good enough alone. Life of a food blogger, I tell ya. Instead of a graham cracker or gingersnap crust (which I’m sure would both be delicious) I did a sugar cookie crust, instead. I’m always a fan of thick crusts, so I was a total sucker for these bars.
They were deliciously irresistible and probably (okay, definitely) the reason my pants feel a little bit tighter this weekend. But I have two words for that: worth it. If you need an impressive dessert but want it on the easier side – these bars are for you! There are two rounds of mixing due to the cookie dough and pumpkin cheesecake, but really both of them are a matter of just beating together the ingredients. Also, I know not every one has a jar of fleur de sel laying around so if you don’t, you could leave it out, but if you do, DON’T leave it out! The salty crunch was my favorite part.
for the sugar cookie crust:
- 1/2 cup 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 1/3 cup flour
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
for the pumpkin cheesecake:
- 8 oz cream cheese softened
- 1 egg
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 3 tbsp flour
- 2/3 cup pumpkin puree
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ginger
- 1/4 tsp cloves
- 1/4 tsp fresh nutmeg
- 1/3 cup salted caramel sauce homemade or store-bought
- fleur de sel sea salt for topping
For the crust:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Line an 8x8 pan with foil and coat with cooking spray.
- Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
- Add egg and beat until fully incorporated, scraping down the bowl as needed.
- Add dry ingredients and mix until fully incorporated.
- Press the cookie dough into the prepared pan to make an even bottom layer.
To make the pumpkin cheesecake:
- Beat cream cheese in a stand mixer until creamy, about 1 minute.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and beat until well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Pour cheesecake over cookie dough crust.
- Put dollops of the caramel sauce on pumpkin cheesecake, then swirl with a knife. I heated mine in the microwave for 20 seconds before doing this so it was easier to swirl.
- Bake in preheated oven for 27-30 minutes. The middle will still seem a bit "jiggly" but it will set up as it cools.
- Let cool to room temperature (about 20 minutes) then transfer to refrigerator to cool completely.
- Sprinkle with fleur de sel and cut into squares.