Merry Christmas everyone! Wouldn’t you know it, it’s Christmas Day and here I am trying to make a post about a pumpkin-themed dessert bar from before Thanksgiving :) Better late than never though, right? I have been traveling a lot for residency interviews these past couple of months, so it has been impossible to sit down and make a post with all my pictures. At some point, I was told that we (the interviewees) were flying around like lost planets in space, and I thought that phrase captured the circumstances quite well! Indeed, at some point, having been in three different time zones and 2 different coasts in the span of 3 days, my internal clock was completely out of whack and I only ever knew to do whatever the time on my watch dictated I should probably do. It’s been an experience! But one that I have thoroughly enjoyed for the number of new friends I have made and future colleagues I have met during these trips. Like the excitement of starting college and medical school, there comes an excitement of starting residency where I will have yet another opportunity to meet new people and bond over our unique experiences together. Most folks only get to do this once for college; I feel extremely privileged to be able to do it three times :)
So back to the pumpkin bar! One of my favorite flavors of the fall season is pumpkin. I look forward to it as the leaves start to turn color in early October, and when the cans of pumpkin start to go on sale in the grocery stores, I know it is time to break out the pumpkin themed desserts. Sure there is always pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread, but I am perpetually looking for different and unique ideas that incorporate pumpkin. This year I saw a post on Willow Bird Baking about pumpkin cheesecake sopapilla bars, and it piqued my interested because of how it combined two things I love (pumpkin cheesecake and sopapillas [a Mexican crispy fried dough topped with cinnamon sugar and honey]), and how it was sinfully easy to make (you cheat by using cans of crescent roll dough). You layer the dough on the bottom of the cheesecake to serve as a crust, and then you layer it on top of the cheesecake to bake into a “sopapilla” topped with cinnamon sugar for a crunch. Sure, it is neither cheesecake nor sopapilla in their true forms, but as my friend put it… the bars tasted like a cross between pumpkin pie and churros. Now that’s a lot of fun in a simple bar!
Pumpkin Cheesecake Sopapilla Bars (makes half a 9×13″ pan, or approx 9 bars)
Recipe slightly adapted from Willow Bird Baking
For the bars:
- 1 can crescent roll dough (I used reduced fat)
- 1 package (8 oz.) of cream cheese (I used light/Neufchatel), at room temperature
- 1 cup of canned pumpkin
- 3/8 cup granulated sugar (measure out 1/4 cup and then add another half of a 1/4 cup to it)
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- Pinch of salt
For the topping:
- 3 tbsp butter, melted
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- Honey (for drizzling on top when serving)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease your 9×13″ pan (or you may use 8×8″).
2. Open and unroll crescent roll dough, divide into two halves. Press half the dough into the bottom of your pan to cover half of the 9×13″ pan – you may have to press to thin out the dough a bit. Don’t worry about sealing the edges of the triangles together.
3. Take the rest of the crescent roll dough and press it out over a piece of plastic saran wrap, until it is approximately the same size as the piece in the pan. (You may find it useful to lift your second piece of dough with the saran wrap and gently lay it over the first piece in the pan to compare the size). Try to pinch the edges of the triangles together on this piece so that the top layer of dough will be evenly sealed. Set the second dough aside.
4. Make a small divider from aluminum foil, doubled over, and set it along the edge of the dough to help contain the bars to one side of the pan. Tuck the bottom of the foil just underneath the dough to keep it secure.
5. In a bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar together until fluffy. Add pumpkin, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. Stir well to combine.
5. Carefully spread pumpkin cream cheese mixture over the layer of dough in the pan.
6. Using the saran wrap, flip the second piece of dough over and lay it gently across the top of the pumpkin layer. Don’t worry if it doesn’t lie perfectly flat, just try to keep the seams closed. Peel off the saran wrap.
7. Pour the melted butter gently over the top of the second dough layer. Stir together the sugar, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice for the topping. Sprinkle evenly over the tops of the bars.
8. Bake for 30 minutes or until tops are golden brown. The cinnamon sugar on top will be liquid. Remove from oven and cool completely in pan. The cinnamon sugar topping will set up nicely as a crust.
To serve: You may refrigerate the bars and serve them cold or warmed slightly in the microwave. I like to give a light drizzle of honey over the tops of the bars and add a dallop of whipped cream sprinkled with pumpkin pie spice to garnish. I think the bars would be fantastic with some vanilla ice cream as well :) Enjoy!
Bonus fun facts: While I was on the interviewing trail, many interviewers asked me about my food blog, as it was something that I put on my application under “hobbies”. They often asked me how time-consuming it is to make the food, do the food photography, and then write the post. I would say that making the food and writing the post is the least time-consuming part. The food photography is what takes time to set up and do. For those of you that are curious, for this recipe, I took a total of 112 pictures from which I selected the above photos to post. I’ve had upwards of 200+ pictures for a particular recipe, and as few as 10-20 pictures if I don’t photograph the process. Many people like to spend time editing their photos with software afterwards, but that takes even more time and you can edit photos endlessly to suit your tastes, so I don’t go down that route very often unless my pictures were taken in poor lighting. Anyway, just to help you put it in perspective if you’ve ever wondered :) Happy holidays!