I love pumpkin pie, but I find that I am – perhaps unsurprisingly – typically unable to eat an entire pumpkin pie by myself and need several people to share one with. During the holidays, it is not difficult to find a few people willing to share in a slice or two of pie, but it is a different story in the weeks leading up to the holiday season, before you start having company over on a regular basis. My solution is to make a scaled down version of pumpkin pie that is better for serving just a couple of people, rather than a whole crowd. These Small Batch Pumpkin Pie Bars are the perfect solution, as they capture all the flavor and texture of pumpkin pie in perfectly portioned dessert.
The pie bars are baked in a loaf pan, which is just the right size for a small batch of bars. The pan is much deeper than most baking dishes, so I line mine with parchment paper before baking. The parchment paper not only prevents the bars from sticking to the sides of the pan, but it enables you to easily lift out the bars after baking, without breaking any of them or cracking the pie filling.
The base of the bars is a cinnamon-kissed shortbread crust, made by rubbing butter into a lightly sweetened flour mixture. The crust is pressed down into the pan – on top of the parchment layer – and baked until it is golden. While the crust bakes, the filling is prepared and it is poured directly onto the freshly baked crust while it is still hot, then returned to the oven to finish baking. The filling recipe is simply a scaled down version of my favorite pumpkin pie filling. You will only need half a cup of pumpkin puree to make it, which makes this recipe an excellent choice for using up some leftover pumpkin puree fro another baking project.
The bars are like little bites of heaven for a pumpkin pie fan. The filling is creamy and tender, yet it holds together well. It has a wonderful combination of pumpkin and pumpkin spice flavors, and the ratio of crust to filling is just right. Adding a bit of cinnamon to the buttery crust ties it in well with the pumpkin spice, too. The bars should be sliced in eight long, narrow pieces after they have cooled. Any leftover bars should be stored in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Small Batch Pumpkin Pie Bars
1/2 cup flour
1 tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
3 tbsp butter, cold
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 large egg
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9×5-inch baking pan with parchment paper and lightly grease.
Prepare the crust: In the bowl of a food processor, combine all ingredients and pulse until mixture is very sandy. This can also be done using your fingertips to blend in the butter.
Pour crust mixture into prepared loaf and and press firmly into an even layer at the base of the pan.
Bake crust for 15-18 minutes, until very lightly browned.
While the crust bakes, prepare the filling: In a large bowl, whisk together all filling ingredients (this can also be done in the food processor) until smooth. Pour filling into crust while it is still hot and return to the oven.
Bake filled crust for 20-25 minutes, or until filling is set and does not jiggle when the pan is gently shaken.
Allow bars to cool completely, then refrigerate until cold. Use the parchment lining to lift the bars out of the pan before slicing.
Cut crosswise into 8 bars.
Makes 8 bars.