This year, like last year, I couldn’t be bothered making anything too elaborate for our Christmas time meals. In previous years, I’d done time-intensive, painstaking dishes like dumplings, Argentinian style (baked) empanadas, and Cook’s Illustrated’s silky smooth pumpkin pie (which had strained my neck on multiple occasions with how exacting it was). So this time around, I kept it simple and made just two desserts: pumpkin bread (simple but delicious and seemingly loved by all) and pumpkin pie bars. I found the idea of pumpkin pie bars while sifting through seasonal recipes in the New York Times cooking section. A recipe for this came up as being easier both in process vs. a pie and to cut up and serve for a crowd; that made sense both for me in terms of time, and for the family regarding ease of cutting and serving. But I wasn’t that enthused by the pumpkin custard base: the recipe just called for mixing the spices, cream, milk, sugar, eggs together in a bowl and adding it to the par-baked ginger snap crust and baking. That seemed too one-dimensional for flavor based on my prior pumpkin pie baking experiences. The best way to infuse the flavor of the spices would be to simmer the pumpkin mixture (sans eggs) over the stove. This would allow the flavors to properly meld and give a true autumnal/winter pumpkin pie flavor. So I made this change for the custard, baked the pumpkin pie “base” using crushed Arnott’s Ginger Nuts (an amazing rendition of ginger snaps!) and Malt-o-Milk biscuits, and added a little more heavy cream. I also made homemade whipped cream and added some sugar, ground cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger to the cream. I let the pie sit overnight and cut it up right before serving on Christmas day. In the end, I was very pleased with the result: the pie not only released easily from the pan (with parchment lining it), but it was easy, neat, and clean to cut, which I always fear with any custard pie. Plus, the flavor of the pumpkin really came out well! With my tweaks, it’s the perfect pumpkin pie to make for a crowd with minimal fussiness. And almost all of it got eaten on day 1!
After a few months of using the New York Times recipes app, I’m really not impressed, as I’ve had to make a lot of tweaks to their recipes to get them either to a passing stage, or a really good stage like these pumpkin pie bars. With all the amazing cookbooks and blogs out there, I would never pay for the NYT standalone recipes app. It’s too many misses and bland recipes for the cost.