Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

Yield: 12 bars.

Crust

1½ cups graham cracker crumbs
¼ cup salted butter, melted
½ cup chopped pecans

Filling

4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1½ cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

Garnish

Whipped cream
Pumpkin pie spice

Heat oven to 300º. Line a 13×9-inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving about 1 inch of paper hanging over the sides. In a medium bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs and pecans with the melted butter. With your fingers, press the crust on the bottom of the prepared pan. Set aside while making the filling.

In the mixing bowl of a stand-up mixer, add the cream cheese and sugar. With the paddle attachment on, beat on low speed until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, just until blended. Spoon half of the mixture over the crust and spread evenly.

Add the pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice to the remaining cream cheese mixture. Use a wire whisk to stir until smooth. Carefully spoon over mixture in pan.

Bake the cheesecake in the preheated oven for 50 minutes or until just set. Turn off the oven and leave the door ajar, allowing the cheesecake to slowly cool down for about 1 hour.

Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before cutting into bars. Top each bar with whipped cream and a dusting of pumpkin pie spice.

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Lynn Wells is a personal chef with more than 20 years of experience in the food and hospitality industry and a degree in Nutrition Management from UNCG.