The Ultimate Thanksgiving Pie Bars

updated Nov 23, 2020
The Ultimate Thanksgiving Pie Bars

Everyone will find something to love in these bars... from the buttery gingersnap crust and the creamy pumpkin cheesecake filling to the tart fruit and cinnamon-pecan crumble.

Makes24 bars

Prep40 minutes

Cook1 hour 10 minutes

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Credit: Shelly Westerhausen

For a holiday that’s all about giving thanks and spending quality time with family, Thanksgiving has some pretty divisive desserts. Some people need pecan pie, others crave pumpkin, and many won’t be satisfied without some type of apple treat. Trying to please every sweet palate in the room can often make you feel like an overworked (and underpaid!) pastry chef.

This year, as we’re whittling down our menus to accommodate much smaller guest lists, it’s more important than ever to settle on a compromise. Enter: The Ultimate Thanksgiving Pie Bars. On the bottom you’ve got a buttery no-bake gingersnap crust, topped with a layer of rich and creamy pumpkin cheesecake, followed by a tart, tangy layer of apples and cranberries, and finished with a cinnamon-pecan crumble. Everyone will find something they love — and you only have to make one dessert.

Credit: Shelly Westerhausen

Your Pie Bar Game Plan

Before you embark on these layered beauties, keep in mind that the pumpkin cheesecake layer needs to set up in the freezer for at least two hours. I find it easiest to break this recipe up over two days. Make the crust and cheesecake layers one day (and even the crumble, if you really want to get ahead), then save the rest for the next morning. All you’ll need to do is make the apple-cranberry layer, finish assembling, and bake. Remember to also build in time for the bars to cool completely and then briefly freeze, which will ensure you can cut clean slices.

If four separate layers in one bar seems overwhelming, think of it this way — instead of spending time sweating over several homemade pie doughs, you’re getting the whole job done in this one dessert. Now that’s something to be thankful for.

Credit: Shelly Westerhausen

The Ultimate Thanksgiving Pie Bars

Everyone will find something to love in these bars... from the buttery gingersnap crust and the creamy pumpkin cheesecake filling to the tart fruit and cinnamon-pecan crumble.

Prep time 40 minutes

Cook time 1 hour 10 minutes

Makes 24 bars

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the gingersnap crust:

  • Cooking spray

  • 6 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • 1 (1-pound) box

    gingersnap cookies (about 4 1/2 cups)

  • 2 tablespoons

    packed dark brown sugar

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

For the pumpkin cheesecake:

  • 16 ounces

    cream cheese

  • 1 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 2

    large eggs

  • 1 teaspoon

    vanilla extract

  • 1 (15-ounce) can

    pumpkin purée

For the apple-cranberry filling:

  • 2

    medium Granny Smith apples

  • 3 cups

    fresh or frozen cranberries

  • 1

    medium lemon

  • 1/2 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 1 tablespoon

    all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon

    vanilla extract

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

For the pecan crumble:

  • 3/4 cup

    all-purpose flour

  • 1/4 cup

    packed dark brown sugar

  • 1/2 cup

    chopped pecans

  • 1 tablespoon

    ground cinnamon

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    ground nutmeg

  • 8 tablespoons

    (1 stick) cold unsalted butter

Instructions

  1. Let the 16 ounces cream cheese for the cheesecake sit at room temperature until softened, 20 to 30 minutes.

Make the crust:

  1. Coat a 9x13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Line with parchment paper so that it hangs off the two long sides to form a sling.

  2. Melt 6 tablespoons unsalted butter in the microwave or in a small saucepan on the stovetop. Place 1 pound gingersnaps, 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar, and 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Process until fine crumbs form, about 30 seconds. Add the butter and process until combined, about 30 seconds more.

  3. Transfer the gingersnap mixture to the baking dish and press firmly and evenly into the bottom with the bottom of a measuring cup. Place in the freezer while you make the filling.

Make the pumpkin cheesecake filling:

  1. Wipe out the food processor, then add the softened cream cheese, 1 cup granulated sugar, 2 large eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Process until combined, about 30 seconds. Add 1 can pumpkin purée and process for 30 seconds more. Pour the mixture over the crust and spread into an even layer with an offset spatula or table knife. Freeze until set, at least 2 hours or overnight.

Make the apple-cranberry filling:

  1. When ready to bake, if using frozen cranberries, let 3 cups sit at room temperature until slightly thawed, 20 to 30 minutes.

  2. Prep the following, adding them to a large bowl as you go: Peel, core, and chop 2 medium Granny Smith apples into 1/2-inch pieces. Finely grate the zest of 1 medium lemon (about 1 tablespoon), then juice the lemon (about 3 tablespoons). Add 3 cups cranberries, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Toss to combine.

Make the pecan crumble:

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. If using a glass baking dish, let the dish of pumpkin cheesecake sit at room temperature while the oven heats.

  2. Chop pecans until you get 1/2 cup and place in a medium bowl. Add 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar, 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, and stir to combine. Cut 1 stick cold butter into small cubes. Add the butter to the flour mixture and work into pea-size crumbles with your hands.

  3. Using a slotted spoon, gently transfer the apple cranberry filling over the frozen cheesecake, making sure the entire cheesecake filling is covered (do not add any juices that have accumulated in the bowl). Top with the crumble mixture, making sure not to press down when topping.

  4. Bake for 35 minutes. Rotate the baking dish, and continue baking until the topping is crumbly and browned and the center just barely jiggles, 30 to 35 minutes more.

  5. Place on a wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour. Freeze for 1 hour to ensure that you can cut clean slices. Let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes, then grasp the overhanging parchment to remove the slab from the baking dish. Place on a cutting board and cut into 24 pieces.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The crust and cheesecake filling can be made the day before so that it can set in the freezer overnight. The crumble could also be made the day before and refrigerated.

Storage: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days.