I thought you might like some pie, but packaged a little differently.
But first, can we talk about this super cute pumpkin? (No, the pie isn’t in the pumpkin, although that’s a fun idea!) I’ve been crazy over this little pumpkin ever since I picked it (and it’s brother :) up at a fall festival a few weeks ago. I love the little yellow speckles and the long rebel stems that have a mind of their own. You’ll see them used as props in my recent pumpkin posts, One Bowl Fudgy Pumpkin Brownies and Pumpkin Ricotta Bundt Cake. (I would have used them in Pumpkin Biscuit Sticky Buns too, had I had them in my hot little hands at the time.) I thought I would give one of them center stage now as I close out the pumpkin madness that has taken over the blog for the past few weeks.
I’ve been obsessed with posting a pumpkin pie for over a year now. I love, love, love pumpkin pie and could eat it year ’round, along with my pumpkin pie lovin’ family. I originally wanted to post a Pumpkin Slab Pie because, well, you know I have an undying love for all things slab pie like this Apricot Cherry Slab Pie or Lemon Lime Cream Slab Pie. Slab pies are PER-FECT for a crowd. But I didn’t have a “go to” filling and I wasn’t sure about a crust. I had done a ton of research but never got down to developing and testing recipes.
Then I decided, instead of a slab pie, I would make Pumpkin Pie Shortbread Bars (which are sort of what slab pies get sliced into anyway.) Bars make for a great crust to filling ratio and that ratio is why I always think slab pies taste better than their traditional counterparts. For this recipe, I chose a 9″ pan, so it’s not a full slab, but it could be, if you increased the recipe. Let’s just consider this one a mini slab pie; I’m giving you a tile, instead of a whole slab :)
Let’s talk about crust. I don’t always love the pie crust on a pumpkin pies I’ve had. They always seems to be over baked on the edges and soggy on the bottom. I usually save calories and just eat the filling. So, instead of tackling that pie crust issue head on (not that I don’t have a pie crust that I love) I went with an alternative crust and decided on shortbread.
I was inspired by the crust I made for Millionaire Magic Bars. I had to tweak the amounts a few times, but I landed on the right ratio and was good to go. There’s no crust stress here. Just mix up the dough and press it into the bottom of the pan. I used a fork to prick holes all over the crust before baking, and then baked it just enough for it to set. Some parts of the crust bubbled up a little during the pre-baking, so I just went back over the now pre-baked crust again with a fork and released that extra air. (Photos are before baking on left, after pre-baking on the right)
I did try different ratios of flour and sugar in the crust. Some were sweeter. Some were crunchier. The one I landed on is less sweet and the texture is soft and tender, not crumbly. It’s lightly sweet, makes nice clean cuts and is easy to bite into.
For the filling…well, you can use all cream, or half cream and half milk, or half and half or whole milk. I tried half cream and half milk for one trial. That was delicious. But then I thought I’d try evaporated milk and was surprised to find that the texture was creamier than the mixture with the cream. Go figure. So I stuck with the evaporated milk, at least for this iteration of pumpkin pie. My test loving self will probably keep trying different ratios of dairy. If I learn anything new, I’ll be sure to update you.
As far as spices, there’s a lot of personal preferences and my guess is that they are all pretty tasty. I wanted to insure that my spices (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and clove) were front and center but not overpowering. I did add a little more ginger than your average Joe because I like that flavor in my pumpkin pies. If you have a pumpkin pie spice mixture that you already love, you can use that instead. I know my family was loving the mix that I put in because my daughter mentioned, as she was trying a new sample, “I hope you didn’t change the spices on this new one. They were perfect!”
Making the custard is a one bowl deal. Beat the eggs, add the pumpkin, spices and sugar. Then stir in the milk. I started these trials by whisking the mixture. Not a good idea. Whisking creates bubbles and they don’t go away when you bake them. You might see a few on my photos. Trust me, whisking creating a million more. So stir, don’t whisk and avoid vigorous stirring which will just pump a lot of air into your mixture. If you do end up with some bubbles…no worries. It will still taste the same and whipped cream covers a multitude of sins…
When it’s baked and cooled, you’ll have a whole square “pie” that you can cut into any size you choose. Cut into 9 large squares and top with a dollop of fresh whipped cream. Or, I love cutting them into 36 small squares. That’s a great idea when you’re serving a lot of different desserts and you want a little of this and a little of that. Even at 36 squares, it’s a hearty two bite dessert. Though my kids wanted to prove to me that it could be done in one bite :/ #missmannerswouldnotapprove
That’s the beauty of these Pumpkin Pie Shortbread Bars. They’re so much more versatile than a traditional round pie. They have all of the “pie-ness” that you’d expect from pumpkin pie but with a tender shortbread crust. And because you can cut them into bars, I guess you could even pick them up and eat them without a fork…you know, like Amy Schumer’s “hand cake” lol! <<<ongoing joke in our house :)
Or, you could just grab a fork and dive in…
because whipped cream can get a little messy :)