These Gluten-Free Pumpkin Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars are something extra special. I think of all of the recipes I’ve developed during my partnership with Pamela’s Products, this is my very favorite. And maybe it’s because Pamela’s Pumpkin Bread Mix is one of my family’s very, very favorites. Last year – no joke – when they were on sale, I bought five bags, which I think was all that was left on the shelf! We like to whip up a batch of pumpkin bread and add dried cranberries and coconut to the batter. But this time, I definitely took things in a different, dulce de leche-y direction. And then there’s that little matter of the cheesecake sandwiched between layers of pumpkin-y crust and streusel. I’m all heart eyes about these cheesecake bars!
Pamela’s asked me if I would be interested in joining a friendly competition involving some pretty fantastic gluten-free bloggers for the Ultimate Pumpkin Dessert Sweepstakes. Because I’m a fan of both friendly competitions AND pumpkin desserts, I couldn’t say no. So I’ve teamed up with one of my very favorite clients to bring you this delicious fall recipe. (Update: The sweepstakes ended and my recipe won!!!)
The idea for this recipe came from one I used to make as a teenager. It involved combining a dry chocolate cake mix with butter, egg, and milk to make both a crust and topping. The filling was melted wrapped caramels, chocolate chips, and pecans. As I experimented, it became evident that what the crust really needed to be filled with was cheesecake…and the caramel? That’s where dulce de leche came into play – I definitely couldn’t leave that part out, could I? And the pecans! They add such a pleasant, nutty crunch on top of that decadent, creamy filling.
Oh, man! As far as bar cookies go, I’m pretty sure this tops the list. (If you’re not already drooling, no worries, I’ve got plenty of how-to photos below the recipes. Loads of ooey-gooey dulce de leche for you to ogle!)
- One (16 ounce) package Pamela's Gluten-Free Pumpkin Bread Mix
- ½ cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 cup pecans, roughly chopped
- For filling:
- 16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 teaspoons gluten-free pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup dulce de leche
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish or pan. Line with parchment paper allowing for a little overhang on the longer sides which will act as handles.
- Place dry pumpkin bread mix into a large mixing bowl. Add the melted unsalted butter and egg. Using an electric mixer or fork, mix or stir together until combined. The mixture will be crumbly, but hold together when pressed. (If it doesn't hold together, add a few teaspoons of water and mix well.)
- Remove 1 cup, slightly packed, of the pumpkin mixture and transfer to a separate bowl. Add the chopped pecans and mix well. Set aside.
- Press the remaining pumpkin mixture into the bottom and a tiny bit up the sides of the baking pan. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until lightly golden.
- Meanwhile, place the cream cheese into a large mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until creamy. Add the sugar and continue beating until well-combined. Next add the eggs and vanilla. Continue beating, stopping to scrape down sides as needed, until the mixture is thick and creamy, and free of any lumps.
- Spread the cream cheese mixture over the hot crust. Place small dollops of the dulce de leche over the top of the cream cheese mixture. Use a toothpick or tip of a knife to swirl the dulce de leche through the cheesecake batter.
- Use your hands to press some of the reserved pumpkin and pecan mixture together to form little clumps, leaving some of it crumbly. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the entire cheesecake and dulce de leche mixture. Place in oven and bake for an additional 25-30 minutes, or until the center is just set when jiggled.
- Remove from oven and place baking dish on a cooling rack. Let cool completely, then refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours, preferably overnight, before cutting into bars.
HOW TO PHOTOS
Combine dry Pumpkin Bread Mix with melted butter and 1 large egg. Mix until crumbly.
Reserve 1 cup of the crust mixture for the topping and press the remainder into a greased and parchment-lined 9-by-13-inch baking pan.
Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until lightly golden. While the crust is baking, beat together the cheesecake filling ingredients until creamy and smooth.
Pour the filling into the hot crust.
Pour the batter into the crust and spread to the edges of the pan.
Dollop small spoonfuls of dulce de leche evenly over the filling and use the tip of a knife to swirl through the cheesecake batter.
To the reserved 1 cup of crust mixture, add 1 cup of chopped pecans. Mix until combined. Use your fingers to press together some of the mixture into clumps, leaving the rest crumbly.
Sprinkle evenly over the filling.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the center just jiggles a little. Let cool completely and then refrigerate before cutting into bars.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Pamela’s Products as part of an ongoing relationship. All opinions expressed (including the gushing!) are 100% my own.