Caramel Pumpkin Bar Recipe

I’m including two different dough recipes. The first is the skimpier quantity I use, since it makes bars that I think have the optimum crust-to-filling ratio. However since rolling that quantity of pie dough out thin enough to cover the interior of a 10″ x 13″ baking pan can be a bit challenging (especially for those who’ve never done it before), I’m including another version, which ups the quantity by about 25%. This rolls out to a thicker sheet, but it makes an easier job of the process. Here’s the standard quantity:

8 ounces all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons butter, chilled (substitute lard for up to half)
1-2 tablespoons ice water

And now the “upped” quantity:

10 ounces all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons, 1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
12 ½ tablespoons butter, chilled (substitute lard for up to half)
2-3 tablespoons ice water

Treat them both the same way, as you would a typical pie dough recipe. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a bowl until combined, then rub in (or “cut” in with a pastry blade) the fat. The texture should be like coarse meal with a few pea-sized pieces left in it. Add the ice water — the smaller quantity first — and if that’s not enough to bring the dough together into an almost-crumbly ball, then add the rest. Try to avoid “working” the dough which will develop gluten and cause the dough to shrink up in the oven. Pat it into a disk.

Rest the dough in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Roll out to size, lay into a 10″ x 13″ baking pan and trim. Put the pan into the refrigerator to further rest the dough — a minimum of half an hour (this will further relax any gluten). Preheat your oven to 375. When the crust has rested, remove it from the fridge and line the pan with tin foil. Pour in a few cups or pie weights or dry beans, or scatter loose change over. Bake for 25 minutes (during which time you will prepare your filling). Remove weights and the foil and bake for 10 minutes or more until lightly browned.

Now for the filling:

1 cup sugar
¼ cup water

2 cups heavy or light cream
2 tablespoons dark rum (optional)
1 15-ounce can pumpkin pureé
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground allspice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 eggs

Moisten the first cup of sugar with the 1/4 cup water in a sauce pan and swirl over high heat until it turns light amber, then dark amber. For a more pronounced caramel flavor, wait for a brown-black spot to appear in the center of the pan before you remove it from the heat and start adding your cream slowly in a steady stream, whisking all the while (watch out, it’ll foam and sputter a bit).

Once all the cream is in, whisk in the rum, pumpkin, sugar, spices and vanilla. Keep the filling warm on a very low flame until the crust is nearly ready. It should NOT be bubbling/boiling.

When the crust has about a minute to go, take the filling off the heat and whisk in the eggs. Remove the crust and immediately pour the warm filling into the hot crust to create a water-proof seal. Put the pan into the oven and drop the heat to 350. Bake for 20 minutes, then turn the pan, jiggling it to see how “sloshy” it still is in the middle. Bake another 10 minutes or so, just until the center no longer “sloshes”, but jiggles firmly. Cool for a minimum of one hour before slicing and serving. I prefer mine chilled.

14 thoughts on “Caramel Pumpkin Bar Recipe”

  1. What a strange thing to use as pie weights -do they not get too hot to touch? Do you ever use the change in the jar?

    Btw, lovely recipe. I love pumpkin pie and this recipe is so nice and simple!

  2. Hi, Joe! I just found your website (through smittenkitchen’s donut post) and am so very happy I did! (Seldom are my food blog wanderings so direct; the pathway is generally something like: King Arthur Flour to Wednesday Chef to Kitchenarian to My Madeline to…well, you get the picture.) I’ve bookmarked you on (now THAT is a fabulous site to have found…though I can’t recall how I GOT there, exactly) so I can check in on all of your fabulous tutorials. We’re blessed with two daughters as well and they’re always happy to be guinea pigs for my baking — as, I’m sure, are yours. Thanks for a terrific site; I’ll be checking in regularly — and can’t wait to try these Pumpkin Bars! I generally make my bar cookies w/ a short (crumbly, press-in) crust, just to make things easy; do you think this filling would work w/ that? Many thanks!

    1. Hey, the important thing is you got here — who cares how! And please do come back and see me when you can. The pumpkin bars will indeed work with a press-in crust. Just bake it first as in the instructions. My suggestion is to make the crust as thin as you can…the textures are better that way. Have fun!

      – Joe

  3. Ha, small digital world – I just followed that same path, too, from SK to your blog. And I’m so glad I did! (Even though it was at the expense of my going to bed at anything even RESEMBLING a reasonable hour tonight.)

    I can tell I’m gonna be spending a lot of time on this site – and in the kitchen, with my laptop open! I’ve been discovering the joy of food blogs lately, but yours has the authority of knowledge/experience that a lot of them lack. You’ve got a great writing style, too – personable, and just so dang readable, thus why I’m up at 3:00! And your recipes look FANTASTIC.

    I have no idea which of your recipes I’m going to try first, since about twenty of them are competing for my attention, but I’ll let you know the results!

    Thanks for highly entertaining hours you’ve already given me, and even more for those still to come.

    1. Hey April!

      So glad to have you aboard! Sorry to be keeping you up late, though. I know how cranky I get when I get less that six hours of sleep. Apologize to your friends and family for me, OK?

      Otherwise don’t hesitate to write in with any questions you may have about any of the recipes or posts in general.

      And thanks for the very generous compliments!

      – Joe

  4. Hi Joe … I love your website and plan on making these bars for Canadian thanksgiving … I love your endorsement for this recipe … it’s your favourite! Naturally, with a recommendation like that — of all the scrumptious recipes on your site — I HAVE to make it!
    A question about the cream … is it heavy (whipping cream) or light (what we call half and half or 10 per cent cream) or table cream (18 per cent)?
    Thanks so much for your good work here. You are a blessing to we foodies who love to bake!

    1. Hehe…let me know what you think, Wendy! They’re best when the crust is very light and the caramel is very dark. Regarding the cream, you can use either. The custard will work just fine.

      Cheers, and thanks for the note!

      – Joe

  5. I like to try something new every year and this year, this will be the ticket. It reminds me of pumpkin squares we used to get from the bakery truck which would come around the houses on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

  6. Me floating around in recipes now. I keep seeing you mentioning 10×13 pan and it looks like ceramic or similar. Always tough to find a pan that I can bake in and take so it doesn’t get carved up with some serving utensil. I started browsing online after seeing this and looking at pans but they are so varied and some obscure about the dimensions with that lovely vague “3 qt.” type size. Do you have one you like?

    1. Hey Linda!

      I have all sorts of pans that I use for various things. I like just simple pyrex baking dishes for bake-and-take type purposes. They’re thick so they bake well, plus they’re tough and above all cheap! I confess I used this particular baking dish because it looked nice in the photo! Ceramic does bake up a little better than pyrex, but not so much that I’ll pay a ceramic prices very often! 😉

      – Joe

  7. I do that with my old pyrex but to be honest I’m a little nervous about the newer pans with the different chemistry than the older pyrex pans and bowls. Probably fine in the oven but I’m leery in the microwave. I agree pyrex is probably fine and certainly cheaper but I don’t remember seeing a 10×13 in pyrex. Thanks for the reply.

  8. I came across your site couple of days ago and really enjoyed your writings. I just made these pumpkin bars of yours and they are amazing. Waiting for an hour for them to cool was very very difficult! Many thanks for sharing your recipe. Best, Amy

    1. Hey Amy!

      Thanks very much for the kind words. I think these pumpkin bars are my all-time favorite baked anything. So you started in the right place!

      Please come back often and feel free to ask any questions you may have. I’m generally around!


      – Joe

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