I have been charmed by the Baked boys, Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, since I read their first book, Baked: New Frontiers in Baking. The duo specialize in American comfort desserts with a sophisticated edge. They’ve recently published their third book, Baked Elements: Our 10 Favorite Ingredients (in addition to running a very successful bakery and creating a line of products for Williams Sonoma). This third book might be my favorite, a great collection of recipes organized by their favorite ingredients like pumpkin, cinnamon, and booze.
Here is where things get fun: Matt and Renato are coming to Chicago! I’m going to get to hang out with them, and so are you. Floriole and I are teaming up to host a book party and sweet tasting at the bakery. For $40 (plus tax) you will get your very own copy of Baked Elements (just in time for holiday baking/gift giving!), a buffet of our favorite treats from the book (prepared by Floriole’s expert bakers), and time to hear from Matt and Renato about their bakery and books (they’re so fun!). I’ll be there serving as host for the evening, and I really hope you’ll join me. There isn’t much I like better than meeting you good people in the real world. Tickets, and complete details, are available here or at Floriole. Don’t miss your chance to get Baked, right here in Chicago.
To get you excited about the book, I present this fantastic recipe for pumpkin cheesecake squares from Baked Elements. These are perfection and the best dessert for autumn.
Pumpkin Cheesecake Squares (from Baked Elements by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito)
For Pastry Dough:
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 ounces (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 large egg
For the Pumpkin Cheesecake Filling:
- 16 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 2 large eggs
For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 3 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
- 1 tablesoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
Butter the bottom and sides of a 9×13-inch glass or light colored metal baking pan. Line the bottom with a sheet of parchment paper and butter the parchment paper.
Place the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until sandy (6 to 10 pulses). In a small bowl, whisk the egg and add it to the food processor. Pulse just until the dough begins to hold together (if the dough seems especially dry and crumbly you can add a teaspoon of water to bring it together). Form the dough into a disk, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate it for at least 1 hour or overnight.
Dust a work surface with flour. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a rectangle slightly larger than 9×13 inches (the pan size) and about 1/4-inch thick. It might be easier to do this between two pieces of parchment paper.
Gently guide the dough into the pan and press lightly-without pulling- into the bottom; it is not necessary to bring the dough up the sides of the pan, only to completely cover the bottom of the pan. Trim off any excess. Place the pan in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Remove the pan from the freezer, line it with aluminum foil, and fill it with pie-weighs or dried beans. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the foil and weights and bake for another 10 minutes, until the crust is lightly browned. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 300° F.
Make the cheesecake filling:
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on medium speed just until it is lump free and smooth. Do not over beat or the tops of the bars may crack. Add the sugar and beat again until well combined, about 2 minutes.
In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, maple syrup, vanilla, salt and spices. Add this mixture to the butter and beat to combine. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter will be loose.
Pour the mixture over the crust and bake for 23-30 minutes, or until the filling is set and slightly puffy. Allow the bars to cool to room temperature, before chilling in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
Make the Cream Cheese Frosting:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth. Add the cream cheese and beat until combined. Add the confectioner’s sugar, vanilla, and salt and beat just until smooth.
Use an offset spatula to spread the frosting over the top of the chilled pumpkin squares. Sprinkle pecans evenly over the top of the squares and return to the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes before cutting and serving.
They can be stored in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for up to 3 days.