Food and Drink

It’s the heart of pumpkin spice season, and these cookie butter-crumble pie bars are at your service

The idea for this recipe started at Black Cup Coffee a month ago, where one day I decided to order their pumpkin-spice latte. They make it with sweetened condensed milk that’s been infused with pumpkin and serve it with nutmeg, sourced from Summit Spice across the street. It is so fantastically subtle and miles away from the cloying, aftertasty Starbucks PSL.

Later that day, on a pumpkin bender, I decided to buy a cute sugar-pie pumpkin at the grocery store. Later on, I poked it with a fork and put in it a 325-degree oven for an hour or so until it got really soft. Then I cut it in half, scraped out the seeds, and piled the meat in a bowl. It was exactly 2 cups, just like a can of pumpkin.

Then began an obsessive couple weeks of pie-bar making. I’m a late comer to cookie butter, which is a delicious, jarred emulsion made of Biscoff cookies. But that flavor combined with not-too-sweet pumpkin and a little sea salt is really something. You can use roasted sugar-pie pumpkin or canned for this recipe. If you want the bars less sweet, reduce the condensed milk by a quarter-cup and sub in cream. The bars will slice after cooling completely but they slice best after being refrigerated. A little dollop of whipped cream on top is optional.

Cookie-butter crumble pumpkin pie bars

1 8.8-ounce package Biscoff cookies, finely crushed

6 tablespoons salted butter, melted

1 15-ounce can pumpkin or 2 cups of roasted sugar pie-pumpkin, packed


3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 eggs

1/4 teaspoon sea salt plus a pinch for the pan

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 9-by-13-inch pan with cooking spray and sprinkle the bottom with a pinch of sea salt. Mix the Biscoff crumbs with butter and press into the bottom and about an inch up the sides of the pan for the crust for the bars. Bake for 5 minutes, remove from oven and set aside. In a bowl, combine pumpkin, condensed milk, cream, eggs, salt and spice. Mix well. (If using fresh pumpkin, you should combine the ingredients in a blender, food processor or with a hand blender.) Spread the filling into the crust. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the center of the bars has set. Refrigerate for at least an hour before slicing with a sharp knife.

Julia O'Malley

Anchorage-based Julia O'Malley is a former ADN reporter, columnist and editor. She received a James Beard national food writing award in 2018, and a collection of her work, "The Whale and the Cupcake: Stories of Subsistence, Longing, and Community in Alaska," was published in 2019. She's currently a guest curator at the Anchorage Museum.