Pumpkin gingersnap bars with gingered cream cheese topping

These seasonally perfect pumpkin bars pair a spicy gingersnap cookie crust with a layer of luscious baked pumpkin custard.

The Gourmand Mom
Pipe a bit of cream cheese flavored with powdered sugar and a pinch of ginger on the top of your pumpkin gingersnap bars. Use extra gingersnap crumbs to garnish.

Halloween blew my 2-year-old’s mind. Totally blew it. For weeks we’d been talking about how he would be Captain America on Halloween, while his brothers would be Hulk and Thor. Daddy would be Iron Man and Mommy would be Black Widow. We’d go door to door, collecting candy, which we would deposit in plastic pumpkins.

Though clearly flummoxed by this odd outline of what would happen on Halloween, he walked around telling anyone who would listen that he was going to “be Captain America.” (When he says it, it sounds a lot more like “Captain Murder.”)

As Halloween unfolded, every last bizarre detail came to fruition. He became Captain America. He was handed a plastic pumpkin. He said the magic words as he trotted from door to door. He got candy. Somehow, he managed to collect twice as much candy as either of his older brothers, having visited the same number of houses.

Be Captain America. Get Candy.

Meanwhile, Lucas, my 5-year-old Hulk, obsessed over the accuracy of every minute detail of his costume. My initial money-saving plan of picking up a fleece Hulk hat, t-shirt, and green face paint was met with a long list of concerns about muscles, green arms, purple ripped pants, and green legs.

I abandoned my frugal plan once the details overwhelmed me, in lieu of an official store-bought muscles-included hulk costume. Far from solving the problem, this purchase was quickly met by concerns over not having green feet or enough teeth in his partially toothless mouth. A hefty dose of gamma radiation may have saved us all a few headaches.

Learn from my experience, folks. If you stick three little boys in superhero costumes and call them The Avengers, you’d better expect some major chaos. Thor’s hammer was revoked almost instantly. Somehow, we made it through the day, by the skin of our superhero teeth. Next year, I may dress our whole clan as librarians, monks, and sloths.

Thankfully, the very next day, I had the pleasure of departing for a weekend of dairy education and wine and cheese tasting, hosted by the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council. Last year’s event was such an amazing experience. (You can read about it here.) I couldn’t wait to see what ADADC had in store for us this year.

This year, the event began at the beautiful Geneva on the Lake in Geneva, N.Y., which is located on the northwest side of Seneca Lake. Nestled in the New York Finger Lakes wine country, the manicured grounds of this elegant villa-inspired resort are absolutely stunning.

After a comfortable night’s sleep in a spacious jacuzzi suite, we awoke for a continental breakfast at the resort. From there, we departed for Cornell University, where we spent the day touring Cornell’s state-of-the-art dairy farm and dairy production plant. We met with experts in the fields of dairy farming, food science, and dairy production.

Going a step beyond the dairy farms, we learned about ice cream, cheese, and yogurtmaking and how Cornell University partners with local cheese artisans and other small businesses to help them develop and promote their dairy products.

Part of our "learning" required tasting a variety of ice creams, frozen yogurt, homemade yogurt, and cheese. I had no choice but to eat that delicious ice cream and a second helping of cheese. Twist my arm already!

I couldn’t possibly do the weekend justice in a single post, so I’m going split my thoughts into a few posts, each post paired with seasonal, dairy-inspired recipe. (Think: cheese, yogurt, ice cream, and creamy chowder….)

For today, let’s start at the beginning, with the cows. Any mom who has ever nursed a baby knows that milk production is at its best when the mom is well-nourished, well-rested, and comfortable. Same applies to dairy cows. Happy cows means more milk and these dairy farmers have mastered the art of keeping cows happy and healthy to maximize production.

Cornell’s dairy barn, which is designed for maximum ventilation, sanitation and cow-comfort, sets an example for the dairy industry and provides a hands-on learning opportunity for its dairy students.

Three times a day, Cornell’s cows are brought to the milking parlor, where their milk is collected for use within the school’s very own dairy production plant, where Cornell’s own Big Red cheddar is made, as well as yogurt and ice cream for the university’s dining halls.

Twice daily milking is standard for most dairy farms, but Cornell’s cows, much like its students, are overachievers. Each cow produces an average of 95 pounds of milk daily, putting them in the top 95th percentile for milk production. I’d expect nothing less from an Ivy-league cow!

In Part 2 of my dairy adventure, I’ll talk about two things which I love dearly: cheese and Wegmans.

For today, enjoy some pumpkin gingersnap bars.

These seasonally perfect pumpkin bars pair a spicy gingersnap cookie crust with a layer of luscious baked pumpkin custard. Creamy half-and-half (half cream/half milk) lends a satisfying richness to these tiny bites of gingery pumpkin bliss. Cream cheese, another of dairy’s mouth-watering contributions to the world of food, provides the perfect finishing touch.

Pumpkin gingersnap bars with gingered cream cheese topping

2 cups crushed gingersnap crumbs

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 cups pumpkin puree fresh or canned (1 15-ounce can will do the trick)

1/2 cup white sugar

1/3 cup brown sugar

1-1/2 cups half-and-half

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Pinch of cloves

1 tablespoon cornstarch

6 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature

1/4 cup powdered sugar

Pinch of ground ginger

Extra gingersnap crumbs for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Combine the crushed gingersnap crumbs with the melted butter. Press in an even layer into the bottom of a 13- by 9-inch baking dish. Bake for 7-8 minutes. Remove from the oven.

3. Meanwhile, whisk together the pumpkin, half-and-half, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, salt, nutmeg, and cloves, until well blended. In a small dish, combine the cornstarch with about 1/4 cup of the pumpkin mixture, until the cornstarch is completely dissolved. Whisk the cornstarch mixture into the pumpkin mixture. Pour the pumpkin mixture over the gingersnap crust.

4. Bake for about 40 minutes.

5. Remove from the oven. Cool at room temperature until no longer hot. Then, cool completely in the refrigerator. Cut into small 1 to 1-1/2-inch squares.

6. Combine the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and a pinch of ground ginger. Use a pastry bag to pipe a bit of the cream cheese topping onto each square. Sprinkle with extra gingersnap crumbs.

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