Pumpkin pie bars are a mini version of the traditional pumpkin pie, which makes them a great food to serve at parties or for a large group of people. This recipe has a separate hazelnut shortbread base that acts as a kind of crust for the pumpkin filling to sit on. Pre-bake the hazelnut shortbread first so that the filling does not soften it. This recipe makes 32 pumpkin bars.
To make hazelnut shortbread, first preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the hazelnuts on a baking sheet for about 15 minutes or until they brown and begin to peel. Roll the hazelnuts in a small towel to allow the nuts to steam for 5 minutes. Use the towel to remove the hazelnuts' skin by quickly rubbing them until most of the skin is gone. Allow to cool and chop into small pieces.
Combine hazelnut pieces, flour and salt and mix in the food processor until ground finely. In a separate bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until mixture is light and airy. Mix in the vanilla extract and hazelnut mixture and beat until dough is formed. Line a lightly greased 9x13 cake pan with greased and floured aluminum foil. Spread dough onto cake pan and bake for 15 minutes or until edges are browned. Cool on wire rack.
To make pumpkin filling, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin, sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt until well combined. Pour in heavy cream and mix together. Pour the pumpkin filling over the baked hazelnut shortbread and bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on wire rack. Grab the edges of the aluminum foil to lift the pumpkin bars out of the pan. Cut into 32 individual bars and refrigerate.
To make whipped cream topping, beat the heavy cream with sugar until it forms stiff and shiny peaks. Place a dollop of whipped cream on top of each pumpkin pie bar.