graham crackers

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Pumpkin Cheesecake

When I first saw this in Cook’s Illustrated back in the Nov/Dec 2003 edition, I knew I had to try it.

I’d eaten pumpkin cheesecakes before, but they always left something to be desired.  Either too soft and runny (pumpkin has a lot of moisture in it), too artificial tasting (using flour or cornstarch to make up for the moisture in the pumpkin), or not enough pumpkin taste (use less pumpkin to reduce the amount of moisture).

The folks at CI came up with a simple way to remove the excess moisture from the pumpkin: simply spread it out over paper towels, and let the paper towels soak up the excess moisture.

I made it for Thanksgiving dinner that year, and from the looks on people’s faces when they took a bite, I wasn’t the only one who’d had less-than-spectacular pumpkin cheesecake.

Not the case with this pumpkin cheesecake.  Perfect cheesecake texture with pumpkin pie taste!

Fast forward 9 years later, and I’ve made this at least once, if not 2-3x times, a year to rave reviews. I guess you can file this under ‘so good it doesn’t last long enough to get a photo of’, hence the lack of a blog post (until now).

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Key Lime Pie

Key Lime Pie

After I made my 3rd key lime pie, I came to the conclusion that most people have never had *real* key lime pie.  What they thought was key lime pie was usually something made from Cool Whip and Jello, which has nothing to do with key limes.

The big surprise for most people was how tart a real key lime pie is, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise, as the name KEY LIME pie should give you some indication that is contains limes/lime juice.

This is an easy pie to make, and will be a huge hit with anyone who likes/appreciates real lime taste.

Key Lime Pie

Lime Filling
4 tsp grated lime zest
1/2 cup lime juice from 3 to 4 limes
4 egg yolks
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk

Graham Cracker Crust
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 11 graham crackers)
3 tbsp sugar
5 tbsp butter , melted

Whipped Cream Topping
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar

  1. Whisk zest and yolks in medium bowl until tinted light green, about 2 minutes. Beat in milk, then juice; set aside at room temperature to thicken.
  2. Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 325. Mix crumbs and sugar in medium bowl. Add butter; stir with fork until well blended. Pour mixture into 9″ pie pan; press crumbs over bottom and up sides of pan to form even crust. Bake until lightly browned and fragrant, about 15 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack; cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes.
  3. Pour lime filling into crust; bake until center is set, yet wiggly when jiggled, 15 to 17 minutes. Return pie to wire rack; cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until well chilled, at least 3 hours. (Can be covered with lightly oiled or oil-sprayed plastic wrap laid directly on filling and refrigerated up to 1 day.)
  4. For the Whipped Cream: Up to 2 hours before serving, whip cream in medium bowl to very soft peaks. Adding powdered sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, continue whipping to just-stiff peaks. Spread evenly with rubber spatula.
Source: Cooks Illustrated, March/April 1997

 

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The Daring Kitchen is a group of people from all over the world that bake/cook something new (that month’s “challenge”) in the kitchen. Part of the reason I started this blog was to force myself outside of my culinary comfort zone, so this was right up my alley. I joined as a Daring Baker (you can also join as a Daring Cook).

According to Wikipeida, Nanaimo Bars are “…a dessert of Canadian origin popular across North America. A type of chocolate no-bake square, it is named after the West-Coast city of Nanaimo, British Columbia.”  I had never heard of them, but I think I’ve seen them before in bakeries, I just haven’t paid much attention to them.  I will now though, as these are pretty tasty.

The challenge was actual two baked items: the above mentioned Nanaimo Bars, and graham crackers/wafers.  See my post/recipe here for the homemade graham crackers.

Nanaimo Bars

Bottom Layer
1 1/4 cups (5.6oz) graham cracker crumbs (from this recipe, or store-bought)
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup (1.8oz) sugar
5 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup (1.9oz) almonds, finely chopped
1 cup (4.5oz) sweetened flaked coconut (you can use unsweetened also)

Middle Layer
1/2 cup butter
2 tbsp plus 2 tsp heavy cream
2 tbsp vanilla custard powder (Such as Bird’s. Vanilla pudding mix may be substituted.)
2 cups (8.9oz) powdered sugar

Top Layer
4oz semi-sweet chocolate
2 tbsp butter

Bottom Layer: Line an 8×8″ pan with foil made into a criss-cross pattern.  Melt butter, sugar and cocoa in top of a double boiler.  Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, nuts and coconut. Press firmly into the foil lined pan (no need to grease the pan).

Middle Layer: Cream butter, then add cream, custard powder, and icing sugar beat until light in color. Spread over bottom layer.  Place in the fridge while making the top layer.

Top Layer: Melt chocolate and butter over low heat.  Cool.  Once cool, pour over middle layer and chill.

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and www.nanaimo.ca.

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homemade graham crackers

homemade graham crackers

I made these as part of the January 2010 Daring Bakers challenge (they went into the Nanaimo bars).

The graham crackers were used in the making of the Nanaimo Bars, and until I made them, I never even gave a thought to making graham crackers, or even that you would/could do it.

An optional part of The Daring Baker’s challenge was to make these gluten-free, but I stuck with the ingredients (wheat flour) I had on hand.  Taste-wise, they are the same.
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