Key Lime Pie

Want to hear something kind of crazy?
Key Lime Pie | A Nerd Cooks

This was my first key lime pie.  Baked or eaten.

I mean, I know that I’ve had some sorts of key lime-flavored desserts in the past, but this was my first legit key lime pie.

Key Lime Pie | A Nerd Cooks

I made it for a research assistant’s last day in the lab, and shared it with a group of coworkers and RAs at a small going away party last week.

Now, I can tell you that I thought that it tasted pretty amazing.   But the reviews I received from others were pretty fantastic, too.

Key Lime Pie | A Nerd Cooks

It’s sweet, but not too sweet, and tangy.  The crust is also phenomenal.

I found this recipe on the blog Honest and Tasty and couldn’t not make it.

You’ll need:

For the crust –

  • 11 whole graham crackers
  • 7 tbs butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • big pinch of kosher salt

For the filling –

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1.5 tbs key lime zest (reserve a bit for the topping)
  • 14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
  • 3/4 cup key lime juice (~1 lb key limes OR bottled key lime juice)

For the whipped cream –

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1.5 tbs granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a blender/food processor/zip top bag, smash the graham crackers until they are fine crumbs.

In a small bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and granulated sugar.  Mix until everything is combined.

Turn the mixture out into a 9-inch pie pan and gently press it into an even layer, bringing the crust up the sides of the pie pan.  Bake for 10 minutes, or until golden brown.  Allow the crust to cool while you make the pie filling.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the whisk attachment, whip the egg yolks and lime zest together until thickened.  Add the sweetened condensed milk and whip for 3 more minutes, or until further thickened.  Add the lime juice and mix until just combined.

Pour the filling into the crust and spread it around with a spatula, smoothing the surface.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the center is not completely jiggly.  There will be some movement, but it will look done.  Also, the filling may puff up a bit, but won’t change color.

Allow the pie to cool on a wire rack for about half an hour before covering it and letting it cool completely in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

Once the pie is cool, you’re ready to top it with some whipped cream and more lime zest!  In the bowl of a stand mixer, again using the whisk attachment, whip the cream and sugar together until stiff peaks form.

Slap some whipped cream on top and garnish with more zest.

Key Lime Pie | A Nerd Cooks

Key Lime Pie | A Nerd CooksKey Lime Pie | A Nerd Cooks

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Pumpkin Cake with Cheesecake, Gingersnap, and Salted Caramel Topping

In case you’ve managed to avoid looking at a calendar lately, Thanksgiving is coming up later this week!  If the dessert portion of your menu is still up in the air (or if you want another dessert!), this one could be for you.

It’s delicious and impressive-looking, without being terribly difficult to make.  It is slightly involved, but well worth the effort.  Pumpkin Cake with Cheesecake, Gingersnaps, and Salted Caramel Topping

Let the record show that, despite his occasional complaints, Sean is encouraging my pumpkin-loving behavior.  He surprised me with the cookbook that this recipe came from; it just so happens that this cookbook is all about cooking and baking with pumpkin.

Pumpkin Cake with Cheesecake, Gingersnaps, and Salted Caramel Topping

This recipe comes from the cookbook Cooking with Pumpkin: Recipes that Go Beyond the Pie.

You’ll need:

Pumpkin Cake

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 4 tbs unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Pumpkin Cheesecake

  • 6 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Other Toppings

  • 2 tbs turbinado sugar (granulated sugar can sub here)
  • 1/2 cup gingersnap cookies, coarsely crushed
  • 1/3 cup caramel sauce

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Grease and flour a 9-inch springform pan.  Set aside.

For the cake layer, combine the 3/4 cup sugar, teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, and cloves.  Mix just to incorporate.

Add the 3/4 cup pumpkin, egg, buttermilk, butter, and vanilla extract.  Using a hand mixer, beat for 1 minute.  Scrape the sides of the bowl down periodically, if needed.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top slightly with a spatula.

For the cheesecake layer, using a hand mixer, combine the cream cheese, 1/4 cup of pumpkin, 1/4 cup of sugar, and teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice until smooth and creamy.

Add the cheesecake mixture in an even layer on top of the cake batter.  Smooth slightly.  Sprinkle the top with the turbinado sugar.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until the center is set and not jiggly.

Set the cake on a wire rack to cool completely.

Once it’s cool, run a knife around the outside of the cake to loosen it.  Then, pop the springform pan off and lift the bottom, along with the cake, out from the pan.  When you’re ready to serve the cake, sprinkle the top with the crushed gingersnaps and drizzle the caramel sauce.

Pumpkin Cake with Cheesecake, Gingersnaps, and Salted Caramel Topping

Balsamic, Honey, and Strawberry Galette

I’ve been wanting to make a galette for quite some time.  Just before leaving town for a week to attend a conference (I’m in Puerto Rico right now!!), I realized that I had strawberries in the fridge that were on the verge of overripeness.  That was all the excuse that I needed.  Now that I know how easy they are to make (so much less fussy than pie), I can’t wait to make another.  I’d like to keep exploring sweet galettes, but also try out some savory ones too.  I hope that you enjoy this as much as I did!

Balsamic, Honey, and Strawberry Galette | A Nerd CooksI found this recipe on the blog Lea & Jay.  The only noteworthy adaptation that I made was to reduce the amount of liquid that goes into the dough.  I found the 8 oz. of liquid originally called for to be way too much.

You’ll need:

For the crust (makes enough for 2 galettes)-

  • 4 tbs vodka, chilled
  • 2 tbs water
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, very cold and cut into small cubes
  • 1 egg
  • sugar for topping

For the filling –

  • 16 oz. fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 3 tbs honey
  • 1 tbs balsamic vinegar
  • thinly sliced basil, for topping

Combine the vodka and water.  Put in the freezer or fridge while you begin preparing the crust.

In a food processor, add 1 1/2 cups of the flour and all of the salt.  Pulse a few times.

Add the cubes of butter and turn the food processor on for 15-20 seconds, or until a dough or paste begins to form.

Scrape the sides of the food processor’s bowl down and add the remaining flour.  Pulse 4-5 times, or until the flour is evenly distributed.  Things are probably going to be a little crumbly at this point, and that’s okay.

Move the dough to a bowl, and sprinkle about half of the vodka/water mixture over the dough.  Using a spatula, press the dough into itself.  Keep doing this until the liquid and dough are well combined.  If the dough is too crumbly, add more liquid bit by bit.

Plop the dough onto a clean surface and form it into a ball.  Cut the ball in half, shape each half into a disc, and wrap them, individually, in plastic wrap.  One of them should go into the fridge to chill for 30 minutes or so, until you’re ready to bake.  The other can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months or the fridge for a couple of days.

While the dough is chilling, marinate the strawberries in a bowl with the honey and balsamic vinegar.  Stir until everything is well-coated.  Let it sit for 30 minutes.

When you’re ready to bake, begin by preheating the oven to 375 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (you can see that I neglected this step), set aside.

Take the disc of dough out of the fridge.  On a well-floured surface, roll the dough out until it is about 14 inches in diameter, and approximately 1/8 inch thick.  Move the rolled-out dough to the prepared baking sheet.

Drain the liquid from the bowl of strawberries.  Mound the strawberries in the center of the dough, leaving about 2 inches around the edges.  Fold the edges of the dough over the strawberries.

Beat the egg, and brush it over the folded-over dough.  Sprinkle the egg wash with sugar.

Bake 25-30 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow it to cool.  Sprinkle the sliced basil over the top.  Top with some ice cream, if desired.  Enjoy =)

Joy the Baker’s “Man Bait” Apple Crisp

So, as I alluded to last week (or was it the week before?), there has been a lot of change around here.  First, Sean and I got new cars!!

photo (37)

They’re VW Jettas.  Mine’s on the left, and his is on the right.  I’m pretty much obsessed.  They’re so much fun to drive.

The next (and more monumental) piece of news is that I submitted my doctoral dissertation to my thesis committee last month!  This means that my dissertation defense is only TWO WEEKS away.  In two short weeks I’ll have my PhD.  I’d be lying if I told you that I wasn’t freaking out just a little bit.  This is happening about 6 months earlier than I originally thought it would, but that’s only because…

I lined up a post-doctoral fellowship that starts on October 1st!  It’s in the Department of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine on the Hopkins Bayview campus (right now I’m in the Department of Mental Health in the School of Public Health).  I’ll be working with a group that does some really cool substance abuse research, and will primarily be involved with a clinical trial investigating lower nicotine content cigarettes.  I’m really, really excited about this, and can’t wait to start.

Now, with the news out of the way, let’s talk food.  That’s what you’re really here for anyway.  This apple crisp is so freaking good.  Joy Wilson knows what’s up.

Joy the Baker's "Man Bait" Apple Crisp | A Nerd Cooks

This recipe comes from Joy the Baker’s cookbook.

You’ll need:

For the filling – 

  • 10-12 medium-sized apples (I used a combination of Granny Smith and Gala apples)
  • 6 tbs granulated sugar
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon

For the topping –

  • 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 2/3 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softenend

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a 9×13-inch pan with cooking spray or butter.  Set aside.

For the filling, peel and core the apples.  Cut them into 1/4-inch thick slices.  In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and cinnamon.  Put all of the apple slices in the baking dish and sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Using your hands, toss the apples with the cinnamon sugar until evenly coated.  Set the baking dish aside while you make the topping.

For the topping, in a large bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and oats.  Work the softened butter into the dry ingredients with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Remove 1 heaping cup of this topping and add it to the apples.  Toss the apples and cup of topping around to combine.  Spread the rest of the topping over the apples in an even layer.

Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until the topping is toasted and the apples are bubbling.  Take it out of the oven and allow the crisp to cool slightly (like 10 minutes).  Scoop the crisp into a bowl and top with vanilla ice cream if you’re so inclined.

OH AND!!!  I Instagrammed a picture of this crisp right after I made it and tagged @joythebaker, not really thinking much of it.  That night I went to bed, and when I woke up I saw that Joy had liked and commented on it.  Not gonna lie, I geeked out pretty hard.

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Pecan-Chocolate Tart with Bourbon Whipped Cream

Why did it take me so long to share this tart with you all?!  I made this way back in November for Thanksgiving, and I guess it just kind of fell through the cracks.

Chocolate pecan tart Chocolate pecan tart2 Chocolate pecan tart3

The recipe was found in the November 2012 issue of Bon Appétit.  Head on over to the website for the recipe.  It’s probably better suited to the holiday season, but would also be good for any special occasion.  Or if you just like pecan pie and chocolate.  It’s a little involved, but well worth it.

Classic Pumpkin Pie

Hi everyone!  Not that it’s possible for you to have forgotten, but Thanksgiving is coming up in exactly 1 week.  We’ll be spending the holiday at Sean’s sister’s house, and I volunteered to bring the dessert as well as some of my mom’s cranberry sauce.  Keep an eye out for the recipe for the cranberry sauce and the other pie I plan to make.  Hopefully that one goes well on Thanksgiving morning so I can share it with you, because it looks like it will be awesome.

Having never made a pie before, I wanted to practice a bit before the holiday came, in order to work out any potential issues.  

I found this recipe on the side of a can of Libby’s pumpkin puree, and it can also be found here.

You’ll need:

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 large eggs
1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree
1 12 oz. can evaporated milk
1 unbaked pie shell/crust (or use this recipe, like I did)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. 

Mix the sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger, and cloves in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Beat the eggs in a larger bowl.  Add the pumpkin puree and sugar mixture.  Mix until combined.  Gradually add in the evaporated milk.

Pour into the pie shell.  Bake for 15 minutes at 425.  Lower the heat to 350 and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a knife or toothpick comes out cleanly when inserted near the center.  Cool on a wire rack for ~2 hours.

Serve immediately or refrigerate.

Maybe not the prettiest pie ever–the crust isn’t exactly perfect–but it sure was tasty!  And I’ll be making it again next week, for sure.  I’m glad I got the chance to practice before the holiday.  Even though it’s difficult, I’d advise waiting the full 2 hours for it to cool.  It allows the pie to really set up.