Eat (not so) Well Because Whatever (Who Cares) It's the Holidays: Part One

Good news! WWW's back. The following post was written by my mom, WWW. Thanks, mom!
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One of my favorite memories as a child was cooking side by side with my mother on Thanksgiving and Christmas. My mother was and still is a wonderful cook, but she has never been a huge fan of recipes. So I learned how to make family favorites by instructions such as “throw in a handful of this” and “toss in a pinch of that.” There was one exception, however, to this cook-by-feel tutelage. One recipe that held an exalted status in our home, the Magna Carta of our English heritage. Not to be tampered with. Must be followed exactly OR ELSE! And that recipe was… (drum roll, please) ..................

Yorkshire Pudding!

Now, I know that England is not known for its cuisine and, in fact, British victuals are made fun of as often as Italian and French cooking is praised. But I would be hard pressed to find a food that is more mouthwatering or more home-for-the-holidays enticing than a fresh from the oven, crisp around the edges, golden brown batch of Yorkshire pudding. The problem is that the traditional YP is made from the pan drippings of roast beef, but I have been making it for years with vegetable oil or butter instead, and it is equally delicious. (The batter is exactly the same as pop-over batter so that makes sense). And although it is an amazing accompaniment for beef, it stands on its own as a fabulous and festive side dish. (GGC, here. I like mine with quinoa. Just kidding!)

It is really important to have all ingredients at room temperature and to let the batter rest for at least an hour. Also NEVER open up the oven to see how it is doing before 20 minutes or it can fall. (And that would be very sad!) If your eggs aren’t extra large, use more eggs. You need enough eggs to make the Yorkshire pudding rise and puff up into its glory. (That's what she said. This is GGC, again.)

Mama’s Yorkshire Pudding
(to be followed EXACTLY!! Or ELSE!!)
1 cup flour
1 cup milk, room temperature (75 degrees is best)*
½ t. salt
2 extra large eggs, room temperature (or 3 or 4 smaller eggs)
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Mix together salt and flour. Make a well in the middle of the flour and pour in milk. Beat flour and milk with hand mixer until combined. Beat in eggs. Beat (not too vigorously) for 5-10 minutes or until large bubbles start to rise to the surface of the batter.
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Let stand covered for at least an hour. (Can sit for several hours). When ready to cook, preheat oven to 450. Beat batter for a few minutes. When oven is preheated, put a 9x13 inch pan in oven with ¼ cup oil or butter in it.
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When pan is hot and oil is sizzling, pour in the batter:
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Cook for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.
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DO NOT open the oven before 20 minutes. Cut into 8 squares and serve immediately with or without gravy. This recipe can easily be doubled.
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The end!

*If you have a coldish house, make sure you let the batter sit for several hours.

Although my mother wasn’t much of a recipe follower, her mother was. Gran attended Cordon Bleu cooking school in France as a young woman and could create a plethora of gourmet meals. When I announced my engagement 33 ½ years ago, the first thing she did was to invite me for the weekend to teach me all of her tricks, or at least a weekend’s worth of tricks. I was ecstatic to learn all I could from her and I still have the recipes she shared with me, written in her handwriting. She also taught me how to look for recipes in magazines or the newspaper, how to peruse my cookbooks and mark which recipes I liked, and she encouraged me to take cooking risks, suggesting that I subscribe to a food magazine for inspiration. Although most of her recipes were meat-centric and are no longer on my meal radar, she greatly influenced my cooking and my love of hunting and gathering recipes.

One of the great recipes I found early in my marriage was this English Toffee recipe from the Los Angeles Times food section. I had never made candy before but had always loved Almond Roca and thought I would give this recipe a try, especially because it doesn’t require a candy thermometer. It is NOT good for you but is an amazing holiday indulgence and a wonderful treat to share with others. English Toffee has become my signature holiday recipe, so much so that I stopped making the other five cookie recipes I used to make at Christmas and now exclusively make this candy.

CAUTION: This recipe is seriously addictive and is especially a favorite of men. One year I had the audacity to think that maybe I would skip making candy and all my friend’s husbands showed up at my house with protest signs chanting “We Want Wendy’s Candy!”
Well…not quite…but almost! (That's not all they wanted. Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink. - GGC)

Making candy can be a little tricky due to different qualities of butter, the humidity, and other factors. But last year my son David, who is now following the family tradition of English Toffee making in Boston, discovered that adding a few teaspoons of water to the butter and sugar while they are melting keeps them from separating. It worked for me last year, so hopefully it will again. Also, my original recipe called for adding the almonds when the candy started turning brown but after researching on the Internet, I think it is better to add the almonds early on so that the candy doesn’t drop in temperature, causing the butter to separate. I have modified the recipe, even though my pictures reflect the old recipe.

You can double this recipe but don’t triple it. (I tried it once and it was a disaster). I make about six double batches of this candy every year. That is enough for about 18 generous gifts and some left over for family noshing.

English Toffee
1 cup sugar
1 cup SALTED butter (2 sticks)
1 T water
½ cup raw almonds (blanched or with skins)
½ cup semi sweet chocolate chips, more or less
½ cup finely chopped walnuts
(Can be made without nuts for those who are allergic)


In a heavy bottomed pan, melt butter and sugar together on low (with the water):
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When melted, add almonds and bring heat up to medium high, stirring constantly.
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The mixture will puff up and foam as the water evaporates:
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Then suddenly it will collapse down into a thicker mass as it starts to turn brown.
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Keep stirring until the candy becomes a dark caramel brown color.
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Test by dripping a small drop onto a plate (or tile counter):
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When the candy is done, the drop will be brittle after it cools. Pour out onto a cookie sheet or jellyroll pan and smooth with a spatula.
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After a few minutes, while still hot, sprinkle with chocolate chips.
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After about two minutes, or when the chocolate is melted, spread with the spatula.
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Sprinkle with walnuts and press them into the chocolate.
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Let candy completely cool before cutting it into pieces.
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The end!

(GGC note: I get sick on this stuff every year. I do. It's TOO good. Don't you dare make it. Okay, so you should totally make it. Just please be sure to check yourself before you "roca" yourself.)

***

I’d love to hear about your Eat-Not-So-Well family recipes. And stay tuned…next week I’ll be sharing our favorite family tradition since 1986….The Gingerbread House.

***

P.S. A quick note about our Thanksgiving Heritage turkey: BEST TURKEY EVER!!! If any of you didn’t try it on Thanksgiving but are thinking about buying one for Christmas, I must tell you that it was a huge success and well worth the extra cost, both in taste and animal ethics. We had 15 people for Thanksgiving, and of those 15, 11 were meat eaters. I bought a 13 pound turkey which ended up being $65. I rubbed it THE DAY BEFORE with ¼ cup olive oil, 2 T minced garlic, 2 T minced onion, 2 T fresh rosemary, 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, 3 tablespoons minced parsley, 1 tablespoon salt, and ½ tablespoon cracked pepper. I cooked it at 325 for 2 ½ hours UNSTUFFED and it was perfect. )

Love,
WWW

33 comments:

Ester Jean | 11:51 PM

1. LORD, I love your sense of humor!! (Wink, wink, nudge nudge) -- no, but really. NOT wink, wink.

2. I tried to comment on the following-your-little-gal-around with a camera post but maybe I am too challenged to find the comment button. Anyway, that was rad.

3. You shoulda seen the look on my face, with one eye bulging and the other squinted, brow raised, lips pursed, when I read such-and-such is supposed to be made with beef drippings, and all I had seen yet was the first photo of toffee. I thought this post might make me barfy, but alas, it made me hunnnngry! Can't wait to try both recipes!

4. Pretty plate.

5. I love list

Anonymous | 3:32 AM

OMG on the candy. Do you think it would be too salty with roasted almonds? I can't eat them raw.

Thanks!

Barbara

Rhea (Greek Feaster) | 4:58 AM

THAT TOFFEE! oh dear me.

Amanda | 7:10 AM

Whoa. I need this all now! The confectionery indulgences of the holidays are way up there on my list of "Why I Love The Holidays".

Caroline @ The Feminist Housewife | 7:41 AM

I am sooo going to make this!!! mmm...I wonder how long it would keep for? Any idea?

Wendy Woolf | 8:09 AM

Anonymous...the almonds roast by being in the hot sugar. They get pretty brown as it is so you won't be eating raw almonds. I think if you used roasted almonds, they would burn. But you could make it without almonds and then sprinkle the melted chocolate with chopped roasted almonds if you wanted.

Anonymous | 8:46 AM

My dad always makes yorkshire pudding, it is just the best thing ever. He does make with the beef drippings from standing rib roast (our family holiday meal), but good to know it can be altered. Can not wait to try toffee, my husband is an almond roca freak. Thanks for sharing!!!

Anonymous | 9:52 AM

I love love love your posts. I have one request. It would probably require some complicated coding I simply don't understand, but is there a way to provide a link to a condensed version of the recipe (text only) for those of us who want to print out your recipes and put them in plastic sheaths for preservation for OUR daughters?

Magic27 | 10:26 AM

Hmmm, both these recipes look delicious (strange that British cooking is supposedly so dire, yet both of these are British... Sorry, don't mean to be snarky, but as a Brit living in France for 18 years, believe me, I've heard all the comments and they usually really bug me - British cooking can be wonderful; not necessarily fancy, but good, plain, tasty food. Most people who knock it have either never tried it or had one bad experience... And French "cuisine" isn't all it's cracked up to be: most families eat just ordinary pasta-in-tomato-sauce type stuff, nothing fancy, and there's still fast food rubbish everywhere... GRRRR. OK, rant over).
My mother used to make toad-in-the-hole, which involves cooking sausages in the batter of the YP and serving the whole thing with gravy. Now, I've never liked either sausages or gravy, but I always loved toad-in-the-hole...
I won't be brave enough to try the toffee - too gourmande for one thing, too inept for the other - but might venture into YP territory...

avb | 10:50 AM

Yorkshire pudding. I'm guessing this is where popovers come from? I love this idea of one giant popover though. Yum!

Pam | 11:03 AM

We make that toffee a little different, with crackers on the bottom. My aunt calls it almond toffee brickle (not brittle).

We call it Almond Crack.

My Bottle's Up! | 11:25 AM

1) i don't cook well.
2) i don't cook. (see # 1)

but...

3) these are becoming my favorite posts to read because i adore your mom's voice.

i kinda just want to go to a coffee shop and listen to her tell stories.

Wendy Woolf | 11:27 AM

Caroline...the toffee keeps about a week in an air-tight container. I make it as I need to for gifts and give it the same day or the day after I make it.

Jenn/hippygoth | 11:50 AM

I made this toffee today!!! Thanks for the recipe, it is DELICIOUS.

Unfortunately, during the time I was making this and my kid was "napping", what she was really doing was covering herself, her wall, and everything on her changing table with vaseline. I guess I didn't need to work this afternoon after all.

dietplaid | 12:46 PM

That pudding! It's like Gaudi came to your home and cooked a sculpture! I love it!

AimeeDesiree | 12:56 PM

I'm curious - You don't use drippings from the prime rib? That's how my momma makes it. She usually hides this ingredient from my health-nut uncle because "he enjoys it so much and it would ruin the whole thing for him."
This post has me really hungry now!

Sarah | 1:07 PM

It is all about the peanut butter fudge at Christmastime. My grandma would make it with walnuts, and it would be in the freezer on the back porch. Christmas day, I would get up about every 10 minutes and get another couple of pieces. And I would sneak one for my dad's cousin who had diabetes but loved the stuff!

And yes, I would totally get sick off of eating it too, but it was so damn good! I need to make some this year.

Anonymous | 4:34 PM

My daughter LOVES English toffee!! :) Great post!

Jodi | 5:53 PM

I think I just got fat reading this...seriously. I'm gonna make it anyway though :)

Kat | 8:03 PM

Oh I'm so making both of those things for Christmas this year. If I can get my kitchen put together before Christmas. Oh man, moving this weekend, so much work!

The following recipe came straight from my mother, who got it from her mother, who apparently got it from an Eagle brand condensed milk can.

These things are evil. Delicious, and evil.

Hello Dollies

Melt 1 stick margarine in 9X13” pan. Sprinkle over this 1 cup of graham cracker crumbs, 1 cup shredded and presweetened coconut, 1 cup of chocolate chips (butterscotch or white chocolate can be used), and 1 cup of chopped pecans…in layers, ending with pecans.

Pour over this 1 can of Eagle Brand Milk.

Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool and cut into squares.

Anonymous | 5:00 AM

Sorry, how did you roast a 13lb turkey for only 2.5 hours????

carrie | 6:37 AM

Wendy--is the yorkshire pudding basically just really good biscuits or popovers, is there any "pudding" consistency to it?
I have made that toffee for years as well, and we looooovvvee it!!

nursery equipment Mary | 8:03 AM

Looks so yummy!!

Wendy Woolf | 12:15 PM

Anonymous...I know it sounds crazy, but Heritage turkeys don't have to cook as long because they haven't been bread to make super breasts. As a result, the meat is really juicy but thoroughly cooked...not one ounce of dried out meat. Truly unbelievable. Also, you aren't supposed to stuff them so that makes the cooking time less, too.

Carrie...Yorkshire pudding is pop-over batter in a pan. It is called "pudding" because in England, any flour,egg, and milk concoction, whether it be sweet or savory, is called a pudding. What we call "pudding" is custard in the UK. Yorkshire pudding was invented as a "filler" to eat first, cooked in the pan drippings, so that people who couldn't afford a large roast could eat less meat but still feel full and eat something that tasted like meat.

Wendy Woolf | 1:38 PM

Oooops...I meant "bred," not "bread!"

Stef | 11:57 AM

That toffee looks so manageable! I am definitely going to give it a go. And I never knew that's what Yorkshire pudding was. Thanks for the recipes!

Anonymous | 7:11 PM

When I make Yorkshire puddings I use crisco in the bottom of the pan, I also make them in muffin tins for personal sized wonderfulness.

I am addicted to Yorkshire pudding as it reminds me of home (I live in the US, home is South Yorkshire) and tend to make them waaay too much!!

Kari C | 9:59 PM

I read this recipe yesterday, went grocery shopping and made the toffee today. It is SO.VERY.GOOD!!! I didn't think there was enough chocolate so I put more on....don't do that. I never feel like it is right to say "too much chocolate" but this would be accurate. I just can't stand it....did I mention how good this is??

I've always wondered about Yorkshire Pudding, it is beautiful in your picture! Glad I can make it vegan but wondering how gluten free flour will work in high altitude? I think I will eat more quinoa to off-set the toffee first!!!

Thank you for such wonderful recipes!!

dawn | 12:01 PM

I mad this toffee today and let me just say my husband who is a english toffee snob/slut loves it. He is extremely picky but when it's good he'll over indulge--(I will probably be making more tomorrow)

It's amazing and was so easy. It will certainly become part of our holiday traditions. Love it. Thanks to your mom and you for sharing.

Amie Marie | 9:06 PM

This toffee is amazing, brought a test batch to a party last weekend and it was a hit! ppl thought I spiked it. Making it for all my aunts and uncles this year. Thanks for sharing! Its amazing!

Jill | 6:57 AM

I made the toffee yesterday and it is DELICIOUS!!! Thank you and your mom for passing along a great recipe.

Anonymous | 4:20 PM

OMG! I make english toffee every year and its just not christmas if i have not eaten myself sick on it. My recipe does not include the almonds, but butter, sugar, chocolate chip and walnuts-- that's the family tradtion.

No Mommy Brain | 9:06 PM

wendy - thank you so much for the toffee recipe! my five year old and i made a batch yesterday and it turned out perfectly. his teachers will be so surprised that he made them such a fancy holiday treat!

i tried to make another batch tonight after he went to bed and when i stopped stirring for a second to change the music, it separated! i guess i'm a better cook when my kids are watching. ; )