Good news! WWW's back. The following post was written by my mom, WWW. Thanks, mom!
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) ..................
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)
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.
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.
When pan is hot and oil is sizzling, pour in the batter:
Cook for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.
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.
*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.
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):
When melted, add almonds and bring heat up to medium high, stirring constantly.
The mixture will puff up and foam as the water evaporates:
Then suddenly it will collapse down into a thicker mass as it starts to turn brown.
Keep stirring until the candy becomes a dark caramel brown color.
Test by dripping a small drop onto a plate (or tile counter):
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.
After a few minutes, while still hot, sprinkle with chocolate chips.
After about two minutes, or when the chocolate is melted, spread with the spatula.
Sprinkle with walnuts and press them into the chocolate.
Let candy completely cool before cutting it into pieces.
(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. )