As most of you know, or have heard from others, I have always liked cooking and baking. I still do cook and bake these days but mostly for myself. I first learned a few cooking skills by just watching my mother, she was a great cook, later I learned more skills by watching Julia Child, she was also a great cook. (My ex-mother-in-law was a good cook too.) I was always up for making a dish I was curious about, or trying to recreate a dish I had eaten in a restaurant. My taste buds, plus my sense of smell, have helped me through the years.
Years ago, before the easy access to the internet, I faithfully leafed through the few good recipe books I had bought and stored on the shelf in my kitchen. The old standards that I refer to were compiled by: Julia Child, Craig Claibourne, Dinah Shore, Julee Rosso, and Sheila Lukins. Of course, I had some family recipes that I made each year also...I still make my mom's pecan cookies rolled in powdered sugar, her pancakes, and her cucumber salad. Thanksgiving wouldn't be right if I didn't make my grandmother's red apples. I continue to make my ex-mother-in-law's turkey stuffing, too, although through the years I have modified it to my own liking.
These days I continue to use my old cookbooks, but look to the internet for other inspirations. I began by using epicurious.com, then I moved on to many other good sites, as well as, good food blogs. There is an advantage with these sites over cookbooks in that they are rated and give reviews by those having tried the particular recipe. Sometimes, when a recipe is too difficult to make it really taste like it should, example being, croissants, I order it online to have it shipped to me already prepared. Everyone should know by now, order your croissants from Williams-Sonoma online, they are the BEST.
Over the years, I have made almond toffee. When I was living at home in Niles, my mom worked at the Paris which was owned by her friends Harriet and Ted. They made the best toffee and I would choose that for my candy of choice. When the Paris closed for business, I had to make it for myself if I wanted some just like theirs, thus began my search for a good recipe. I finally found one in Dinah Shore's cookbook which I use now. I don't follow it exactly, but close enough. I make it every year to give to family and friends, plus, I like to have it on hand just for me to eat! This year when I was seeing the physical therapist, a very nice young lady, I introduced her to my toffee. She says she is hooked on it, and says, like all the others, I should make it to sell...perhaps, but I think I'll stick to just giving it away. The recipe, and picture, will follow later when I make a new batch.
Yesterday, I made an apple pie. It was very small, just for me. My mom could make pies that were so good that I just never thought I could make any that would compare to her's....so I didn't try very often. However, a Tarte Tatin recipe on Jacques Pepin' PBS show inspired me to make a pie by first cooking the sliced apples in a non-stick fry pan with sugar and butter until the juice begins to mix with the sugar/butter mixture and it all begins to turn to a caramel color. I made my own 1 crust pastry in the food processor, rolled it out, and put it in a very small (4 inch) ovenproof dish. Next, I let the apples cool before I added them into the pie dough, then, I folded over the dough leaving a small opening. I baked it in a pre-heated 450 degree oven for 10 minutes, then turned the heat down to 375 for 20-25 more minutes until the crust was a golden brown. To make just one, I used 1/3 of the pie dough, (I froze the remaining dough), and 1 Honey Crisp apple. It tasted delicious!
Pie dough recipe - 1 crust
1 cup all purpose flour
6 Tblsp. cold real butter in small dice
2 Tblsp. cold crisco shortening
1/2 tsp. salt
2-3 Tblsp. cold water
Put all, except water, in the processor and blend until it is mealy and no large lumps. Then, add the water a little at a time until it just starts to pull away from the sides...don't over mix! It should make a ball in your hands without being too sticky. Roll out on a floured board to the size needed.
The web site Chez Pim.com is a good food blog. She has a video for making the dough, too, although I don't remember if she uses a processor. I always do because it's so fast and turns out well each time.
To make the apple mixture, I used 1 apple (peeled and sliced), 2 Tblsp. real butter, 3 Tablsp. sugar. I heated the butter and sugar first in a small non-stick fry pan, when it was bubbling I added the sliced apple and cooked it all until the juices looked a light golden color. This took maybe 5 minutes. Then I let it cool...I like to work fast so I put the pan in the freezer for a few minutes. Put the pie dough in the ovenproof dish, add the apple mixture almost to the top, fold over the sides of the dough to leave a small opening for the steam to release.
Today, I made a 2 ingredient chocolate mousse....yes, I said, 2 ingredients....just water and chocolate. I saw it online and I was very intrigued by its simplicity! You just boil 6 ounces of water then add 8 ounces of good rich chocolate (because this was a trial run, I used Hershey's dark chocolate candy bars) until it has melted. Pour this mixture into a bowl that is set over another bowl filled with ice cubes and water for cooling the chocolate while you whip it by hand or with a electric beater. I used a small hand held electric mixer. Place it in the refrigerator and it will get even thicker. It worked! Voila, mousse! The ratio of chocolate to water must be right for it to get to a thickened consistency. You never have to throw it away if it's too runny, just heat the mixture up again but add some more chocolate and start whipping again.
I love dark chocolate so I have it in my pantry, however, I don't always have fresh heavy cream in my refrigerator. It tastes just as good using water, and has less fat calories.
This recipe made enough for 2-3 portions....it's very rich so maybe you could stretch it out to 4 servings.
I think I'd better hit the gym every day from here on out until June!!!
Until next time....bon appetit,