As a child, I started collecting recipes. I would store them in a pink plastic index box, carefully cutting out recipes from the Sunday paper and using my school stapler to secure them to index cards for filing. While I didn't grow up in a home where much cooking happened, I gravitated to those weekly recipe-collecting sessions at my mom's Formica kitchen table.
In my 20's I self-taught how to cook & bake almost entirely from scratch. For a long season, I made nearly everything in the most labor-intensive way. Whether it was cheese or bacon, sourdough, or marshmallows, it was a DIY process.
Many of the recipes below are from my early-day's blog, The Art of Homemaking started back in 2006. I have either developed these over the years or have found them in a cookbook and they have been in continual rotation in my family's kitchen. In that case, I have labeled each as such, for reference if you'd like to add the cookbook to your own collection.
Recipes for homemade cordial vary. Some call for macerated berries boiled down with sugar and some even include raspberry jam. A number of recipes can be enjoyed right away while others take months to develop. I stuck with the most nostalgic method, which takes three months of patient waiting to enjoy.
Gravy. A simple word for a simple food made with simple ingredients. But perfecting gravy is anything but simple. No matter where you are in the world, you will likely eat gravy in some form, flavor or consistency or cuisine.
This tart is comfort food, to the max. When it's first out of the oven, it has almost a meringue-type quality to the cakey texture. By the next day, its soft and gooey – reminiscent of the Gooey Butter Cake ice cream we all love.
One of my favorite ways to bring summer to the dinner table is with a tart. Tarts make my world go round. I think I first fell in love after discovering Jerome Audureau's cookbook, Once Upon a Tart over a decade ago. We once visited the Greenwich Village bakery for....well tarts, of course. They were divine...but you know what? Tarts from my kitchen taste just as good. And the ones from your kitchen will as well. Because tarts are just that forgiving and rewarding.
A traditional European sponge cake is delicious but takes a more complicated approach than the one I’ve created here. I liken this recipe to a hybrid of my favorite Vienna memories and those of my beloved Appalachian skillet cake.
What makes it flaky? What makes it golden? Why does the bottom get soggy? Butter or shortening or both? More or less water? Air vents in the top crust or none? As mysterious as pie crust can be, it is also a fairly debunkable myth. Once you put in the practice, pie crust can actually be a crowning achievement in your baking endeavors.
This pie dough recipe has served me well over the years. It is straightforward and simple and produces a flaky crust time and again. The trick? Refrain from overworking the dough. You should still see small bits of butter even after rolling.
As with most comfort foods, pancakes are eaten in some form or fashion in every culture. Cong You Bingin China. Raggmunk in Sweden. Dosa in India. Our American version is differentiated from most by the use of baking soda and baking powder to lighten, fluff, and brown those golden-hued silver dollars we’ve cherished since our first spin at the golden-arches drive-thru.