French Chocolate Silk Pie & Warm Memories

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By James & Catherine Hill

At our little castle, we have a tradition of serving chocolate silk pie on really special occasions, because it is a family recipe on Catherine side, and because it is perhaps James’ favorite dessert she makes. Which is lovely because it is way, way easy!

On the downside, if you do not have four or more people to serve this to, or you’re a major chocoholic, a lot of it will go uneaten. It does not last all too long in the refrigerator, but who cares, man? It’s rich and worth it! But if you just can’t justify making a whole one, the solution might be to halve the recipe and make it in mini pie or tart pans or cupcake tins. When we make the full recipe just for ourselves there is always a bit that goes uneaten, but we tend not to care too much about it. Here’s why.

We will say it over and over. The key to a happy domestic life in your castle is to make whatever you bake, build, cook, craft, and choose as entertainment be the best use of your energy, money and time. However, there is one more thing to consider, and maybe we haven’t stressed this enough. You might want to consider from time to time the emotional investment factor. Weigh this against the good habits of saving energy, money and time. By the emotional investment, we mean what a food means to you even when it is sort of a frivolity. Like a food that is a long held tradition or a comfort but provides little else. When one goes to make such a food they have a choice to make about budgeting and the emotional investment.

For a special event, you might write your budget more on the generous and perhaps wasteful side than on the skinny side for that day and write it in a thinner fashion elsewhere – like beans and rice for a few days for dinner. Or you might do what we do currently. We create a fund especially for an event by earmarking a part of our savings over the year. Example: we save for all the yearly holidays starting each January by earmarking money each month. Example: the money we saved in January goes to Valentine’s Day dinner. Then the next few months go to Easter, then the rest of the year goes to Thanksgiving and Christmas season (Which Includes Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day and Epiphany.

In general, deserts are foods which make more of a dent in a food or party budget then you might think, and even when it’s home made. This is why when you do have a desert for a party make it an event. We might leave it out on a pedestal and then let people know when it will be served and we tend to take a lot of time and care in serving it. The care helps us justify the cost because the desert will be lovely and thus act as the perfect conclusion to a dinner party or small gathering. By the way, to get the most impact out of serving time do not serve guests piece by piece. When you do that it makes it so that people start eating at different times. Perhaps build your plates in the kitchen and serve using a tray all the guest at once to the biggest wow factor possible. This can be hard in a small apartment will little counter space by the way and if so the individual size servings suggested earlier might be a better option and you might simply plate and garnish at the table and then serve all at once right there. I should interject here that I think piles and piles of flavored chips are one of the worst wastes of money at a party, not deserts, because with the money used to buy junk food, one could buy the ingredients to make easy party foods that sit well in grown up stomachs with little effort. As far as a pricey addition to a festive table, deserts certainly do take the cake for that, because of the special flours and decorating items needed. It is a heavy front end cost endeavor. Not the French chocolate silk pie though. It is rather economical and you don’t have to be marvelous at making it look pretty either. Let’s face it. The desert does not have much nutritional value. So dollar for dollar you know you’re getting less “real” food. But if it’s only once and awhile it will surely nourish the soul. Especially when French chocolate silk pie becomes a family tradition.

We make French chocolate Silk Pie for James’ birthday, New Years and we have even brought one to a friend’s wedding. We hope you try it out and add it to your next special event’s menu.

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Miller’s French Chocolate Silk Pie Crust Pie Crust

By Catherine Hill

For refrigerator style pies like our French Chocolate Silk Pie we Hills like using a crust made from Graham cracker crumb and filberts (hazelnuts) and like everything, we like it homemade. But if all you have time for is a store-bought crust it’s okay by us.  I buy store bought cookie crust all the time and I won’t apologize for it. In fact, I have found that there’re some nice gluten free crusts out there too.  To that end, I have included a few tweaks to this recipe to make it gluten-free as well. The basic idea I hope to teach you here is how to make a crust that will hold up to cutting and serving.  

Read More…

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Starting with the Basics of Dessert

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By Catherine Hill

Oo là là!.  My Mother’s Cream is a rich thick pastry cream with a mellow flavor that can be easily jazzed up. If you like a little something decadent, fancy, French and sweet but don’t want to pay nearly $4 or more per treat, I suggest making your own pastries and cakes.

Butter, cream, eggs, flours, milk, salt, sugars, and water are the main ingredients for most of the delights you’d find in a French pastry or bread shop. Extracts, flavorings, and jams can mark up the cost quite a bit, but for the most part, you will be paying a quarter of the price, THAT’S $1!

When you make it yourself you can make healthier choices by crafting smaller pastries than the bakery offers and saving your hips and heart some undue strain. Sadly, dessert food is not nutritional. They are high in fat, sugar and sometimes cholesterol. I stay clear of using shortening and corn syrup as much as I can. Restaurants want you to come back, so they give you layer after layer of sugar and fat, usually in heaping quantities. At the store, the boxed or frozen desserts come crammed full of that stuff and more making the trans fats and sugar content way higher than those produced by you at home. That is why I suggest if you’re going to indulge why not make those indulgences in your own kitchen from scratch instead of out of a box.

I must caution our first-time bakers that are thinking of jumping full-fledged with no experience to a full-on multi-component homemade recipe, slow your roll.

If you, for instance, don’t know how to make:

Cake
Frosting
Pastry cream
Whipping cream
Glaze (fruit nor sugar)

I would not try and make every component of say a cupcake and then on top of it all attempt assembling it.

I swore off baking for 8 years because I found it overwhelming. I thought, since I was an artist somehow I would be good at the decorating part. That, my friend, was hubris. I do not want this for you. Bad baking doth not make a happy castle Repeat this: “hubris and baking do not go together, and I promise to always enter into a new recipe as if I know nothing”. I think you’ll be okay if you stick to that mantra. Baking, and making fillings, both have new skill sets to learn. It takes planning, practice, and stamina. You’ll have to get used to the process before you get going.

I try to make the easiest thing first when learning something new. It helps me build my confidence. So if you are really new to making sweets I think you should start similarly with something like a frosting or the pastry cream.

Back to our recipe, my Mother’s Cream which is rather closely related to Boston Cream and is a version of pastry cream for use in cakes and pastry like éclairs. It is a little fiddly and fussy. You will have to learn how to separate egg whites from egg yokes and to temper (meaning to slowly increase in temperature). It will definitely challenge you to get your whisking skills up to snuff too. It is versatile and will teach you skills that you will need in other, more complicated recipes. It took me 4 tries to do it right, but all of my mistakes were tasty.  Please read my recipe for Mother’s Cream on our recipe page.

Get Your Drink On: Part One

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Hello readers,

I think our Hit The Road Jack Cocktail makes for a lovely late Summer early Fall drink. The first thing I crave in fall is apple cider and for that matter apple anything. But it was in the winter that we came up with this tasty bevy. I think in fact it was really one of those recipes born of necessity and frugality on a New Year’s Eve night a few years back.

I don’t venture out on New Years most years, but the hubby loves it, so he’ll go hang with his guys and then come home to me for new years kisses. When he came home to celebrate with me we found that we did not have anything in the house like apple cider or sparkling wine, so to toast in the new year we had to get creative. Creative plus booze mean cocktails. But to our dismay, we didn’t have much left in the liquor cabinet from the holidays. But we did have some of the applejack left from our Christmas roast and apple persimmon pies both of which heavily rely on the stuff.

So here is what happened there was a lemon hiding in the very back of the refrigerator and a dusty dented can our two of unsweetened grapefruit flavored soda pop I picked up from the markdown section of our grocery store. So we made do. With a few tweaks over the years, this is what we can up with. We hope you love it! If you would like to see other recipes for cocktails using applejack please visit the Laird’s website for more ideas!

Warmly,
Catherine Hill

Fresh Breadcrumb and Dry Breadcrumb

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How I ever lived without breadcrumb in my pantry I will never know.  In my Must Have Top Ten Ride or Die Pantry Items blog post, I listed breadcrumb as number 5 on my list in both fresh and dry forms.

If I run out of something like condensed milk or evaporated milk or just plain milk, I can use the old stand by powdered milk to save the day. Similarly, breadcrumb can stand in for other food items I might run out of or they can act as a filler for meatballs, meatloaf, stuffing and a whole lot more. Fresh breadcrumb makes a lovely thickener in sauces and dips like in our Roasted Red Pepper Dip. Dry breadcrumb toasted in butter or coconut oil can help nuts go farther in salad recipes, they are a nice substitute for grated hard cheeses on pasta, and if you mix breadcrumb into the flour it makes anything you fry just that much better. We’re happy to share our breadcrumb recipe here with you.

Enjoy!
Catherine Hill

Roasted Red Pepper Dip

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Hi readers!

Oooo… It’s pretty, yummy, very easy to prepare, and it can be made days before you need it. It tastes good hot and cold.  What’s even better is this recipe triple-duties as a dip, a sauce, and a sandwich spread as well.

Our Roasted Red Pepper Dip makes an easy party platter dip for all kinds of crackers, bread, and raw veggies. As a sauce, it is good on everything from pasta to roasted veggies. As a spread, it is lovely on traditional sandwiches and grilled sandwiches. It’s perfect for a Spanish themed tapas party with seafood or meat or as a starter on crostini or toasted bread. I cannot stress it enough how easy it is to make and store since it keeps for a long time and is better the second day.

Our Roasted Red Pepper dip is a grab, dump and blend thing.  So you can enjoy a bevy and chill whilst you make it. Enjoy!

Bye-bye for now and thanks for reading!

Warmly,
Catherine Hill

Tahini Sauce

Dear readers,

We are so proud to post our first recipe for you. We selected Tahini Sauce as the first recipe because it is both easy and a multi-tasker being both a rich and fresh tasting dip and a sauce. The Tahini Sauce contains no dairy, nuts or gluten and is a friendly food for people with dietary restrictions.  The sauce has been popular at parties we’ve hosted and our friends have been requesting the recipe for ages.

One of our big goals at Your Little Castle is to help people at all levels of domestic-literacy and especially those just starting out who have very little to work with. Which is why this recipe is a great place to start. It requires no heat to cook nor does it require special kitchen gear. For instance our recipe calls for 1 half lemon juiced in a juicer and strained. If you don’t have such gadgets you could juice the lemon by hand, being careful to not get the seeds in the sauce. But if you enjoy eating it and like making it, you might take it as an opportunity to invest and expand your kitchen gear.

We hope you love it as much as we do and thanks for reading!

Warmly,
Catherine & James Hill

Click here for the full recipe.

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