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Archive for the ‘breads’ Category

Biscuits are a long on-going thing with me. I never can seem to nail down exactly the one I want despite the fact that I make them regularly and have no less than 6 biscuit recipes posted here. Don’t get me wrong; I make delicious biscuits but I have this image in my head of what they should be, and I’ve only just realized that these ideals are formed by commercial biscuits – fast food or refrigerated tube kinds. Not sure that’s a good thing but it is what it is. It’s got to be the salt; the constant factor is these types of biscuits always tip the to the edge of saltiness. They might be tender or they might be flaky but they are always salty. As for the type of biscuit, I’m undecided. Should they be flaky, tender and buttery/salty, like a Popeye’s or McDonald’s biscuit? Or should they be layers piled upon layers, that you can pull apart in sheets like those Grands biscuits you get in the tubes? I’m not too sure how natural either are but the truth is I like both. While I don’t exactly want to recreate a mass produced biscuit, there are some elements I’d like to borrow. 

For years, I’ve adhered to the flaky type of biscuit where the dough is treated more so like a laminated dough – butter is rubbed in but left in pea size bits and the dough is folded, rolled and chilled a few times. It makes for a spectacularly flaky biscuit that is really nice but lacks the tenderness I sometimes crave. It’s also not a quick process. There are times when you just want warm biscuits without a whole lot of effort (um, this may be where the whack-a-tube types come in to play). I’d been reading about cream biscuits lately, where heavy cream is simply stirred into dry ingredients. Seemed easy enough, maybe too easy, so I tried it this weekend to learn more.

I’m lucky to have dear friends with a lake house and being a good guest, I usually bake a lot while there – quiche, brownies, pies, tarts. I decided to give these biscuits a try so at home, I measured all the dry ingredients into a Ziploc and threw it into my travel bag along with some heavy cream and a jar of homemade raspberry jam. A really easy breakfast, I thought. No mushing butter, no rounds of folding and rolling and chilling. Just dump and stir, and really, who doesn’t love a hot biscuit with butter and jam in the morning? Much to my delight, they were incredibly easy – I had hot biscuits on the table in less than 30 minutes.

Not expecting much from such a simple recipe I was thrilled at how tender and even a little flaky these were. But what really surprised me was how, even a few hours later, they remained tender. That is one of my biggest peeves with fresh biscuits – they’re really great right out of the oven but stale quickly. We had a few leftovers around lunch time, and they made a fantastic sandwich. That doesn’t always happen with biscuit leftovers.

Because I wanted them a bit butterier and yes, a tad saltier, I opted to brush the cut biscuits both before and after baking with a bit of melted butter and salt. I also gave the dough a few folds to increase the layers and flakiness. It’s very easy; once the dough comes together roll it about ½” thick and fold in half and do the same once more. This simple step made for a noticeable difference, a higher rise and took maybe an extra 2 minutes so I think it’s worth it. For a few, I sprinkled on some everything bagel spice in homage to a biscuit I had in Savannah last year from Back in the Day Bakery that I still dream about. That was one amazing biscuit. This wasn’t quite it, but it was certainly close. 

STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: EXHALE. Fresh, hot biscuits in less than 30 minutes? You bet. This is one of those recipes that you can easily bake on a whim without much thought, given that you have heavy cream on hand of course. An absolute delight. Make these often and dazzle your friends and family. They’re great with butter and jam obviously but think bigger … they would be outstanding with a sausage gravy, would make a great topper on a chicken pot pie and split and stuffed with whipped cream and strawberries, you have a deceptively easy dessert. So there you go.

Other biscuit recipes: Dooky Chase’s Sweet Potato BiscuitsCacio e Pepe BiscuitsGuinness Cheddar BiscuitsFlaky Buttermilk BiscuitsSour Cherry Cobbler with Biscuit ToppingPeach Blackberry Cobbler with Cornmeal Drop Biscuit Topping

eleven years agoLattice Love, Lessons in Pie CrustSquash & Onion Tart

ten years agoRadish ButterRoasted Beets w/Whipped Goat Cheese

nine years agoConcord Grape Pie & Purple Cow Pie Shakes

eight years agoKale & Squash Salad

seven years agoMuhammara – the best sauce you’ve never heard of

six years agoSeeded Crackers

five years agoSimple Pear Tart

four years agoFinnish Pulla (Finnish Cardamom Braid)

three years agoConfetti Pork Stew

two years agoSausage & Cheddar Breakfast Scones

last yearMinestrone

CREAM BISCUITS

Makes about 12 2 ½” biscuits

An important thing with biscuits is to minimize the scraps – the first roll will produce the prettiest biscuits with the best rise and straightest sides. While I use a round cutter here, I will often make square biscuits to keep scraps to a minimum.

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1 ½ Tablespoons baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 Tablespoon sugar

1 ½ cups heavy cream

  1. In a small pan (or in the microwave) melt the butter and add the salt for brushing later. Set aside until needed.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.
  3. Add heavy cream and stir gently with a rubber spatula until dry ingredients are just moistened.
  4. Gently squeeze and press the dough in the bowl, picking up all the loose, dry bits.
  5. Turn out dough onto a lighted floured work surface and lightly flour the top. 
  6. With a rolling pin, roll the dough to a ½” thickness, fold in half and roll again to a ½” thickness.
  7. Fold once more and roll to a ½” thickness. If the dough sticks to the work surface or the rolling pin at any time, lightly flour. 
  8. Using a round cookie cutter, cut out biscuits as closely together as possible to minimize scraps and place about 1” apart on a parchment lined sheet pan. 
  9. Gather together scraps, pat down, give them a fold or two as above, roll to ½” thickness and cut out more biscuits. 
  10. You can roll the scraps maybe one more time but this biscuit will not be as pretty as previous ones. It’s a good one for the cook to snack on.
  11. Brush the tops with the melted butter (and sprinkle with everything spice, if you like).
  12. Bake the biscuits in a 400°F oven until risen and golden, about 12-15 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. 
  13. Brush immediately with the remaining melted butter.
  14. Let cool slightly and serve warm or room temperature. Keep any leftovers tightly wrapped but biscuits are best consumed not long after baking.

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At the start of the pandemic, I was baking up a storm. Big loaves of bread, foccacia, cinnamon rolls; the whole thing. I had no problem cranking the oven up to 500°F for a crusty sourdough or a blistered pizza. Then April moved into June and July and the heat came. There was no way I was going to turn the oven that high for that long. Not happening. So I struck upon a nice alternative: pita cooked on the stove top.

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It seems I am incapable of cooking for one person. I try, I do, but this fact has become abundantly clear during this quarantine and I am overrun with leftovers. Browning bananas, pieces of half used vegetables, staling loaves of bread, and plastic deli containers of semi-identifiable ingredients are taking over my kitchen. I don’t like leftovers so I’ve taken on the challenge of turning them into something new. Last night’s pasta, beans and greens became today’s lunchtime soup. Dinner leftovers were chopped up, encased in pie dough and reinvented as lovely turnovers. Last week’s excess cinnamon rolls became the weekend’s bread pudding. It’s been working out pretty well. Necessity is the mother of invention after all. The other day I found a plastic wrapped chunk of cornbread, hidden behind an enormous bowl of oranges. Wonderful. Forgot about that. It was fine, but stale. I thought about making stuffing to go alongside a roast chicken but bread pudding has been on my mind. What if I turned this stale hunk into a strada, a savory pudding with whatever I could wrangle up in the fridge? I could use those little bits of whatnot tucked in plastic wrap and Ziploc baggies and make something delicious. This was how a cornbread pudding was born.

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I am baking like crazy these days, fortunate that I’m well stocked with flour, sugar and yeast. I’ve been filling my days with complicated baking projects, enjoying the feel of a rising dough between my fingers, delighting in a beautiful sourdough loaf as it emerges from the oven, making small persnickety little turnovers and pasta things that take time and concentration. It’s keeping me busy, my mind active, provides a great sense of accomplishment and delivers a steady stream of delicious, comforting things. The only problem is … it’s just so much. I’ve given some away but that gets tricky in these days of social distancing and my freezer is beyond capacity. So I’ve turned to another method – small batch baking.

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It seems we’re all giving sourdough a whirl during these strange times, myself included. The first thing you have to do is get a starter going. It’s relatively simple, just flour and water, flour and water, flour and water for several days until the wild yeasts take over and really get going. Inevitably you will run into a puzzling situation … what to do with the discard. Once you have a lively starter, you pour off half before you feed it – either to bake with or to do something else. This bit is known as the discard or cast off. If you bake every day it isn’t a really a problem but I suspect the majority of us don’t. Here’s where the challenge comes in as dealing with the discard can be a whole project unto itself.

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This is it: Day 12 of The 12 Days of Crackers and the final in the olive oil cracker series. When I was coming up with ideas for flavoring all these crackers, I took stock of my spice selection. To put it bluntly, it is a vast assortment; the accumulations of multiple development projects, travel adventures and an irresistible urge to buy interesting things. Digging through a cabinet, I noticed I had 4 or 6 different bottles of Japanese seasonings, the majority in the togarashi family. I should probably use them.

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Got the hang of an olive oil cracker? Good. Because now we’re getting interesting. This one has za’atar, that cornerstone seasoning of Levantine cooking. If you’ve cooked from any of Yotam Ottolenghi’s books, chances are good you’ve got a jar sitting on your spice shelf. (Probably some sumac too, right?) So let’s use it, shall we?

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It’s March which means its time to gather up those St. Patrick’s Day ideas. For some reason, some people inexplicably thinks this means green things flavored with mint. Yeah, I don’t really understand what mint has to do with the holiday but I don’t understand green beer either. Rather, I tend to think beer, real beer, specifically Guinness Stout. Good stuff, that beer but it’s a bit tricky to cook with. Reduce it and the bitter notes become more pronounced and unpleasant. It’s much better added to batters right from the can or used to deglaze a pan for a wonderful sauce. I’ve added it to cakes, breads and candies with great success and have made a rather fine chicken boxty dish with it. Today, I add it to biscuits and it’s a great decision.

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My mother and I went out for dim sum last week, probably one of our very favorite things to do. We both are huge dumpling fans and while ordering off a menu is just fine, there’s something so much more fun about dim sum places that wheel the carts around, allowing you to pick and choose from what cruises by. In typical form, we ended up with far too many little plates and steamer baskets on the table and loved every minute of it. As the carts made their rounds, the one typically filled with the more dessert-y options stopped at our table. I don’t particularly enjoy the sweet options but the woman maneuvering this cart was pretty adamant that we should get the coconut buns, puffy hot dog shaped rolls filled with coconut. I was indifferent but damn she was persistent. I took the plate mainly to make her go away. But she was right. Warm, soft, tender and filled with a sweet coconut filling, these things were delicious. Dang it.

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I love the idea of a cookbook cooking club, where several friends pick a book and everyone makes a recipe for a group potluck. I would love to be a part of one. The challenge is, my friends who cook actually do cook for a living and have no free evenings or even an interest in doing this and my friends who have the time and free evenings, don’t really cook and also have no interest in doing this. They’d rather I cook and they come over to eat, which we do frequently anyway. It’s a cookbook club of one cook and a bunch of eaters. Not quite what I had in mind. About a year ago I discovered cookbook clubs on Facebook which has filled this void in a weird way. Sort of. I’m a part of the Facebook Saveur Cookbook Club and Tasting Table Cookbook Club. Each month the moderators pick one or two cookbooks and members post their results. I’ve long been lurking from afar but have yet to actually participate. Until now. When the Saveur group posted their January selection – The Dooky Chase Cookbook – I knew it was time to show my hand.

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