Friday, October 31, 2008


The #*@&! cat came back around 4:30 this morning. Mike's still sleeping. I should be running, but the wierd sleep schedule is catching up to me. So I figured I'd give some details on the recipes from yesterday. I'm going to do it in 4 separate posts, so I'll have the name of what I'm doing in the title for easier reference.

For me, good, fluffy biscuits are like the Southern Holy Grail. I can't believe I took them so for granted in my grandmother's house. And it irks me that the ones at Kentucky Fried Chicken are so damn good, yet have never touched human hands. I've even kept a biscuit journal with notes on exactly what I've done. So goes the search for the perfect biscuit recipe.

Here's the real recipe that I'm currently working with, per Robert St. John and Wyat Waters' Southern Seasons: Contemporary Regional Cuisine, page 33 "Tasso and Biscuits with Blackberry Preserves:

2 cups flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon Poultry Seasoning (recipe page 111)
1/2 cup butter, cut into small cubes and frozen
1 egg
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup blackberry preserves
1/4 pound tasso ham, shaved very thin

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a food processor, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and poultry seasoning; pulse to mix. Add the frozen butter, pulsing until mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl and make a well in the center. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and buttermilk. Pour buttermilk mixture into the well and gently blend together the dough, being careful not to overmix.

Allow the dough to set for 10 minutes and then turn dough onto a floured surface. Gently knead dough for 1-2 minutes. Roll out to 3/4 inch thickness. Cut 1 1/2 inch circles form the dough and place them on an ungreased baking sheet. Brush the tops wiht melted butter.

Bake 12-15 minutes.

Cut biscuits in half lengthwise. Spread 1 teaspoon of blackberry preserves on the bottom half of the biscuit. Add 2 thinly shaved pieces of tasso and replace the top half of the biscuit. Serve warm.

Yield: 6-8 servings"

OK, so here's how I do it, all basically the same except:

As for the ingredients, I leave out the Poultry Seasoning. This is for a savory biscuit, and I don't want savory in the morning when I'm having my biscuits and coffee. 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt is WAY TOO MUCH. I keep it at 3/4 - 1 teaspoon, with 1 teaspoon meaning every now and then you still get a bite of SALT.

Buttermilk, unfortunately, cannot be replaced with normal 2%. I've tried. It produces a biscuit, sure, but you could chip a tooth on it. The good news is you can get buttermilk in pint size (2 cups per bottle), it keeps longer than regular milk, and you can use some to marinate that chicken you're gonna fix with the biscuits or to make a chocolate buttermilk cake I'll hopefully post one day.

Tasso? Do you really think the Kroger in Clinton, Mississippi, carries tasso?? (Cajun-spiced ham. I had to look it up.) I just use this as a basic biscuit recipe and eat them with whatever I want.

I think the ingredients could easily read: 1/2 cup frozen butter (that's one stick), cut into 8 pieces (the above list is saying that you have to cut the butter in pieces before you freeze it. That's silly. I keep butter in the freezer anyway.) The butter must be frozen because that's what makes biscuits fluffy: the steam from the thawing out butter creates millions of mini-pockets of air within the bread. It's the same concept as pate a choux ("pat-a-shoes:" the basic bread part of an eclair) but pate a choux hopefully gets one big steam pocket for cream inside.

When kneading, use only as much flour as you need to keep the dough pretty much not sticking to your board and rolling pin. The dough should be deceptively moist, and it's ok for bits to stick here and there: too much flour incorporates into the dough and makes a tough biscuit.

To get a higher biscuit, spread the dough in a rectangle. Fold it into thirds like a letter, one third to the middle, then the other third to the middle. Then spread it out again and do the same thing. This is the same concept as puff pastry, only puff pastry has thousands of microscopically thin layers, and even Alton Brown lets a machine take care of it.

So there's my experience so far with biscuits. Any suggestions, questions, comments, or other hoo-hah can always be sent in comments or emails! And if you know me well enough to have my cell phone number, you're more than welcome to call.



Made by Lena