This morning it is raining again, just adding to our record rainfall for southern California. Dave and I stood in the office, above the garage and looked out over the neighborhood. We are watching the neighbors garage, with its flat roof, fill up with water, just waiting to hear a big “kersplash” of it caving in. Dave has already had to mop up in the garage where water has crept in from the back double doors. I remember doing the same thing about 10 years ago, during another deluge we had. We had to get sand bags at one point. It doesn’t take long for the ground here to saturate and it is slow going down those impacted storm drains. But lets face it, its weather! Whee! And oddly enough, our banty chicken has only just started laying eggs!! In winter! (well, practically) More on that in another post.
I cranked up the oven to 425 degrees this morning and got to work. I have been craving home made biscuits and this was the perfect morning. Especially with my biscuit eater home from college. You use the same technique making biscuits as making scones, only no sugar, nuts, berries, etc.
I have made them so often, I don’t use a recipe anymore. Then again, the ones this morning were a little different than usual. So I tell you what I’m going to do. I will tell you what I did this morning to get these gems we had for breakfast. Then I will give you an actual recipe I have from my recipe box for my standard biscuits.
This morning, as I said, I cranked up the oven to get it hot. Biscuits like it hot! I put my stoneware pan in the oven to heat up as well. Then I pulled out a mixing bowl and my pastry blender.
First I needed flour. In this case I used 1 cup of all-purpose and 1 cup of cake flour. I usually do not have cake flour just hanging around, but now I have lots of it, and I am finding it works wonderful in things like pancakes, cookies, and of course, biscuits.
So, I have 2 cups of flour. I sprinkle some baking soda in the palm of my hand, about 1/2 tsp. and 1 Tbsp. baking powder. Now, normally I would be reaching for the buttermilk. But (sniff-sniff) I is out. Not to despair! I have (ta-da) POWDERED BUTTERMILK to the rescue! I scooped out a generous 4 Tbsp of that stuff and whisk it into the flour. I have a bag of the Bobs Red Mill powdered buttermilk and I keep it in the fridge. Sigh, I sleep better at night just knowing it is there.
Oh, now I need a little salt, about a scant tsp. (again, in the palm of my hand).
So, flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, buttermilk powder. That’s the dry. Now I need to add butter. How much? Different recipes vary. I happened to have a chunk of 3 Tbsp of butter in the fridge that I dropped in. But that did not look like enough. So I added the 1 Tbsp. butter I had out on the butter dish. So about 1/2 of a cube of butter all together. I used my pastry cutter (see above) to cut the butter into the flour. You want little butter bits, coated with flour. Its okay if they are not all tiny. Varying sizes of butter give the biscuit a certain flakiness and appeal. A food processor would cut the butter into oblivion, so I do by hand. You could even use 2 knives cutting across each other. I have a 3rd pastry cutter with blades instead of wire blenders. But I didn’t like it. The butter would get stuck in the blades and I would have a hard time getting it out. With these pastry cutters I reach in, blending over and over, occasionally using a knife to scrape it off the back of the wires and just using elbow grease. (so to speak, ew)
Now here is where I deviate from the norm yet again. I reached into the refrigerator and took out the plain yogurt. There was not much left, maybe a 1/4 cup, so I just spooned what was left into the flour. I figured it would add more tang, like the buttermilk, and some tenderness to the texture that dried buttermilk does not offer. Then I started pouring milk in, about 1/4 cup at a time, mixing a little, add a little more milk, mix, until it was a sticky mass of dough, not too runny like pancake batter, but not too dry. Sticky and cohesive. You would not need to use more than a cup of milk. I used less, because of the yogurt.
I generously floured a board and scooped the dough out onto it. I sprinkled more flour on top. Now you do not want to overwork the dough. For tender biscuits, less is more! But it does need some handling. I worked gently, as thought it might explode if I was too rough with it. (yeah, I have been seeing too much of the boys video games). I fold it over, sprinkle more flour, gently press, fold, press, flour as needed. Then gently patted it down into a rough circle to cut out into rounds. I use to pat them too thin. Then you just end up with thin biscuits. These are more like 1 1/4 inches. Maybe 1 1/2 even.
I took my biscuit cutters, the middle round one, just because, dipped the cutter in the flour canister, then cut. I do not twist, just push down, lift, flour and push down again for another biscuit. I use a little spatula to lift the little round clouds of biscuit heaven and put them on my stoneware pan. This batch made 9 biscuits. I cut about 4, re-squish the dough together, pat it back out, cut out 3 more, do it again until I am out of dough.
Now for the pan. I use my stoneware sometimes or my cast iron. Sometimes I do a little trick I know of. I put 1 Tbsp of Crisco into the pan and put in the oven to heat up. Your oven can even be 450. I make the “bickies”, pull out the hot pan, and make sure the oil in the pan is spread around. Then I place 1 round dough in the pan, flip it carefully with my fingers, do the next one until they are done. I place them fairly close, but not touching. Now I have achieved 2 things. First, by coating them with oil on both sides, I get a light and crispy crust with soft fluffy insides, and as they expand, as they bump against each other, they climb up, instead of spreading out more. Climbing up is good.
I did not time the baking, but checked the oven a couple of times. I think it took about 12-15 minutes. They were golden brown on the top.
So now I will give you my tried and true recipe. No more of this fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants baking today. I think this originally came from the Frugal Gourmet Americana book.
- 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 3 Tbsp Crisco ( I use 1 Tbsp crisco in pan but 2 Tbsp butter in the dough)
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
(I usually double this recipe)
Put 1 Tbsp of Crisco or lard into a baking pan, like a cast iron skillet. Preheat the pan in a 500 degree oven. (note this is hotter than I used today. I wonder if that’s why my biscuits rose higher today than usual?)
Put all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Blend in 2 Tbsp. Crisco or lard in with a pastry blender until grainy.
Using a fork, stir in the buttermilk. Do not over beat.
Knead a few times.
Roll out and cut with a biscuit cutter. Take the hot pan out of the oven. Put biscuits in hot pan, flip over so both sides are coated. Bake for 10 minutes.
So there you go. I used to use this recipe just as is. Now I use butter to cut in. If I want to use oil in the pan, I use Crisco then. Butter would burn. And I bake it longer since the heat is lower. I also double the recipe, since this only made maybe 5 or 6 biscuits. It says it makes 6-8, but they would have to be mighty thin ones. I like FAT fluffy biscuits.
Call if you have any questions.
Enjoy. And stay dry.