I'd like to get a couple of really good and interesting buscuit recipes. Something not too sweet, more on the savory side, good for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if posssible. Anyone got some ideas?
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I'm pretty sure you want twists of American biscuits, and probably "Southern" biscuits at that. But what I don't know is whether you want a basic biscuit recipe or suggested variations like "cheese and chive," (Linda's favorite), or "herb" (my favorite).
Most American biscuit recipes fit within a fairly narrow range of proportions and ingredients, and the differences between recipes tend to be smaller than the differences imposed by technique. There are exceptions to this, of course. For instance Phatch (I think) likes to make biscuits with a little bit of vegetable oil, compared to the fairly large amount of solid fat (shortening, butter, lard or the like).
One of the things which makes "southern biscuits" southern is the use of softer (less protein) flour. While I usually mix cake flour with AP to make biscuits, don't overlook Bisquick. It's got just the right amount of gluten for a true southern texture as do a few other self-risers.
Another traditional addition, although not particularly Southern, is buttermilk. Buttermilk is a holdover from the days when leavening was done with baking soda and liquid acid was required to activate it. Besides its characteristic tang, buttermilk brings an additional advantage to the party. That is flour will take more hydration with buttermilk than with any other suitable liquid, and more hydration means more tenderness.
A word about solid fats: The "New 0-Transfat Crisco" does not work nearly as well as old Crisco for biscuits, pie doughs, or other baking purposes which involve cutting in. It's not just Crisco, but other "pure vegetable shortenings," most of which have also gone zero transfat. The solution is either to live with it, use some of the very inexpensive part-animal product shortenings (which work very well), use butter or lard. I prefer lard for its purity, for the flakiness and lightness it helps achieve. Butter does bring a butter taste, but if you want butter taste with biscuits there's a much better way to do it than baking it in.
I said the proportions of most ingredients fit within a normal range. The normal proportion for baking powder is 1 tsp powder to 1 cup of flour (absolutely no more than 1-1/4 tsp/cup). The normal amount of milk or other liquid is about 1/3 cup per cup flour; although with buttermilk you can push that to 1/2 cup buttermilk per cup. Shortening at around 3 tbs per cup of flour; lard is something like buttermilk in that you can use more of it than other shortenings or fats and stay flaky without getting too crumbly. Salt and baking soda are each added at a "pinch" per cup of flour. And there you have it. More formally:
BASIC SOUTHERN BISCUITS
(Makes a dozen large, or 18 medium sized biscuits)
1-1/2 cups AP flour (such as KA)
1-1/2 cups cake flour (such as Swan's Down)
1 tbs double acting baking powder
1 pinch baking soda
1 pinch salt
3/4 cup less 1 tbs best-quality, chilled lard (broken into small pieces)
1-1/2 cups buttermilk
Bench flour (same mix)
Preheat the oven to 425* F.
Combine the dry ingredients, and mix them with a fork.
Add the lard, and toss the pieces so they're well coated with flour. Cut the lard in with a pastry cutter (my preference), by rubbing in, or with any other method you favor. The usual instruction is to create a "coarse cornmeal" consistency. Uniform consistency is not as important as making sure all of the fine flour particles are completely picked up and clumped with the lard. In fact, slightly inconsistent consistency makes for better texture in the final product.
Note 1: If you rub the lard in with your fingers, refrigerate the dough for twenty minutes or so after you're done.
Note 2: If you haven't preheated the oven, do so all the way before adding the buttermilk. Once the liquid is in, you need to work relatively quickly because the dry acid in the buttermilk will potentiate the leavener as soon as it's wet, and it will lose power relatively quickly. This is especially true of a single acting baking powder -- like Rumsford for example -- which doesn't have a heat activated component like a pyrophosphate.)
Have some bench flour standing by your board, ready to go. Use a couple of tablespoons to flour the board.
Add the buttermilk to the dry ingredients and mix quickly with a spoon or preferably by hand. Stop mixing before the flour and buttermilk are completely mixed.
Turn the dough on to the board, along with any of it that's still incorporated, and knead it a few times gently until it's completely mixed.
Note 3: Touch is everything with biscuits. Although it will be wet and a little sticky, the dough should feel very light and airy at this and at all following points. Surprisingly you can be too gentle. The big "trick" to biscuits is understanding that the dough requires enough, but not too much, working. You'll probably err on both sides of the line before you get it right.
Pick up the dough, and flour the board generously again. Put the dough back on the board and pat it out into a rough rectangle, about 1-1/2 to 2" thick. Flour the top of the dough generously, and turn it upside down, so it's flour side down. Dust the new top (old bottom of the dough) with a little more flour. Pat the dough out into the neatest rectangle you can manage, about 1" thick, or maybe a little less. Handle the dough gently. When I say pat, I mean shape with your hands -- no rolling pins allowed.
Trim all four sides of the rectangle with a large sharp knife, or a large wheel (such as a pastry cutter). Uncut sides don't rise as well as cut sides. Set the scraps aside.
Use your knife to cut the large rectangel into square or rectangular biscuits, in whatever size you desire.
Pick up as many biscuits as you can with the largest spatula you have, and place them on a baking sheet. Do this with the remaining biscuits, trying to assemble the original rectangle as best you can. (The biscuits will rise better with their sides touching.)
Form a small rectangle with the remaining scraps, trim it and cut it into biscuits as well. Set them together in the pan so they touch the big rectangle.
Note 4: If you prefer, you can pat the dough into a circle and use a biscuit cutter or glass to make round biscuits. Round biscuits benefit from contact in the same way rectangular ones do. At the end of the day, rectangular biscuits will rise slightly better and more evenly.
Brush the tops of the biscuits with buttermilk to moisten, and to heal any cracks which may have formed during the patting-out process.
Bake until the tops are well browned, about 20 minutes or possibly a bit longer. A slightly undercooked biscuit is an extremely sad thing. Please, let's not make the nice man cry.
A few variations:
A. When you add the buttermilk, also add 1/2 to 3/4 pepper jack or sharp cheddar cheese, along with 1/4 cup chopped green onion tops or Chinese chives. This is Linda's favorite. A twist on the twist is the addition of finely chopped (brunoise) jalapeno or serrano chilis;
B. Heat 2 tbs butter and 4 tbs honey in the microwave, until the butter is melted and the honey runny. Use this to brush the tops of the biscuits instead of buttermilk;
C. Add a few grinds of fresh black pepper to the dry ingredients; and little rubbed dry sage, a pinch of rubbed, dried marjoram, and another pinch of very finely chopped rosemary along with the buttermilk (my favorite). Careful with herbs, they can easily overwhelm;
D. Red-eye or cream gravy are each very nice with biscuits;
E. Basil, oregano, Asiago, Romano, and Parmaggiano.
And so it goes,
Edited by boar_d_laze - 10/16/11 at 10:42am
I don't make them precisely following that recipe as I use a bit more oil and more buttermilk and a different forming process. But I do like the speed and results. A solid-fat biscuit tends to be more flaky and rise higher but these are worth having up your sleeve for time or space constraints (camping).
Mr. Fowler supplies many biscuit variations as well and his books are my current favorite on the topic of Souther Cooking.
my theory is that BDL already has a cook book out, under the psuedonym "alton brown" *chuckle*:lol: