Cooking with Annie: Episode 5 – Baking Powder Biscuits

This is a recipe my grandma passed on to me through my mom. The original recipe, written on a weathered and wore 3 x 5 index card, in my mom’s handwriting from a time when my grandmother gave it to her verbally. My grandmother used shortening, and maybe even lard. Currently, shortening is out and butter is in, but to honor the history of the recipe, I’ve left shortening as an ingredient. It is a one to one replacement to substitute butter.

The best way to eat these is fresh from the oven, still warm with a pat of butter.  Hands down.  They are just as delicious with strawberry jam as they are with a beef stew.  The day after, they loose their texture a bit.  I still remember my grandmother eating the day old biscuits (because nothing went to waste in her kitchen) with peanut butter and a squirt of French’s mustard.  It sounds a little crazy, and feel free to knock it once you’ve tried it, I loved the combination as a kid too.  While I haven’t had them like this in some time, I do feel it’s time for me to revive the snack if only to honor my Grandma occationally.

Baking Powder Biscuits
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter (or shortening like my Grandma used to do)
3/4 cup whole milk

Preheat oven to 450°F. Measure the flour, baking powder, and salt into a sifter set in a medium bowl. This is an important step because you want to add air to the mixture so the biscuits are as fluffy as possible. Use a pastry cutter to cut the shortening into the mixture until it resembles a coarse meal. Stir in any additional dry ingredients here (page xx). Add milk and any additional wet ingredients, stirring until a soft dough forms. It is important to not overmix; you’ll hard tack instead of fluffy biscuits. Turn out onto a floured board and knead 10 times, then STOP!  Roll or pat out the dough until it is 1/2-inch thick. Cut with a floured 2-inch biscuit cutter. Transfer the biscuits to an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes 12 biscuits

Variations
Lemon and Herb Biscuits
To the basic recipe add:
1 tablespoon lemon zest; about 1 lemon
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons of fresh herbs such as chives, chive blossoms, lemon thyme, thyme, rosemary, and/or lavender

Parmesan and Black Pepper Biscuits
To the basic recipe add:
several grinds fresh black pepper
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese; about 1 cup lightly packed
1 large egg
a little extra milk if needed

Roquefort and Walnut Biscuits
To the basic recipe add:
4 ounces crumbled Roquefort cheese; about 1 cup
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
pinch of paprika
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Jack and Jalapeno Biscuits:
To the basic recipe add:
2 ounces grated Monterey Jack cheese; about 1 cup
1 tablespoon seeded and minced jalapeno pepper

Poppy Seed and Orange:
To the basic recipe add:
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
2 tablespoons orange zest; about 1 orange

Annie
#weatheringthestorm #hanginginthere

How to Make Delicious Baking Powder Biscuits

I learned to make biscuits from my grandma while sitting on her kitchen counter as she measured by eye and hand a formula she’d made hundreds of times.  When my grandma was gone, my mom, armed with the written recipe, finished my formal education into this culinary comfort food.  There is a good bit of mystique that surrounds the making of biscuits, but in reality, just like pie crust, a little practice and some simple rules are the difference between hard tack and sublime.

Because the recipe is so simple, there are only a couple of places where a person can get a bit tripped up.
1. To start, make sure that the fat is well incorporated. Using a pastry knife is the easiest.
2. Like my grandma taught me, I use my hands to incorporate the milk so I can feel the exact amount of liquid to add.
3. Adding the liquid is the trickiest part. Too much and the biscuits aren’t fluffy. Too little and the biscuits are dry.  The recipe wants just enough milk to incorporate all of the flour, no more. It’s okay to reserve a little to make sure your batch needs all the recipe calls for.
4. Don’t over mix. As soon as you begin mixing in the milk, gluten begins to develop and this is what makes biscuits chewy instead of fluffy. The less mixing the better.
5. Pat out your biscuits on a well-floured counter. Instead of rolling, which sometimes has us touching the dough too much, pat the dough out with your hands, again because working the dough too much makes hard, chewy biscuits.
6. If you find that you might have overworked the dough, a little helpful trick is to set the biscuit aside once you’ve cut them for 10 minutes or so to give the gluten time to relax before baking.

That’s it!  Fluffy, buttery biscuits are yours!

Baking Powder Biscuits (Photo by Elizabeth Poisson (c) 2010
Use a pastry knife to cut in the butter until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.
Baking Powder Biscuits (Photo by Elizabeth Poisson (c) 2010)
Feel the dough with your hands.
Baking Powder Biscuits (Photo by Elizabeth Poisson (c) 2010 )
Add liquid and stir with your hands.
Baking Powder Biscuits (Photo by Elizabeth Poisson (c) 2010 )
Use your hands to best tell when you’ve added enough milk.
Baking Powder Biscuits (Photo by Elizabeth Poisson (c) 2010 )
Only mix until combined,
Baking Powder Biscuits (Photo by Elizabeth Poisson (c) 2010 )
Press the dough flat with hands dusted with flour.
Baking Powder Biscuits (Photo by Elizabeth Poisson (c) 2010 )
Cut out the biscuits with a biscuit cutter and bake!

Baking Powder Biscuits
This recipe is excerpted from my cookbook, At Home, At Sea: Recipes from a Maine Windjammer.  My grandmother used shortening, and maybe even lard. Currently, shortening is out and butter is in, but to honor the history of the recipe, I’ve left shortening as an ingredient. It is a one to one replacement to substitute butter.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup whole milk

Preheat oven to 450°F. Measure the flour, baking powder, and salt into a sifter set in a medium bowl. This is an important step because you want to add air to the mixture so the biscuits are as fluffy as possible. Use a pastry knife to cut the shortening into the mixture until it resembles a coarse meal. Add milk, stirring until a soft dough forms. It is important to not overmix; you’ll hard tack instead of fluffy biscuits. Turn out onto a floured board and knead 10 times, then STOP!  Roll or pat out the dough until it is 1/2-inch thick. Cut with a floured 2-inch biscuit cutter. Transfer the biscuits to an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes 12 biscuits