Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Mmm...Biscuits! A Cooking Basic.

After a week's hiatus from a cooking post, today, I have another "cooking basic" for you. Today, it's biscuits. After cornbread, or maybe before, depending on the day, these are one of S's most favorite foods. So, we make them often.

I should also say I'm trying out a new service today that helps add tags and links to my blog posts. I'm not sure I like it yet. Let me know if you find the links or tags more interesting or useful in any way. Thanks.

A bonus of having this cookbook - it came with all my Nana's notes and scraps of paper in it.

This recipe that I use in this post is from my Nana's Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook with a couple changes by me. It is NOT the one you can purchase now - not the "anniversary edition". Nope. This recipe is not found in the newer cookbooks of the same name for some reason.

On the left, a typed out recipe for "Eileen's choc. cake with ivory frosting."

I have noticed this on other recipes - I have checked them out in the "old" version of the cookbook and they are different than in my "newer" version. Very interesting. Or, at least it is to me. Many of the additions/deletions/changes reflect how we've changed the way we cook.

That recipe - "Biscuits Supreme" - it is still in the newer version.
But we don't like it as much.

For instance, we don't refer to "lard" or even "shortening" much anymore when we cook. But, we still use butter, which is a kind of lard or shortening. And, tastes change too, so I am sure the cookbook editors weigh the inclusion and updating of every recipe to go along with the times.

But, this time, the old recipe is the one we like. We used to use one of S's grandmother's (and mother's) recipes for biscuits. But, that recipe made way too many biscuits for the two of us and couldn't be halved. So, it kept us from making them very often. One morning a few months ago, S really wanted to make some biscuits. We only had one cup of buttermilk, though, so that was our constraint. The recipe we normally used required more buttermilk than that. I started dragging out the cookbooks, looking for a biscuit recipe that only required one cup of buttermilk. I found this recipe, so we used it that day and I changed it up just a bit. It has become our new favorite recipe. We like the taste of the biscuits, and it only makes about a dozen biscuits, which ends up to be a more manageable amount for us. We still have leftovers, but not so many that they don't get eaten before they go bad.

OK, so here are your basic biscuit ingredients.
The blue container - it's flour.

Here's the thing - biscuit ingredients are pretty much the same in any recipe. You will have different amounts in different recipes. And some people use sweet milk. Or beer. Beer is popular in biscuits. Or some other exotic ingredient. But the basics - they are the basics for any biscuit recipe. This is truly a cooking basic because it is made with simple "on hand" items.

While I made the biscuits, S cooked bacon.
He likes a big breakfast these days.

While S cooked bacon and I made biscuits, Echo laid on the cool, cool floor.
And looked at me with suspicion when I took her photo.

And Ellie, well, Ellie pretty much slept too. But, remember, she poses for me. So, when I got the camera out, she smiled. You gotta love that about dogs - no matter what - no matter what! - no matter what, they always think you are just about to do something wonderful. They always think the best of you. I love these girls more than I should. They are my sweet girls. How could you not love that face?

So, anyway, S was cooking bacon, the dogs were hanging out, and I made the biscuits, and you can too! Here we go. Let's get down to business.

This recipe calls for the flour to be sifted.

Sifting - that's another thing we just don't do as much anymore. Too fussy I guess. What would happen if you didn't sift the flour? I dunno. Probably nothing. Or, perhaps, the world would end as we know it. Or, more likely, the outcome would be somewhere between those two options.

This is my Nana's sifter, too.

Her recipe and her sifter. I love this sifter - you just can't get them like this anymore. I also have her garlic press. It's also better than money can buy today. It's fabulous.

After the flour is all sifted, measure and pour in the salt.

And measure and pour in the baking powder and soda.

Then incorporate the butter.

It calls for, "5 tablespoons of shortening". If you want to use Crisco, knock yourself out. I use butter. I use a stick for this recipe, I cut off five tablespoons in tablespoon chunks, and I put the other three tablespoons of the butter into a small dish to be melted for later. The butter should be chilled when you put it in the dough - not totally room temperature. At least I think that is best. Incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients. I use a pastry blender for this, as shown above. I just work it until the butter is cut into the dry ingredients in very small pieces.

Then, just to be certain, I put my (clean) fingers all in it and break up any last bit of butter in the mixture. Once the butter is properly incorporated, the whole thing just looks like a coarse dry mixture. The cookbook says it this way: "cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs." Yeah, that's about it. OK, we're still good.

Let's check on that bacon. Looking good!
Bacon is one of my favorite foods.

Then the cookbook says to add the buttermilk all at once.

Then, you are to stir the dough until, "it follows the fork around the bowl."

You can see the following of the fork in that photo up there. If you can't, and you try the recipe, this step is easy to recognize. There will be a point where the dough is following the fork around the bowl. It's not a problem at all to see it. Not like when you're making fudge and you have to identify the "soft ball". Nope. This description is right on the money.

Then, turn the dough out onto a floured surface.

And knead it. You need to knead it.

But you don't need to knead for very long.
Half a minute maybe?

A little kneading goes a long way to perk it up and smooth it out.

Next, flour your rolling pin.

And roll, baby, roll, until the dough is about 3/8 inch thick.

Huh? Wha? 3/8 inches? Does anyone know what that looks like? Vertically? Right off the top of your head? And, sister, we're not getting out a ruler. That's what we're not going to do. So, just roll that dough out until it resembles a good thickness for you. 1/2 inch, 7/16, you know, knock yourself out.

But here's the thing, because of the next step, you do want to sort of roll a symmetrical shape. An oval. Or a rectangle. Or a square if you'd like. But not a trapezoid or a rhombus even. An equilateral triangle might work, should that be your shape of choice, but not an isosceles one.

Because once you've rolled to your heart's content,
you're gonna brush it with that melted butter.

And then you're gonna fold it over on itself.

Then cut the biscuits out.

This is not a good use of biscuit cutter placement.

I am sort of a stickler for cutting right up next to the edge on the dough - you know, to use as much dough as possible before you start mushing the edges together for the hodge podge biscuits? But, I guess I was getting too excited about photographing the action to pay attention to the fact that I was NOWHERE NEAR the edge of the dough on most of these cuts. Ahem. You'll do better. That cutter there - it's a 2.5 inch cutter. You can use whatever size you'd like. The size of the cutter does matter, of course.

Size matters. Heh heh.

The smaller the cutter, the more individual biscuits you'll get. The larger the cutter, the fewer the biscuits. S and I - we like this size. It's a good size biscuit. It's just right.

Once you have them cut out, put them on a cookie sheet.

And pop them in a 450 degree oven for 12 to fifteen minutes.

No. NO!!! No. Stop. Rewind. When you have them cut out and on the cookie sheet, brush the tops of them with more melted butter. For good measure. And because it won't hurt that much going down.

Or, if you forgot this step like I did, reach into the oven and brush the butter on.
Really quickly, without touching any 450 degree oven parts.

Then peruse your mess.

And the fact that S is finished with the bacon.

And he has set the table.

They'll cook without you looking.
If you turned that oven on.

You could make some scrambled eggs.

I started a little bit different scrambled egg concoction when we got back from Europe. We'd been eating so many rich scrambled eggs from those restaurants that I wanted my eggs to taste rich at home too. So, I started using half n' half with my scramblers. And a dash of salt and a eensy-weensy pinch of onion powder. Trust me. It's a good addition.

It makes a really nice scrambled egg. Or three, as in this photo.

Then, before you know it...DING! The biscuits are done.

Nice that I got an oddly shaped edge biscuit in the front of the photo, huh?

Then, we cover them with last year's calendar and sit down to eat the feast. That's right - my Aunt Sally and Uncle Kenny for years have given each family member a cloth calendar for their kitchen. The real bonus of one of those calendars is it turns into a fabulous biscuit warmer the next year. Amen to that.

Go ahead and make some for yourself.
You'll be glad you did!

Better Homes and Gardens 1941-1951 Buttermilk Biscuits
(with a few changes by me, the Ate Up Amateur)

2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
5 tablespoons and 3 more shortening (butter)
1 cup buttermilk

Sift flour and add other dry ingredients. Cut in 5 tablespoons shortening (butter) until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add buttermilk, all at once, and stir until the dough follows the fork around the bowl. Turn out and knead for 1/2 minute. Roll until 3/8 inches thick; brush with remaining 3 tablespoons shortening (butter). Fold over and cut double biscuits with biscuit cutter. Bake on ungreased cookie (Better Homes 1941-51 spells it "cooky") sheet in hot oven (450 degrees) 12 to 15 minutes. Makes 2 dozen small biscuits. (If you want 2 dozen, use the 2 inch cutter.)

That's it! Hope you like them. See you tomorrow with something completely different
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  1. OK. Now I'm starving!

  2. Amy, your biscuit recipe post was awesome! Very Pioneer Woman-esque with all the excellent photography. Now I'm craving biscuits ... and bacon.


  3. Amy, what kind of camera do you have? Nice pics! Made me hungry!


  4. Thanks for this recipe!!! I make a lot of homemade bread and we love biscuits, but I have never found a recipe we really liked. Also thanks for sharing EXACTLY how you make yours turn out so well. hehehe... I just printed out the recipe and you can guess what I am going to make today!!!


  5. Found you from Kellie's FB post. YUM - gotta try these!


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