Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Baking Powder Biscuits

Since a couple of you asked for a biscuit recipe to go along with the sausage gravy, I'm obligin' by giving you the one I've used for many years. Now I've been making biscuits since I was knee-high to a grasshopper but this is the best recipe I've ever come across. It's from a cookbook my sister gave me that is my favorite. It's the one cookbook that went to Uganda with me and it was the only one I packed in the suitcase to come here (all the other cookbooks took the slow boat to China Argentina).

The Home-Cooking Sampler: Family Favorites From A to Z is out of print but you can pick up a used copy. I checked amazon.com first and Oh.My.Word! the cheapest used copy was $97.63. Good grief! Then I found the site I've linked to where it's only $15.24. I guess all those folks selling their copy on amazon know the true value of The Sampler :-)

Because, people, Every.Single.Recipe.I've.Ever.Tried.Has.Been.Fantastic! Many of the recipes I've shared on my blog have been from this cookbook. It's falling apart and the pages are stained with vanilla or spaghetti sauce or gunked up flour (the biscuit page).

This is a tried-and-true recipe and it's really not hard to make, requires few ingredients, and...well, you just can't compare homemade biscuits to those in the little round tins in the cooler section of the grocery store. Or even the bags from the freezer section. That's like comparing apples to oranges.

But I'm gonna let you in on a few "secrets" that no recipe will be able to teach you. First of all, you really, really need a pastry blender. Don't know what that is? It's a handy-dandy kitchen tool that allows you to easily incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients so you end up with a light, fluffy creation. I have used a large fork in the absence of a pastry blender, but it doesn't do the job as well. You can pick one up for $5-10 at any store that carries basic kitchen utensils.

But even more importantly, biscuits require a "light hand" and by that I mean you want to work the dough as little as possible. Once I add the wet to the dry ingredients, I mix just until the dry is incorporated. AND THEN I STOP. Over-beating is a common mistake and one I don't want you to make.

1-3/4 cups flour
1/4 cup cornstarch (or just use 2 cups of White Lily flour if you're fortunate to live in the South and have access)
4 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoons butter
3/4 cup milk, approximately
melted butter for brushing on the tops

Preheat oven to 425°. Lightly grease heavy baking sheet (I actually don't do this).
In a bowl sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt. Cut in butter until well incorporated.
Gradually add milk, mixing very lightly. Now at this point I get a clean linen towel ready on the counter, dust liberally with flour and spoon the gooey biscuit mixture onto it. I flour my hands and gently, GENTLY PEOPLE, form the dough into a circle about 8" across.
You can use whatever you like to cut out the biscuits. I had a small wine glass picked up at a garage sale because it was the perfect size for cutting biscuits. I dipped it in flour between each "cut". This last time I didn't cut them into circles at all. I just dipped a sharp knife in flour and cut the circle into 8 pie shaped wedges and baked 'em. Looked more like scones, but who cares?
Brush with melted butter. Place pan on middle rack of the oven and reduce immediately to 400°. Bake until very lightly browned, about 15-18 minutes.

No comments: