Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Biscuits and scones

A couple months back, I posted a recipe for chicken and biscuits that was pretty tasty. But, the biscuits were missing something. I wanted flaky, buttery, melt in your mouth biscuits and didn't want to use shortening, so I set about doing some research which involved asking a bunch of friends and reading a lot of websites. What I came up with was that I wanted a ratio of 2 c. flour to 1 whole stick of butter, lots of baking powder, buttermilk, and a decent amount of salt. Because I'd like these to be a little less guilt inducing, I went with half whole wheat flour and half white, on the recommendation of a friend. They were amazing! Which makes sense; whole wheat has less gluten which makes bread making more difficult but is great for quick breads like this. I call these CAM Biscuits.

1 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. unbleached white flour
1 stick + 2 Tbsp salted butter*
3/4 tsp salt, not kosher
1 Tbsp baking powder
3/4 c. buttermilk

*if you use unsalted butter, increase salt to 1 tsp. And I use table salt in baking, the smaller pieces mix better.

Cut 1 stick butter into small pieces, and place back into the fridge until you're ready to use it, or in the freezer for a few minutes. Whisk together the flours, salt and baking powder and place in the freezer until you're ready to use.

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Place the dry ingredients in a food processor. Add the butter pieces and pulse a few times, just until the butter is cut in and it looks like coarse cornmeal. Turn the blade on low and pour in the buttermilk all at once, the dough will quickly form into a ball.

Turn the ball out onto a floured surface. Quickly pat the dough out into a 2" thick rectangle, fold in half, pat out again, repeat until you've folded it about 10 times, and then pat out to 3/4" thick. Work fast so the heat of your hands doesn't melt the butter. With a floured biscuit cutter, cut out a dozen biscuits and place into a greased cake pan. I usually need 2 round ones. If you want the sides softer, make sure they're all touching and fill in spaces with dough scraps. If you want taller, fluffier biscuits that are perfect for splitting in half and topping with chicken fricassee, don't let the sides touch.

Melt the remaining 2 Tbsp butter, and brush onto the biscuits before baking.

Bake about 12-15 minutes, until golden brown. Flip onto a rack and let cool for a moment before serving. You could probably store these in a ziploc and toast before serving leftovers, but I'm not sure we often have leftovers of these.

Option 2: in my reading, I found that the soft wheat used in the South is different from the hard winter wheat we use up here. White Lily makes a fantastic white flour for use in biscuits, particularly the self-rising flour. My mother in law was kind enough to bring me some from NC for Christmas. I used the same basic recipe, using 2 c. of this flour and skipping the salt and baking powder of course since it is in the flour, but all the other steps were the same. It was fast, easy, and delicious. But...I do like using the whole wheat flour. It feels just a little less naughty.

Option 3: decrease salt by 1/4 tsp and add 2-3 Tbsp sugar and make some delicious scones. Serve with this recipe for microwave lemon curd, with the following modifications as suggested in the reviews: Use 3 whole eggs plus 2 egg yolks and increase the sugar to 1 1/4 cup. It won't be two sweet but will mellow out the tartness. And strain the curd through a fine-mesh seive to remove all the white egg bits to ensure a perfectly smooth curd. Be sure to use freshly squeezed lemon juice instead of bottled. You need the lemons for all the zest, anyway.

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