Thursday, December 3, 2009

cream biscuits

cream biscuits

There are biscuits and there are biscuits. There are biscuits that you serve with chili, with barbecue or alongside some eggs and grits. And there are biscuits that you bring out in a warmed basket with a cloth napkin draped over them at a dinner party, to sop up a braise or slather with honey-butter. These biscuits are of the latter variety but I suspect they will quickly become your one and only biscuit because if you’re anything like me, you’ll wonder where they’ve been your whole life.

sifting
cream into flour, salt, baking powder

Because they’re so easy, it might feel like you are cheating: Five ingredients. A sifter, a mixing bowl and a puddle of melted butter. (That’s so going to be my first album title, I’ve decided.) Three minutes to assemble and twelve minutes to bake. And they remain the richest, lightest biscuits I’ve ever had, with serious plushness within and the faintest crunch at the edges, which sound as you tear one open as if you’d broken a cookie in half but then turned the volume on that sound way down. Or, uh, a very faint crunch.

biscuit dough

dipping in butter

And here’s the thing with biscuits (and scones, for that matter) — they’re the best when you’ve first baked them. Sure, I tried a stale one 24 hours later (for research, people, of course) and it wasn’t so bad but I chalk that up to them being extra-awesome from the get-go. But you don’t need to make them at the 11th hour, biscuits freeze excellently unbaked. Go ahead and make them whenever you have time, flash freeze them and store them in a freezer bag for a later day or freeze them right on your buttered or parchment-lined baking sheet so they’re ready to go when you are. You can bake them still frozen, they’ll just need an extra few minutes in the oven. And then you never have an excuse not to have freshly baked biscuits on the ready. You know, unless you ate them all without sharing, stashing them in your cheeks or something.

cream biscuits

Biscuits and scones, an apparent obsession of mine, previously: Buttermilk Chive Biscuits (the perfect chili/barbecue/breakfast-variety biscuit, plus or minus the chives), Jalapeno-Cheddar Scones, Dreamy Cream Scones (like this, plus butter, sugar and dried fruit), Meyer Lemon and Fresh Cranberry Scones, Rhubarb Cobbler and Strawberry Shortcakes

Ever had a muffin, scone or biscuit that tasted tinny? The cure is so easy!

One year ago: Spelt Everything Crackers
Two years ago: Latkes
Three years ago: German Pancakes and Winter Panzanella

Cream Biscuits
Adapted from James Beard’s American Cookery

The original recipe has you brush your baking sheet with melted butter (and increases the amount by two tablespoons) but for whatever reason, the butter not covered by biscuits just got smoky in my oven so I’m voting for you to just line your sheets with parchment. If you find dipping the biscuits in butter difficult (hard to grasp if the dough is soft), just brush them generously instead.

Made about 10 biscuits, perhaps a dozen if I had been stricter about the height and scrap-usage

3 tablespoons melted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the surface
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt butter in a small pot or microwave dish, and set aside. Sift two cups flour, the baking powder, salt and (if using) sugar into a large bowl. Fold in 1 1/4 cups cream. If the dough is not soft or easily handled, fold in the remaining 1/4 cup cream, little by little. (I ended up using two additional tablespoons, or half the unused cream.)

Turn dough onto a floured surface, mound it into a ball and, using your hands, press it to a thickness of about 3/4 inch. Cut into rounds, 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Gather dough scraps and continue to make rounds. Dip the top of each round in melted butter and arrange on the baking sheet. Bake until golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Serve immediately, or flash freeze for future use. [Biscuits can be baked straight from the freezer, and additional few minutes baking time will be needed, usually around 3 to 5.]


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