May 15, 2013

Biscuits on the rise

Diners can’t seem to get enough of these humble yet dreamy treats. Bakers debate the fine points.

By BETTY HALLOCK cClatchy Newspapers

(Continued from page 1)

BISCUITS IN RESTAURANTS
click image to enlarge

Biscuits are served with gravy and a poached egg at Squirl Cafe in Los Angeles.

McClatchy Newspapers

BISCUITS IN RESTAURANTS
click image to enlarge

Chef Govind Armstrong, above, makes biscuits at his restaurant Willie Jane in Venice, Calif.

McClatchy Newspapers

 

IT'S AN ADAGE passed down by expert Nathalie Dupree in her cookbook "Southern Biscuits": "No two cooks make the same biscuit." Some swear by cream or a mix of baking powder and baking soda. Some drop their biscuits from a spoon instead of cutting them out. Some people use butter instead of lard, or shortening instead of butter. They cut them big or cut them small. They might dunk each one in melted butter before baking, the way James Beard did. But there are a few tips everyone can follow for better biscuits.

• Make sure all of the ingredients, including the flour and baking powder, are cold.

• Do not overwork the dough: Mix just until the liquid is incorporated, and knead just until the dough comes together.

• Roll the dough so that it's about an inch thick, and not much less, for high biscuits.

• Cut the biscuits out without twisting the cutter to prevent the sides from getting pinched.

• Eat biscuits as soon as possible; their lifespan is short.

MANGALITSA LARD BISCUITS AND SAUSAGE GRAVY

Start to finish: 1 hour, 10 minutes.

Servings: Four to six

LARD BISCUITS:

5½ cups flour

3 tablespoons baking powder

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

12 ounces cold lard (Sqirl uses lard rendered from Mangalitsa pigs)

1½ cups buttermilk, plus extra for the egg wash

2 eggs, divided

Cracked pepper and fleur de sel

1. Heat the oven to 400.

2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Using a pastry cutter or fork, cut in the lard until it is reduced to pea-sized pieces. Stir in the buttermilk and 1 egg just to form a dough.

3. Remove the dough to a well-floured surface, and pat to a thickness of about 1 inch. Cut out biscuits using a 2-inch round cutter and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing the biscuits about 1½ inches apart. The recipe makes about 1 dozen biscuits. Beat the remaining egg with a few tablespoons of buttermilk to form the egg wash. Brush the biscuits with the egg wash, and sprinkle over the cracked pepper and fleur de sel.

4. Bake the biscuits until puffed and golden, 12 to 17 minutes, rotating the tray halfway for even baking.

SAUSAGE GRAVY:

1 pound breakfast or standard pork sausage, crumbled

1 shallot, small dice

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ teaspoon black pepper

Pinch of chile flakes

1 teaspoon fresh thyme

¼ cup flour

3 cups warm milk

Salt, to taste

1. In a dry skillet, cook the sausage over medium-high heat until the fat is rendered and the sausage is golden-brown, about 10 minutes. Add the shallot, garlic, black pepper, chile and thyme. Cook until the shallot is translucent and the herbs are aromatic, 1 to 2 minutes.

2. Sprinkle the flour over and briefly cook, stirring to mix well, about 2 minutes. Slowly drizzle over the warm milk, whisking to mix well so lumps don't form; the milk will begin to thicken quickly. Bring the mixture down to a simmer and continue to cook for 5 minutes. Taste and season as desired with salt before serving.

Adapted from Sqirl, which serves the biscuits and gravy with an over-easy egg.

 

BUTTERMILK BISCUITS AND BURNT ORANGE HONEY BUTTER

Start to finish: 1 hour, 20 minutes.

Makes: About 1 dozen biscuits

BUTTERMILK BISCUITS:

4 cups (17 ounces) flour

3 tablespoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter

2 cups buttermilk

Cream or melted butter, for brushing

Natural sugar, for sprinkling

1. Heat the oven to 425.

(Continued on page 3)

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