Thursday, March 4, 2010

Behold! I bring you biscuits!


The children are outside cavorting in God’s white, cold, windy, big world, and I’m inside doing one, or all, or a combination, of the following: twiddling my thumbs, checking email, baking biscuits, pacing, taking pictures, making business phone calls, and writing. It’s hard for me to settle into a groove when my kids are playing so nicely. I feel like I need to do something important to fully appreciate the blessed peace, but since I’m not sure exactly what that important thing would be, I fritter away the precious moments thinking about what would be the best way to spend it. Follow? No, I didn’t think so.

The other reason I have such trouble settling down is because at any minute (LIKE RIGHT NOW) the doorknob will rattle and a kid will come stomping in and demand something of me. Loudly. So whatever I choose to do has to be something interruptable. (And yes, spell check, that is a word.)

So I’m making and photographing and (soon will be) tasting biscuits. I figured (after I started them) that they were an all-around good activity to get into because if the kids get hungry, then I can just hand them a brown paper bag filled with piping hot biscuits and send them off on their merry way, thus buying me more time to write about the bag’s contents...which would be biscuits, in case you’re having trouble following.

Okay, now I’ve shipped out some buttered biscuits, fielded another phone call, and I’m almost out of time. Let’s get down to business.


I don’t make biscuits all that often. They involve last-minute work, something I don't need while in the midst of The Arsenic Hour (when everyone is falling apart at the seams and you seriously consider sprinkling some arsenic in their food), and often by the time I’ve finished pulling together the main dish and a couple veggie sides, I’m ready to ditch the bread side all together, or else just slice up a loaf of sourdough if it’s absolutely necessary to have another starch (and it usually isn’t—I was raised by a mother who thought it appalling to serve both spaghetti and bread sticks).


But there is something quaint and comforting about a hot biscuit. Light and tender and made just for that moment. Because of the work required, biscuits aren't an afterthought, but rather an actual thought-out gift, made all the more special because they aren't a central part of the meal.


So what does it say about my gracious hosting skills that I preassembled biscuits for our company dinner last week and then forgot to serve them? I don't think it says anything actually, except that I am an airhead. Even while I was groaning over my ditzy-ness, I knew we were okay food-wise, seeing as we had a triple batch of Indian chicken and mounds of brown rice, green beans, applesauce, pickled beets, and chocolate-dipped pistachio shortbread for supper. I guess you could say the biscuits weren’t exactly crucial.


I made the forgotten biscuits for lunch a couple days later. My parents were visiting and I served all the leftovers from the former company dinner (and we’re still eating the Indian chicken leftovers). I enjoyed the biscuits, but they didn’t rise as high as I had hoped.


I made biscuits again for supper last night. These rose sky-high (perhaps because the oven was hotter), dragging my droopy spirits right up along with them. Throughout the rest of the evening, whenever the word “biscuit” floated through my brain, I had happy thoughts. In fact, I couldn’t wait to get the kids to bed so I could have one of the leftovers.


There were still two biscuits when I went to bed and I told Mr. Handsome in no uncertain terms that he was not allowed, under any conditions whatsoever, to touch those biscuits in the morning. They were for my breakfast. And my first thought upon waking this morning? Biscuits and coffee for breakfast! Whoo-hoo!


I am officially obsessed.


You know how leftover quick breads often seem to turn dry and tasteless after a day or two? Well, these biscuits don’t seen to have that problem (though they’ve only sat around for about twelve hours, max, so I can't say I know this to be actually true). Even twelve hours after being pulled from the oven, they are still light and flaky, tender on the inside and slightly crispy around the edges. I’m kind of crazy about them.


As for the biscuits I made this morning, it appears that they were trying to do jumping jacks in the oven. The hot, hot air made them leap high and then freeze, slightly slumping over to one side.


Beautifulness!


Deliciousness!


Forget what I said about not being a biscuit lover. I didn't know what I was talking about. And now I do. I am, now and forevermore, a biscuit devotee, buff, afficionado, fan, etc, etc, etc.


Sky-High Biscuits
Adapted from Bernard Clayton’s Complete Book of Small Breads by Bernard Clayton Jr.

A couple notes about the ingredients:
1. There is no sugar in these biscuits, so for those of you who are abstaining from processed sweeteners for lent, eat up. Warning: eat one of these biscuits spread with butter and drizzled with honey and you’ll feel as guilty as sin.
2. Lard. I use lard. I love lard. Lard is light and lovely and ethereal. But, if you’d rather not use lard, use butter or solid vegetable shortening. (But lard is better.)
3. The recipe calls for milk, but I’ve been using some soured raw cream that I found in my freezer. Do what you’d like, but I’m convinced that the cream makes the biscuits even better.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/3 cup lard (see note)
3/4 cup cream (or half and half or milk—see note)
cornmeal for sprinkling

Mix together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Using a fork, cut in the lard. Add the cream and stir to combine. The dough will be dry and crumbly. Turn the dough out onto the table and knead briefly, just enough to bring it all together. Roll, or pat out, the dough till it’s about ½ inch thick. Using a biscuit cutter or a glass, cut out the biscuits. (Important: cut straight down through and come back up again without twisting the glass, as twisting the glass will smear the edges and perhaps inhibit their sky-high rising inclinations.) Gather up the dough scraps and re-roll and cut, till all the bits have been used up (but be gentle—don’t overwork the dough).

Place the biscuits on a greased baking sheet that has been lightly sprinkled with cornmeal and bake at 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Yield: 8-12 biscuits, depending on the thickness of the dough and the size of your biscuit cutter.

About one year ago: Dark Chocolate Cake with Coconut Milk.

17 comments:

  1. Those biscuits are beautiful! And that's a marvelously apt description of lard, too.

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  2. The first part of your post about children playing, time to yourself and being interupted any minute describes my life too. I love reading the things you write. The problem is I'm usually hungry afterwards.

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  3. It's 7:23 p.m., I've had no dinner tonight. My stomach started growling (truly, it did!) about halfway through this post. I was gone all day and am draggin' my wagon right now, but these biscuits look so darned good I'm sorely tempted to go make them immediately . . . and eat every one of them! Oh, Jennifer Jo, if only you lived next door. I'd throw on a jacket and go running over and pound on your door until you took pity on me. WHAT??!! There aren't any left?? ARRGGGH!

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  4. Those really are nice looking biscuits...I mean rally nice. "Oh honey, you really must come see this recipe on Jennifer Jo's blog.":)

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  5. Arsenic hour - I love it!

    Actually, I did follow that first paragraph and relate.

    Beoooootiful biscuits! I love how tall they are. It must be the lard. Or the cream. These are diet biscuits, aren't they?

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  6. i looked and looked, but couldn't find the arsenic listed in the ingredients. how much do i use?
    :-D

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  7. 40winkzzz, There is no specified amount. Use your judgment.

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  8. I can totally follow your first paragraph. How well I remember the feeling.
    K, W. and G. just piled into K's car to go spend the weekend at a WV cabin with A.n K. AARGH. That's 3 of my 5 children in the same vehicle. Please Lord, Keep Them Safe!
    A kidless weekend. What are we going to do with ourselves?

    Aunt V.

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  9. Oh you wicked thing...now I want to make biscuits, too. I love biscuits but my arteries don't because I slather them with butter and put in honey and eat too many. So delicious. Your look amazing, especially the ones at the end!

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  10. what? this is STILL your top post? i mean, that wouldn't be at all surprising on my blog, but on yours it is. :-)

    ryc-- leave it to you to ask what the dinner was! it was something i sort of made up called, i guess, "chicken pepper penne". this was the 2nd time i'd made it; the first time, everyone liked it so much they made me write it down. my experiments don't usually turn out so well. maybe i'll post it... sometime. you would probably like it.

    ps- one of the things i left out of that post to shorten it was that the night i made two dinners, i did make a double batch of biscuits. (not from this recipe, but the semi-lazy way, from biscuit mix, and dropped rather than rolled.) i experimented a little by adding garlic and cheese, but they nonetheless turned out to be really dry and tasteless-- a fact which i discovered only AFTER i'd already shipped half of them to the other family. oh well.

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  11. How long do you expect us to eat biscuits?

    kbs

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  12. KTdid, Is you tryin' to tell me you is sick of seein' biscuits on my page? Is you tellin' me that biscuits ain't good enough for you? Or is you just fussin' 'cause you is bored? Or maybe you is MISSIN' me? Is THAT it? Huh? HUH?

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  13. Honey Chil'...I grew up eatin' biscuits!
    (they are far too good for me)
    You guessed it--merely fussin', missin',
    waitin'...

    kbs

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  14. I want to say: I was wrong. I'd chastised you for using milk that hadn't been pasteurized. After doing some research and googling I've changed my mind. (You must buy milk from a farmer you trust.) Also, years ago I researched lard. Guess what folks, lard, too is good for you. So there.

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  15. I followed this to the tee, while they tasted great mine didn't rise..any suggestions?

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    Replies
    1. Buy some fresh baking powder, perhaps?

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