Sunday, May 4, 2008

All About Food- Sometimes cooking- Always eating- (Take 3)

When our good friend Linda Wise was here visiting from Ohio I fixed from scratch biscuits one morning. She rather liked them and asked if I would send the recipe- she thinks Katie- the youngest daughter who is studying theater in NYC- might like to try when she visits this summer. Well here is a stab at recreating a recipe that is still rather fluid.

But first for some background. Up until I married Don and moved to Cinti most of my baking- biscuits or pie crusts came from the refrigerator section of the grocery store.

But then Don's Mom was coming to visit over Thanksgiving- And just in case you don't know already- my mother-in-law makes the BEST pie crust in the whole world! Her pie crusts are so incredibly good if you get too full before you finish you must might scrape off the filling and just eat the crust. Well you don't serve this Mom a "store bought crust"- not when you're still trying to impress- both the husband and the mother-in-law. I'm so over that now- what they see is what they get!
Anyway- it was at that moment I ventured just a bit into the pie crust- and now the biscuit recipes. So I bought books- and read and read- and practiced. Pie crust- and biscuits- are delicate. And if you overwork they get tough- and not flaky. Meanwhile, on a trip to Oklahoma we stayed with our dear, dear friends Kathy and TH- and TH makes the BEST biscuits in the world. Well Kathy gave me the recipe- but since they demanded a day before start I only got around to baking them only once (I'm toooooooo tired at night to tackle something so difficult as biscuits- thats for sure). But I remembered.
And this long winded story gets even more longs winded (by now my kids would really be rolling their eyes- and Don glazed over- with the snore that he denies is a snore)- But in a blog you can just scroll down to the ending. Anyway I move to San Fran and decide I want to bake sour dough bread- and order the starter from Vermont (go figure that) and begin. But I can't bake bread as often as you need to use the starter so I started looking for other alternatives- pizza crusts- and then biscuits. I even took starter to Clint and Marianne's so Reeder and I could make sour dough biscuits- from scratch.
Then when I got back from San Clemente I find a very disgusting sour dough starter and I'm so over sour dough.

But maybe I could adapt- And I learned about Bigas (to the Italian's), Poolish (to the French), and the Sponge (to the English). Well I use the Bigas (a thicker substance). Anyway, a Bigas is a "starter" for bread. Now to the recipe:

1. Mix 1/2 cup of water (slightly warm) and 1 tsp of yeast in a container- I use a crock
And then when yeast is dissolved add 1 cup of flour. Mix and cover and let sit on the counter over night (or over day if you're doing biscuits in the evening). The Bigas will gurgle and puff up in a "magic" yeast way.

You don't do anything but let the Bigas (I also use a Bigas to start bread as well- a Poolish or Sponge is "wetter" than a Bigas- so you don't add as much flour as for a Bigas- Maybe I'll try that sometime).

But in the morning when you're ready for the next step you first...
2. Mix the dry ingredients in a big mixing bowl- 2 cups of flour, 1 tsp of salt, 3 tsps of baking powder and 1 tsp of baking soda.

Notice the BIG FORK- this is what I like to "cut" in the butter/shortening. It works better for me than a pastry blender or food processor- but you could use those tools if you prefer.

3. Cut in 2-3 tablespoons of butter and 2-3 tablespoons of shortening. You don't want to use all butter (the biscuits- or pie crust if that's what you're making) won't be flaky- and you do want to use some butter- because that gives the biscuits (or pie crust) the wonderful buttery taste.
Cut (some people even use their fingers) the butter/shortening in until the butter/shortening are about small pea size.
4. Cut in the Bigas- and here I did use my fingers some to break up the Bigas so it would be well mixed with the flour mixture.

5. Mix in 7/8 cup of buttermilk. The 7/8 is approximate- this is the most difficult part- if you over mix at this point the biscuits will be tough- and not flaky- so you have to be gentle- and just mix the buttermilk in so everything sticks together- if it gets too wet just sprinkle with flour.

Now I have to regress a bit. When we went to Clint and Marianne's I left my perfect size biscuit cutter- So of course I decided this particular day that we just had to have the right size- not the one that was too small or too large- so we walked down to the Marina to my favorite Hardware store and bought new biscuit cutters.

I guess this is my one chance to say something in this "cooking blog". This hardware store is one of the best I have seen. It takes the word "hardware" to a new level. They have just about anything in the way of hardware you could want. The picture below is one of the two aisles that has kitchen stuff. There are another 6 aisles with guy hardware stuff. By the way, Max didn't mention that we still had the whole set biscuit cutters except the one she wanted. So now we have two of everyone and only one of the perfect one.

6. Cut the biscuits with a biscuit cutter - 2-2 1/2 inch- don't twist the cutter or it will seal the edges and interfere with the "rise" of the biscuit. Set the biscuits aside and cover with kitchen towel to rise a bit (30-60 minutes). When you're ready to bake preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

By the way- the reason our biscuits have green specks is because I added chives- and also white cheddar cheese that you can't see.

But you can't just have biscuits- so to go with the biscuits we had a sausage, fried beans, and swiss chard skillet.

I found this recipe in the NYTimes- though I had to adapt a bit. First of all it was just the beans- large precooked- Swiss chard- and onions and garlic. Well I'm not sure what Don would say if I ever served JUST beans and greens- but I really didn't want to try- so we used a Cajun chicken sausage.
Don applied the heat...

I couldn't catch the picture as he turned but tossing the sausage in the skillet was impressive...
Then you take out the sausage out and add the beans to the hot skillet that still has the grease from the sausage. you "brown" the beans- you want this crispy- and then you add the onion and garlic- cook til onion is transparent- return the sausage to the skillet and then add the swiss chard till wilted.
7. Bake the biscuits for 7-10 minutes in the 450 degree oven while you're cooking "whatever".

And dinner is served!
But I had to have just one more buttered biscuit!


1 comment:

Lucas said...

You guys are just so gourmet! I love that you are exploring new flavors and textures together. All that AND you're looking better than ever! Kudos to you guys for figuring all this out!