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…biscuits…

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There are few things that are more fun than having someone throw out an idea about making something, only to realize you’ve no real experience with it. In this case it was something as ‘simple’ as biscuits.

There’s a plethora of recipes floating around out there. It’s easy enough to just find one and make them and walk away without understanding them or appreciating them for what they are. And I say ‘simple’ because though this recipe is ridiculously so, all of the iterations that led to it made me realize what a delicate construct they are. There’s a lot that can go wrong in baking which you discover along the way. It’s actually fun to realize how critical some things are, like the location of the rack in your oven when baking, and that adding more moisture for steam and leavening eventually meets a point of inflection and suddenly the returns diminish.

There are a few very basic idea about biscuits; they’re a chemically leavened bread (meaning baking soda + acid, or baking powder, which is a ‘complete’ leavener that is activated by heat rather than acid). The flour is always shortened first, meaning that a fat is worked into it before any of the moisture is added to prevent gluten bonds from forming.

Mixing is mostly, ideally, about folding ingredients together rather than working them in any significant way. The dough needn’t and shouldn’t be perfectly smooth or free of lumps. Trust me and not your senses on this; they work out in the oven.

Oven location, too is essential. The rack really does need to be at the middle level and your oven really does need to be preheated to 425f…

I enjoy things like this because, while simple, they’re elegant because I’ve seen exactly why they are, and how they can cease to be. I tweak one part as I experiment with a batch, isolate a single variable and I realize what that one particular step does or doesn’t based on what I’ve done. I take notes…

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The basic ingredients from left to right; 1/2 cup of heavy cream. 227 grams (8 oz) of sour cream. 240 grams self rising flour (meaning it has baking powder mixed in with it), 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tsp kosher salt.

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Fold the sour cream into the dry ingredients (flour, salt, sugar). This is your shortening. I’m not using lard or butter – I like the idea of using something that’s viscous and pliable and doesn’t have to be cut in with a pastry cutter. As you work it in, sort of folding it and scraping off the sides it will turn into a shaggy, lumpy texture…

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Then comes the cream. Again, I just fold it in – I’m not trying to work out all of the lumps or make a smooth texture – it should look a little lumpy like cottage cheese… I like the heavy cream, because as with the shortening/sour cream, it’s got a lot of fat. As I’m working in the ‘moisture’ bit of it, I’m still adding shortening. I could probably figure out what exactly the fat ratio is that I’m getting at, and it’s probably similar to what it would be if I used a skim buttermilk with lard or butter, but I haven’t and probably won’t unless I’m really bored someday…

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I scrape this out onto a floured sheet of parchment and just squish it into a 1″ thick shape. I use a 2″ biscuit cutter…

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It makes about 6 really good sized biscuits. They go onto a sheet pan with parchment that’s been buttered and into my (preheated!) 425f oven on the middle rack. The rack location is critical. I know because I’ve seen exactly how much of a difference it makes a few inches lower, in spite of the roaring hot baking stone that’s almost touching it… Bake for 20 minutes, then baste with butter and allow to rest a few minutes…

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Voila… Beautiful biscuits. I find them to be quite difficult to stop eating…

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Discussion

4 thoughts on “…biscuits…

  1. Thank You My Dear Sweet Tom………thank you thank you thank you…..I can hardly wait to try them!!! angie

    Posted by angie | January 24, 2013, 8:08 am
  2. Hi Tom! Enjoying your blog immensely. Can you help me understand the benefits of self-rising flour? Why not just add baking powder to standard flour? Thanks!

    Posted by Pamela | February 12, 2013, 4:12 pm
    • Thank you for your kind words!

      Self Rising Flour is simply all purpose flour with baking powder mixed in. There’s no real benefit to them other than they save you a step in making things that are leavened chemically, like pancakes, biscuits. I almost never use it, and bought some to experiment with.

      You can substitute all purpose flour in this recipe – instead of 240 grams of self rising flour – use 225 grams of all purpose with 15 grams of baking powder!

      Posted by Schilb Industrial Arts | February 12, 2013, 6:26 pm

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