I should be writing. Instead…biscuits. [Again.]

Yep, when in doubt, it’s biscuits.

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Savory biscuits bordered top and bottom by the traditional ones.

Well, that and the suggestion from my wife that, ‘gee, with all this fruit around, I think biscuits would be perfect.’.

And so, with the Beatles’ ‘Penny Lane’ playing in the background, two versions are in the oven, with the aroma of the parmesan cheese-colby cheese-chive-Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute version [a not-so user-friendly label] filling the kitchen.

Starter recipe: Sky High Wheat Biscuits from Bert Greene’s The Grains Cookbook. I can send it to you.]

As always, I can’t help but stray from the exact instructions, but I’ve used this recipe for over a decade. [Instead of 1 cup cake flour : 1 cup wheat ratio, I went with 1.5 cups all-purpose and a half cup of wheat flour.]

The other version, what one might call ‘plain’—I added an egg and some vanilla and a little extra sugar. So yes, feel free to call them ‘shortcakes’–the accompanying strawberries won’t argue with you.

As I was hand-blending the frozen butter chunks [an upper-body workout hack.], my mind drifted to my semi-recent high school reunion.

And I pondered some of the questions I would like to have posed to the folks.

No, nothing about the staged–I’m dating myself here–Godfather-themed ‘abduction’ of a favorite teacher. And nothing about the senior boys’ version of ‘Alley Top’ during intermission at a Friday dance.

Instead, I would want to know what they’ve been cooking. And when they started cooking.

After all, when many of us parted at graduation, few of had any baking, sautéing, or barbecuing skills.

So, my questions:

What are your specialties?

What events pushed you into the kitchen? A lonely Saturday night during or soon after college? Forsaken by a spouse for a weekend? Expectations of kids? Having Thanksgiving hosting duties dumped in your lap? Or how about the age-old ‘just because’?

My first ‘real’ cooking experience took place sophomore year in high school.We were supposed to contribute to a culinary celebration in French class and I teamed up with my lifelong friend. He proposed [and made] stuffed French rolls. [I know what you’re thinking. I didn’t have the heart to tell him.]

I went with chocolate eclairs and son of a gun if I didn’t whip out the Joy of Cooking and successfully crank out the cream puffs shell recipe [page 646] and follow up with some variation of a chocolate icing. [Would have been fitting to try to make Fudge Cockaigne as a further nod to the French theme, but I was probably still dumbfounded that the cream puffs recipe worked for me.]

I would love to hear of your first successful experience in the kitchen. Chime in down below. Thanks for reading.

Bonus photo: [Seems my ‘craftsy’ wife needs an alternative leaf press.]

leaves in Joy of Cooking

Sourdough biscuits…and more

Continued from previous post

So what made me think the starter was ready to go?

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I’m not the brightest LED around [boy, did. compact fluorescents disappear overnight or what?], but, as the photo suggests, things seemed plenty alive.

And when it’s biscuit time in the kitchen, I rarely limit myself to one version.

I slapped wads** of sourdough starter into separate bowls. I took a look. Nope, I thought. That just wasn’t enough to make a difference in either batch, so I pivoted. [Pivoted…that’s one of those hot self-help terms, along with lean in, mindset and grit. Impressively hip of me, don’t you think?]
The cheese-and-za’atar version got all the starter.

Any other twists?
Why yes, as a matter of fact. I slapped in a more flavorful fat– bacon grease from the fridge. A little bit more than a tablespoon. Figured it would add a little smokiness. Considering each biscuit contained about 1/8 tablespoon, I didn’t think it would warrant a call to the cardiologist.

Moving on to the other half of the dough…Operation: Bisquettes!

bisquettes

These little hummers [raisin-and-chopped almond] added a touch of sweetness to their savory counterparts. And I was all in on the cuteness quotient as well. Okay, not so much. But I did aim for ‘popability’. You know, the ol’ ‘when you can’t eat just one’ factor.

And then there’s the traditional ‘rogue’ biscuit…

mini biscuit for b and b

This one is in honor of my past canine supervisors/kitchen islands, Boo and Bear. I’d scrape up any dough remains, sculpt a little treat like this, and squeeze it onto the tray.

There was the issue of both batches needing a little extra time to give off a little color, despite my brushing some half-and-half on the tops.
But I knew how to handle that.
“Brown, you suckers!”
My wife, stationed by the oven door, primed and ready with knife, plate of butter, suggested the recipe might have called for 450 degrees.
“Yeah…the recipe,” I said.
It’s gotten to that point with biscuits–as long as I can feel my way toward a proper wet-to-dry and flour-to-fat ratio, I’m pretty sure the result won’t disappoint.

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These bisquettes still needed another five minutes in the oven.

Speaking of ratios, if you want a dependable one for biscuits, check out Michael Ruhlman, who just so happens to have authored a book called Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking .

And so, the carb-fest continued and any trace of guilt drifted away with the first few bites. The honey, melting butter, and Italian roast didn’t hurt the cause either.

Next time: Paint melted butter on the tops. Another couple of teaspoons of bacon grease. More cheese, probably parmesan.

So, give biscuits a shot, but promise me you’ll aim for innovation. That’s half the fun of procrastination, after all.


**wad = palmful