Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fluffy Biscuits

I have recently been on a quest to make restaurant-quality made-from-scratch biscuits.  It wasn't easy.  I know that tall, fluffy biscuits exist because I have had them many times, but never from my own kitchen.  And no, nothing with "Bisquik" as an ingredient counts.  Well, victory was finally mine when I stumbled on this delicious biscuit recipe and had a few "duh" moments.

For a printer-friendly copy of this recipe, click here:


2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
3 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup Crisco (use the sticks, people)
1 egg
2/3 cup 2% milk

Start by preheating your oven to 450 degrees.  Next, combine your dry ingredients in a medium bowl (the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt).

Now cut in the Crisco.  We talked about this before.  I like to use my Oxo pastry blender, but if you are one of those sad, deprived people who doesn't own one, 2 forks will do.  Dump it in, then hack it into tiny pieces, mixing it with the flour as you go.

It should feel crumbly when you are done.  Go ahead -- poke it with your finger.

Now combine the egg and milk.  I like to pour the milk into a measuring cup, crack the egg directly into it, and whisk it with a fork.  That way there is one less dish to wash then cracking the egg into another bowl, and man, if we can save on dishes at the end it is a good day.  Dump the egg/milk mixture into the flour/Crisco mixture and stir with a spoon JUST UNTIL IT IS MOISTENED.  That means stop stirring the exact moment that the last trace of powdery flour is gone.  This is seriously important to fluffy biscuits, because they will get more tough with overmanipulation.

Okay, now put a little flour on your counter and dump the dough onto it.  Knead it 20 times.  It's not a lot, but again, too much handling makes for tough biscuits.

Here is my second "duh" moment.  Try not to laugh at me.  For years, I wondered why my biscuits were so flat.  It finally hit me -- you are rolling them out too flat.  I know, a genius I am not.  You basically want to go pretty thick when you roll them out.  They should be about as thick as a dime is tall (on its side).  I was able to get 2 biscuits out of the first roll-out.  Cut those out, put them onto a lightly greased cookie sheet pan, and then reroll the remaining dough.  I was able to get about 9 biscuits total out of this recipe.  I used a true biscuit cutter that I dipped in flour to cut mine out, but the rim of a water glass, also dipped in flour, will work, too.

One quick note about cookie sheet pans:  thicker and heavier is better.  I have tried the fancy ones with the air layer built in and didn't like them because they were too well insulated -- nothing would brown on the bottom, and by George, chocolate chip cookies should be browned.  In my impoverished college days, I bought the cheapest ones that I could find and those were too thin.  Things tended to burn on the bottom before they finished on top.  (Is this starting to sound like "Goldilocks and the Three Bears", or is it me?).  My current two were a Christmas present from my wonderful husband, who went into Williams-Sonoma, said, "What would you buy for a baker?", and came home with these.  They are beyond wonderful and I plan to be buried with them.  That being said, prepare to sell a kidney to pay for them.  They are very heavy and brown things just right.

Back to the biscuits.  Once you have them all cut out, slide the cookie sheet into the oven and bake it for 8-10 minutes.  They will be golden brown on both top and bottom when they are done.  The huge amount of baking powder that we added should have let them rise up nicely, as long as you didn't mess with them too much and as long as you cut them out thick.

My quest for a restaurant-quality biscuit recipe is over.  These are so tender and fluffy, but don't completely crumble when you try to add jelly to them.  And yes, the jelly is my homemade canned strawberry jam.  Stick with me until the spring and we will be making it together and learning how to can it.  To me, there is nothing more cozy than fresh-baked biscuits and homemade jam.

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