Thursday, March 24, 2011

Touch of Grace Biscuits

Touch of Grace Biscuits - made March 24, 2011 from The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Berenbaum (book #67)

I wasn't going to bake today since my lunch plans with a friend today got canceled so I didn't need to make up any goodie bags.  But I woke up to our 13th consecutive day of rain this morning and while it hasn't rained 24/7 for 13 days (we've had pockets of dry weather for a few hours here and there), we now have flash flood warnings, mudslides, wind advisories, and a ground that's getting over 95% saturated.  My Pavlovian response to the cloudy, stormy weather?  "Hey, I bet a warm fresh biscuit slathered in butter would taste really good."  And you know how once you have something in your head, it won't get out unless you do something about it?  Yeah, hence today's baking experiment with biscuits.

This is from the Bread Bible by Rose Levy Berenbaum.  I've had her Cake Bible book for years and got the Bread Bible because I like her recipes.  They're easy to follow and almost always come out. Which doesn't explain why I've hardly ever used this book before.  In fact, this may be the first recipe I've made from it.  Oops.  Well, what matters is I'm using it now, right?

This recipe was really easy to throw together.  But she wasn't kidding when she said the dough was soft, like mashed potatoes.  I could barely form the dough balls, even when rolling it in the 2nd cup of flour because it was so soft.  I put the biscuits in an 8" round cake pan as I was forming them but there was only enough dough to make a ring around the cake pan and not fill it entirely.  Next time I would make them in a 6" round pan so they'd be more squished in there and could prop each other up.  When I baked them, they didn't rise as much because they were so spread out.  Regardless though, these were pretty good.  The outside was crunchy and the inside was melt in your mouth mealy/chewy like good bread should be.  There was a slight tang because of the buttermilk not being offset by any baking soda but that helped make this a more savory bread.  All in all, a nice treat on a cold, stormy day.

1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons vegetable shortening, cold
1 ¼ cups heavy cream or buttermilk or a combination of the two
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon melted butter, cooled, optional

1.     Preheat the oven to 475F for 30 minutes before baking.  Have an oven shelf at the middle level and place a baking stone or baking sheet on it before preheating.
2.     In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours (the 1 cup all purpose + ½ cup cake flour), baking powder, and salt.  Add the shortening in teaspoon-sized pieces and, with your fingertips, press the shortening into the flour until pea-sized or smaller.
3.     Stir in the cream and/or buttermilk.  The biscuit dough will be very soft, like mashed potatoes.  Allow it to sit for 2 to 3 minutes; it will stiffen slightly.
4.     Spread the 2nd cup of all-purpose flour in a pie plate or cake pan.  To shape the biscuits using an ice cream scoop or a large spoon, scoop up a biscuit-sized lump of dough (a heaping spoonful) and drop it onto the flour.  Sprinkle the top lightly with some of the flour.  Pick up the biscuit with your hand and shape it into a round, gently shaking off any excess flour; it works well to hold the biscuit in your left hand with fingers partially closed so that the thumb and index finger form the letter C.  With your right hand, tamp down the top of the dough so that the biscuit is 1 inch high and 2 inches wide.
5.     Put each biscuit in the cake pan as soon as it is shaped, placing them snugly-up against each other so that the soft dough will rise up instead od spreading sideways during baking.  If desired, dip the brush in the melted butter (avoid the milk solids that will have sunk to the bottom) and brush the top of the biscuits.
6.     Place the biscuits in the oven on the hot baking stone or baking sheet.  Raise the heat to 500F and bake for 5 minutes.  Lower the heat to 475F and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, until biscuits have doubled in size and are lightly browned.
7.     Allow the biscuits to cool in the pan for 1 to 2 minutes, then empty them onto a plate.  Pull the biscuits apart and split them in half, preferably using a three-tined fork to keep them from compressing and to create a rustic rough split rather than a clean cut.

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