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Archive for February 14th, 2010

Every now and then I get a hankering for an old Southern favorite.  This week it was angel biscuits, also known as “honeymoon biscuits” because with yeast, baking, and baking soda, they are just about guaranteed to rise, even for novice bakers.  The original recipe featured ingredients we don’t use for health reasons–like lard or Crisco–but the recipe is easily adaptable.

makes about two dozen biscuits–or a bit more

Ingredients: use organic if you can

  • 2 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour (Yes, you can use a hard wheat flour, but your results will not be as good.)
  • 1/4 cup wheat gluten  (Gluten is only bad if you’re sensitive to it.  It’s just wheat protein, and it helps whole-wheat flour build flexibility.)
  • 1/4 cup sugar (okay to use a little less)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter
  • 1 cup buttermilk or kefir (You really, really need this ingredient, although Alton Brown has tried a lemon juice-milk substitute on his show “Good Eats” that looked like it might work in this recipe.)
  • 1 big tablespoon of yeast, dissolved in 2 tablespoons of warm water (See here for why you want water the temperature of a good bath.

Method:

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Use a whisk to mix ingredients together and add lightness to the mixture. Now cut the cold butter in quarters, lengthwise, and then slice the butter thinly.  Work the butter into the dry mixture quickly, using a pastry cutter (shown here).  If you do not have a pastry cutter, you can use a fork, but it will take longer, and you’ll need to take breaks to keep the butter cold.

After you cut in the butter, the dry mixture should have a mealy texture.  Now stir in the dissolved yeast and buttermilk or kefir, just until you’re sure that the yeast is fully incorporated.  Stop.  Do nothing else except cover the bowl securely.  Biscuits, like pie dough, do not like to be overworked.  There is enough liquid in this mixture that the dough will sort of knead itself.Can you see the bits of butter?  That’s good!  Those will help build flaky layers when you roll out the dough.  Now walk away for several hours or even overnight.  Here’s another dough picture while you wait.  Mmmmmm:  bits of butter.

Okay, let’s assume you’ve given the dough a chance to rise a bit.  It’s relatively cold in our house right now (high 60s F), so I just left the bowl out overnight (securely covered).  Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F.  Now you need a bread board (or any clean surface).  Take out about a third of the dough.  Dust some flour on your bread board, and plop on the dough.  Add some more flour to the top of the dough (just a dusting!), and roll the dough about 1/2 inch thick–or maybe just a little thicker.

Using a round cutter (or old clean can, both ends removed, as you see here), cut out biscuits.  Scoop up the leftovers, reform them, and cut more.  

Put the biscuits on a shiny pan and bake on the middle oven rack at 450 degrees F for about 10 minutes (in other words, 9-12 minutes).  Oven temperatures vary, so please watch closely.Take the biscuits out of the oven.  Admire them.  Smell the combination of biscuit and yeast.

Think about whether you need butter.

No, no butter for me, thank you.  I’ll just add a slice of turkey ham steak and some apple butter.

Oh–you’re wondering what to do with the leftover dough?  Refrigerate it and use it.  It’ll keep well for about a week, getting more yeasty the whole time.  You could have another round of breakfast biscuits with sausage and red-eye gravy.  (From start to finish this morning with dough I left out (covered) on the counter last night, rolling out and cutting, and baking, I had biscuits in less than 20 minutes.  I’d have had them more quickly if I’d thought from the start to use the toaster oven instead of the big oven.)

Consider making smaller biscuits to fill with cream cheese and pepper jelly for appetizers.  Add slices of cooked bacon (or turkey bacon) and tomato with lettuce in the summer for a good Southern BLT lunch.  Serve biscuits with dinner instead of rolls.  You’ve got lots of options!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full links to this URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.  Please contact me for permission to use photographs.

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