Wednesday January 7, 2009 | Southern Biscuits and Bread Baking

January 6, 2009 at 1:53 pm | Posted in Coming Up | 10 Comments

Bring your appetite and check your diet at the door. We’ll focus on southern biscuits and bread making techniques. Our own Chef-in-Radio Peter Reinhart will share his perspective on how he, as a baker raised in the north, has discovered southern techniques. Join us to discover biscuits and bread, southern style.

Peter Reinhart – Chef-on-Assignment, Johnson and Wales University
Shirley Corriher – Bio-Chemist and Chef, author of BakeWise and Cookwise
Rich Adams – Regional VP and Biscuit Maker, Bojangles

Listen to Show

Keep reading for details on the event, recipes and more…

  • Peter Reinhart will talk biscuits and bread tomorrow at the Levine Museum of the New South at 5:30pm. Click here for details.

Visit The Flying Biscuit Cafe website. Click here.

Bob’s Red Mill Resource. Click here.

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Shirley Corriher’s Touch of Grace Biscuits

Yield: about 10 biscuits.

The secret to these soft biscuits is a very wet dough, dropped into flour for ease of handling, then packed into a cake pan.

Nonstick cooking spray
2 cups self-rising, low-protein flour, such as White Lily, Martha White or Red Band
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons shortening or lard
2/3 cup cream
1 cup buttermilk (approximate)
1 cup all-purpose low-protein flour, for shaping
2 tablespoons butter, melted

1. Heat oven to 425 F and arrange one shelf slightly below the center of the oven. Spray an 8- or 9-inch cake pan with nonstick cooking spray.

2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the self-rising flour, sugar and salt. Work the shortening or lard in with your fingertips until there are no large lumps. Gently stir in the cream, then the buttermilk. (It may take less than 1 cup of buttermilk, or if you are using a higher protein flour, it may take more.) The dough should not be soupy, but should be wet and resemble cottage cheese.

3. Spread the all-purpose flour on a plate or pie pan. With a medium-size ice cream scoop or spoon, place 3 scoops of dough well apart in the flour. Sprinkle flour gently over each scoop. Flour your hands, then pick up a dough ball, gently shape it into a round, shaking off excess flour, and place it in the prepared cake pan. Continue shaping biscuits the same way, placing each biscuit up tight against its neighbor in the pan, until the dough is used.

4. Place pan in the oven and bake until lightly browned, about 20 to 35 minutes. Brush with melted butter. Invert pan onto one plate, then back onto another to turn biscuits right side up. With a knife or spatula, cut quickly between the biscuits to make them easy to remove. Serve immediately. Leftover biscuits can be reheated by wrapping in aluminum foil and placing in a 350 F oven for 10 minutes.

Nutrition information per serving
Calories 159
Fat 6.5g
Carbohydrate 21.2g
Cholesterol 8mg
Sodium 335mg
Protein 3.4g

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Peter Reinhart’s Biscuits
(Adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine. Makes 24 small or 12 large biscuits.)

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour (8 ounces by weight – weigh it for best accuracy)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/2 teaspoon table salt)
1 stick (1/4 pound) unsalted butter, cold
3/4 cups buttermilk, cold (keep it in the refrigerator until you add it to the dough)
Extra all purpose flour for kneading and rolling out the biscuits (about 1/4 – 1/2 cup)

Preheat the oven to 500°. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together into a mixing bowl. If you do not have a sifter, use a whisk to evenly distribute the ingredients.

Remove the butter from the refrigerator, unwrap it, and place it on a cutting board. Use a knife or pastry blade to cut the butter into ¼-inch slices. Stack three or four slices and cut them into three even strips. Rotate the stack a quarter turn and cut the three strips in half. You should have six bits of butter per slice. Toss the butter bits into the bowl of flour mixture and continue cutting all the butter in the same manner and add it all to the flour mixture.

Use your fingers to break up the butter bits and to distribute them evenly throughout the flour mixture. Do not rub the butter too hard with your fingertips or the palms of your hand, as this will create friction and melt it. (You may use a pastry blade instead of your hands, but hands are quicker). When all the butter is evenly distributed, add the cold buttermilk and stir with a large spoon (metal or wood) for about one minute, until all or most of the flour is absorbed by the buttermilk and the dough forms a coarse, moist ball.

Dust the counter or a large cutting board generously with flour and transfer the dough to the floured surface. Sprinkle additional flour over the top of the dough. Dust your hands with flour and then press the dough with the palms of your hands into a rectangle or square, about ¾ inch thick. Use a pastry blade or metal spatula to scrape and lift the bottom of the dough off the counter and dust a small amount of flour under the dough (do this on both sides of the dough), and lay the dough back down. Sprinkle a small amount of flour on the top of the dough and then fold the dough over on itself, in three sections, as if folding a letter (also called a tri-fold). Again, lift the dough and dust the counter under it with flour. Dust the top with flour and press the dough out again into a rectangle or square, about ¾ inch thick, and repeat the tri-fold. Repeat this procedure one more time (three times in all).

Dust under and on top of the dough one final time and use a rolling pin (or your hands) to roll or press the dough into either a rectangle (for triangle cut biscuits) or an oval (for round biscuits), ½ inch thick.

Cut the biscuits, either with a pastry blade or pizza roller knife for triangles, or with a biscuit cutter, to the desired size (a 2-inch diameter biscuit cutter will yield about 24 small biscuits). To cut the dough, dip the blade or cutter into the extra flour before cutting, to reduce sticking. Use a scraper or metal spatula to lift the biscuits from the counter and place them on an un-greased baking sheet (you can also cover the pan with baking parchment or a silicon pad), about ½ inch apart.

Bake immediately for tallest biscuits. Otherwise, cover the pan with plastic wrap and freeze or refrigerate the pan of biscuits. Place the baking sheet on the middle shelf of the oven and reduce the temperature to 450° (425° in a convection oven). Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan 180 degrees, and bake for an additional six-10 minutes, or until both the tops and bottoms of the biscuits are a rich golden brown (less time in a convection oven). They will nearly double in height, and will reveal accordion-like layers on the sides. Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a cooling rack but leave the biscuits on the hot pan.

Cool for at least three minutes before serving. The biscuits will stay warm for about 20 minutes.

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Peter Reinhart’s Biscuits (extended version and variations)

Both Flaky and Tender: The Best Biscuits Ever

I’ve set myself up now, for sure, making such a claim. But, I was so astonished by these when I made them, quite by accident and out of necessity when I forgot to buy buttermilk for a biscuit photo shoot, that I decided there could not possibly be a more perfect biscuit-certainly not any that I’d ever tasted. But be forewarned, these are not for those who are squeamish about butterfat!

This recipe is a variation of one that I published in Fine Cooking Magazine a few years ago, and is based on the Blitz Biscuits in my earlier book, Crust & Crumb. The blitz technique of lamination (repeated folding and rolling of the dough) is part of the secret of this biscuit. The other part is the use of cream and vinegar instead of buttermilk (this was the “accident” that I stumbled upon when I discovered that there cream but no buttermilk in the refrigerator). I clabbered the cream by adding white vinegar, which acidified to the same extent as buttermilk, thus allowing it to neutralize the baking soda. This recipe uses both baking soda and baking powder, resulting in a strong oven rise. The baking soda, interacting with the acidified cream (or the customary buttermilk) serves a kind of booster rocket for the baking soda, which does most of the lifting. Of course, all of this background, though interesting, would be moot if the biscuits don’t deliver an extraordinary performance, so give them a try. You will see additional tips and variations at the end of the instructions so, as always, please read through the entire recipe before beginning.

Note: The following paragraphs include some of the text from the original Fine Cooking article, with a few additions at the end for this new version. I will probably modify all this for the new book, but wanted you to have it for background info.

I have heard it said that there are two types of people in the world, those who like tender biscuits and those who like flaky biscuits. I am usually in the flaky camp (by the way, for those who wonder about such things, both flakey and flaky are acceptable spellings). But when we examine how many types of biscuit variations there are in either of these categories, it becomes clear that whether we call it a tender biscuit, flakey biscuit, cream biscuit, scone, spoon bread biscuit, or even Irish soda bread, what we are really talking about is a small, chemically leavened bread (using baking powder or baking soda, or both), made tender or flaky by the use of a large percentage of fat, either in the form of butter, margarine, shortening, lard, cream, or vegetable oil. A biscuit can be rolled and cut out, dropped like cookies, or scooped and molded like a dumpling.

I like my biscuits as flaky as the best pie dough, and when I want to impress my friends, these are the biscuits I make for them. Who can resist foods that are flaky, that crunch when you bite into them, and then crumble into little buttery pieces that fill one’s mouth with joy? I think biscuits should be good enough to eat without added butter or jam; that can stand proudly on their own. However, I have also been known to slather on yet more butter and my favorite strawberry or apricot preserves when I want comfort food to the max.

The following recipe, along with three variations, is made with butter, not shortening or lard. Some people insist that only shortening has enough pure fat in it to make a flaky biscuit. While lard and shortening do contain 100% fat, to butter’s mere 85% butterfat (the rest of the butter being a combination of water and milk solids), there is nothing to match butter for flavor. Also, I find that shortening biscuits sometimes have a waxy aftertaste. So in this version we will use more butter than the same recipe made with shortening. If you insist on using shortening instead, chill it for an hour in the refrigerator before cutting it into the dough, and reduce the amount by about 15% (use 3.5 ounces instead of 4).

In this new version, I am replacing buttermilk with clabbered vinegar cream, which essentially makes this both a cream biscuit (thus, a tender biscuit) and a flaky biscuit. In one of those aha moments, brought about because I forgot to buy buttermilk but discovered I had some heavy cream on hand, I realized that there was no rule prohibiting me from trying to bring the best of both worlds together. Thus, we now have what I think may be the best tasting flaky AND tender biscuit-ever! Now, it’s up to you to decide.

Notes:

–If you find that the dough is not coming together into a moist mass, feel free to add another ounce or so of cream to gather any loose flour and more completely hydrate the flour.

–One of our testers substituted sour cream for the clabbered vinegar cream and had great results. Definitely an option, though you may need to add some additional milk to the dough to hydrate all the flour.

–Pastry flour is the ideal choice for these, but it is hard to find (pastry flour falls somewhere between all purpose and cake flour in terms of gluten content). A very close substitute is 2 parts all purpose flour and 1 part cake flour. If you only have all purpose flour on hand you can make it with 100% all purpose.


Flaky Tender Biscuits, Master Recipe

(makes approximately 12 to 18 biscuits, depending on size)

measure ounces grams ingredient
1 3/4 cups 8 227 Pastry flour (unbleached if possible-OR, a combination of 2 parts all purpose flour and 1 part cake flour)
1 tablespoon 0.5 14 Granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons 0.5 14 Baking powder
1/4 teaspoon 0.06 1.75 Baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table or Morton’s kosher, or,3/4 teaspoon Red Diamond kosher 0.125 3.5 Salt
1 stick 4 113.5 Unsalted butter, cold
1 cup 8 227 Heavy Cream, cold (OR buttermilk or sour cream)
1 1/2 tablespoons 0.75 21 White vinegar (or apple cider vinegar or lemon juice)

1. Stir the vinegar into the cream to acidify it, and place it in the refrigerator to keep it cold. (You may use other kinds of vinegar or lemon juice, but I think white vinegar is preferable because it draws no attention to itself as a flavoring agent. Note: If using buttermilk or sour cream instead of cream, you can omit the vinegar.)

2. Preheat the oven to 500°. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a mixing bowl.

3. Remove the butter from the refrigerator, unwrap it, and place it on a cutting board. Dust the butter and the work surface with flour. Use a knife or pastry blade to cut the butter into 1/4″ thick slices. Stack three or four slices, dusting them with flour as you stack, and cut them into 1/4″ strips. Rotate the stack a quarter turn and cut the strips into pea-size bits. Toss the floured butter bits into the bowl of flour mixture and continue cutting all the butter in the same manner and add it all to the flour mixture. Use your fingertips to separate and distribute the butter pieces evenly; breaking up any clumps but not so small that the butter disappears or melts into the flour. Add the acidified cream and stir with a large spoon until all the flour is hydrated and the dough forms a coarse ball (add more cream if necessary).

4. Generously dust the counter or a large cutting board with flour and transfer the dough to the floured surface. Sprinkle additional flour over the top of the dough. Dust your hands with flour and then press the dough with the palms of your hands into a rectangle or square, about 3/4″ thick. Use a pastry blade or metal spatula to scrape and lift the bottom of the dough off the counter and dust a small amount of additional flour under the dough (do this on both sides of the dough). Lay the dough back down. Sprinkle a small amount of flour on the top of the dough and roll it out with a straight rolling pin into a rectangle or square, approximately 1/2″ thick. Then, using the pastry blade to help lift the dough, fold it over on itself, in three sections, as if folding a letter (this is also called a tri-fold). Give the dough a quarter turn.

5. Again, lift the dough and dust the counter under it with flour. Dust the top with flour and roll it out again into a square or rectangle approximately 1/2″ thick, and repeat the tri-fold. Give the dough another quarter turn and repeat this procedure one more time (three times in all).

6. After the third tri-fold, dust under and on top of the dough one final time and roll out the dough one final time into a rectangle (for triangle or diamond cut biscuits) or an oval (for round biscuits), 1/2″ thick. Use enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface.

7. Cut the biscuits, either with a pastry blade or pizza roller knife for triangles, or with a biscuit cutter, to the desired size (a 2″ diameter biscuit cutter will yield about 20-24 small biscuits). To cut the dough, dip the blade or cutter into some flour before cutting, to reduce sticking. Use a pastry blade, plastic scraper, or a metal spatula to lift the biscuits from the counter and place them on an un-greased baking sheet (you can cover the pan with baking parchment or a silicon pad), about 1/2″ apart. (Note: you can roll out the dough either thinner or thicker than recommended above, but the baking times will change-I find this thickness, which yield a biscuit nearly 1″ thick, to be ideal, and I prefer smaller biscuits to larger ones, but this is always a personal choice.)

8. Preheat the oven to 500° F./ 260º C. Let the cut biscuits rest for 15 to 30 minutes before baking to relax the gluten for a more even rise (or, cover the pan with plastic wrap and freeze or refrigerate the pan of biscuits for later baking-you can also wrap the individual pieces in plastic wrap for stacking, and chill or freeze for later baking). When ready to bake, place the baking sheet on the middle shelf of the oven and reduce the temperature to 450° (425° in a convection oven). Bake for 8 minutes, then rotate the pan 180 degrees, and bake for an additional 6-10 minutes, or until both the tops and bottoms of the biscuits are a rich golden brown (less time in a convection oven). They will be nearly double in height, and will reveal accordion-like layers on the sides. Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a cooling rack but leave the biscuits on the hot pan. Cool for at least 3 minutes before serving. The biscuits will stay warm for about 20 minutes.

Here are some keys to a successful flaky biscuit:

— The oven must be hot in order to trap the butter inside the biscuit and increase the puffing quality. In a cooler oven, below 450°, some of the butter might run out onto the pan. After you put the pan into the oven, reduce the heat to 450° (if you preheat the oven to only 450°, it will drop to below 400° when you open the door, and butter might leak out of the biscuits).

— Work quickly to keep the dough cold, but do not overwork the dough. It is gluten that makes dough tough, and the more you mix the dough, the more organized the gluten strands become. The rule of thumb is this: mix only as long as it takes to get the job done. As every great biscuit maker will attest, it’s all in the touch.

–The folding technique described in the recipe instructions is similar to a type of lamination method called blitz. It creates many layers of dough and fat, and causes the biscuits to puff and open up like an accordion, creating maximum flakiness.

–The single most important technique is to use very cold butter and liquid (some biscuit makers will go as far as chilling their flour, but this is not necessary if the butter and cream are cold). The cold ingredients insure that the butter stays in bits and pieces to effectively shorten the gluten strands (thus, the name “shortening,” used to describe all solid fats, even butter or margarine). Using these bits of butter creates weak points in the dough that flake off when you take a bite. This is why cream biscuits, which are very tender from the liquid butterfat of the cream, are not usually flaky. In this method, the combination of cream and the blitz method give us the best of both worlds. If you find these biscuits to be too rich, however, feel free to use low fat buttermilk instead of cream for the liquid.

Three Variations and Make-Ahead Tips

These biscuits are perfect without the addition of other ingredients, but sometimes it is fun to enhance them with sweet or savory flavors. Here are three variations, but feel free to create your own versions, using these as an example.

Cheese Biscuits: Grate 2 cups of cheddar or any favorite medium soft cheese (Gruyere, Gouda, provolone, or the like). Each time you make a tri-fold, sprinkle one third of the cheese on the dough surface before folding it. This will create layers of cheese, in addition to the butter, and create even more defined layers. If some of the cheese falls off while folding the dough, simply scoop it up and add it to the next fold. It will look like a lot of cheese, but it will melt and almost disappear into the biscuits when you bake them.

Savory Biscuits: Instead of cheese, layer each tri-fold with caramelized onions. These should be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator; it is better to add them cold rather than hot from the pan. To make the onions: slice two large white or yellow onions into thin strips and sauté them over medium heat in 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, until they are very soft and translucent. Add 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar (optional), and continue cooking and stirring until the juices of the onion, sugar, and vinegar thicken into a honey like syrup and the onions turn into a marmalade consistency (this will take about 15-20 minutes). Cool and store.

Other Savory Variations: Herbed biscuits make a very nice accompaniment to eggs, especially if made with fresh herbs. Mince or cut into thin strips enough herbs to fill a 3/4 measuring cup. Any combination of fresh basil, parsley, dill, chervil, cilantro (for a Latino flair), or other favorites will work. Be careful when using strong herbs or spices like rosemary, oregano, sage, anise, fennel, cumin, chili powder, and the like, as they can easily overpower the biscuits. Use these in moderation, and in combination with milder herbs like parsley. Ground pepper, to taste, is always an option (about 1/4 teaspoon will provide a surprisingly strong kick). (Note: dried herbs will also work, but cut the amount to 1/4 cup. Again, use primarily mild herbs like parsley, chervil, and basil.)

Sweet Variations: There is very little difference between a biscuit and a scone, so consider these sweet biscuits simply as flaky tender scones. Popular additions are dried fruits such as currants, raisins, cranberries, cherries, pineapple, apricots, or blueberries, as well as candied ginger (use sparingly). Add one cup of dried fruit, in any combination, at he same time you add the cream. Feel free to use more dried fruit if desired. (Note: fresh fruit or berries will make the biscuits soggy and destroy the flakiness. It is best to stay with dried fruits for these biscuits.)

Make Ahead Tips: The best way to make biscuits is to bake them 5 minutes after the dough is cut and placed on the pan. However, this is not always practical and it is better to bake the biscuits when you plan to eat them rather than bake them and try to warm them up later. So here are three make-ahead options:

–Freeze: Cut and pan the biscuits but do not bake them. Instead, completely wrap the pan (under and around the pan) in plastic wrap or use a food grade plastic bag. Freeze the pan of unbaked biscuits (for up to one month, if well wrapped). Remove the pan from the freezer at least three hours before you plan to bake the biscuits to let them thaw; do not bake them while still frozen or they will not rise or bake evenly. (Note: see tip above about wrapping and stacking the individual biscuits in plastic wrap instead of leaving them on the pan)

–Refrigerate: Same as above, but refrigerate the pan of unbaked biscuits instead of freezing them. This is especially practical if you plan to bake the biscuits within three days. Remove the pan from the refrigerator approximately one hour before baking the biscuits to remove some of the chill, so they will bake evenly.

–Pan-bake: Bake the biscuits as described in the recipe, but only until they are slightly golden on the tops and bottoms, about 4 -5 minutes less than the full baking time. Remove the pan from the oven and cool the biscuits thoroughly before wrapping and freezing them (they can be wrapped individually or on the pan). When you want to finish baking them, preheat the oven to 450° and place the still frozen biscuits on an un-greased baking sheet. Bake for about 10-12 minutes, or until the tops and bottoms of the biscuits are golden brown. Remove them from the oven as for fresh baked biscuits, and cool for 5 minutes before serving (this allows the heat to reach the center, warming but not drying out the biscuit).

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10 Comments »

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  1. You mentioned that you had gotten a delivery from Flying Biscuit. I had planned to recommend strongly against Flying Biscuit. In my opinion, their biscuits are over-kneaded and over-leavened.

    Horrible biscuits in my opinion.

    Thanks,
    Tim Chew

  2. I started using a Paula Deen biscuit recipe a while back that is so easy I never do it any other way: Self-rising flour with whipping cream.
    Maybe a little more expensive, but turns out light, fluffy, moist & delicious every time.

  3. I’m the one who e-mailed about the gluten free biscuits.

    We’ve tried the Bob’s Red Mill products and they were not liked in our house. One of the flours is garbanzo bean flour and we find that that the biscuits taste “beany”.

    We currently use the flour mix by gluten free pantry. We make them with the flour mix and crisco as my son is both gluten and dairy free. The taste is fine but they don’t brown and they don’t rise. Do you have any tips on how to get them to rise and also to brown. My son wants sausage biscuits for breakfast quite often. He will eat what we make now but I’d like to see if we can make them better.

    Thanks,

    Beth

  4. Are you going to post the receipe for Shirley Corriher’s Touch of Grace Biscuits?

  5. Ann- I have just posted Shirley Corriher’s recipe. You should find it above. Thanks for listening!

    Erin Sutton, Research and Production

  6. In response to Beth’s question, I hate to say it but more sugar in the recipe is the best way to get more browning. However, another way to get some dark shine is to brush the biscuits with egg wash (a well-beaten egg)just prior to baking. If you like the way they look with the egg wash and want even more browning, then just use beaten egg yolk (you can use the egg white for an egg white omelette). You can also use egg replacer if eggs are a dietary issue. I hope this helps.
    Peter Reinhart

  7. I do love Bojangles fried chicken and biscuits on occasion, but I will NEVER again patronize the restaurant on Prosperity Ch.Rd. One evening I was really hungry and really tired. I stopped at the drive up window and ordered 3 wings and a biscuit.
    When I got home, the biscuit was as hard as a rock. So, never again.

  8. I have made Peter’s biscuits (from Fine Cooking) several times, and tried again after listening to the show. An adaptation I came upon which seemed to add to the outcome was to use frozen shredded cheese as a variation. It kept the dough cold and easy to handle.

  9. I made these biscuits for brunch this morning (made them ahead, cut on the baking sheet & kept in fridge overnight, then baked them this morning). We loved them, but they didn’t rise as much as I expected — certainly not 1 1/2 times. I know my baking powder isn’t too old so not sure what else it could be? Can you suggest anything?

    Thanks!

  10. pick 6 leak

    Wednesday January 7, 2009 | Southern Biscuits and Bread Baking | Charlotte Talks


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