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Monday, July 19, 2010

Baking Powder Biscuits

If I don't have buttermilk, then these are my next favorite biscuits. Tall, fluffy, flaky, and great with jam they're a bit lighter then buttermilk biscuits.

Time: 10 minutes prep, 12-15 minutes baking
Makes 8-12 biscuits

• ¼ cup shortening
• 2 cups flour
• 3 t baking powder
• 1 t salt
• ¾ cup milk

1. Pre-heat oven to 450ºF.
2. Cut shortening into flour, baking powder, and salt using a pastry blender or 2 knives cut in until mixture looks like fine crumbs. Stir in milk until dough leaves side of bowl. (Note: dough will be soft and sticky).
3. Then turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Knead lightly 10 times. Roll or pat ½-¾ inch thick Cut with floured 2½ inch round cutter (or used a glass). Place on ungreased cookie sheet about 1 inch apart.
4. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheet and serve warm.

Buttermilk Biscuits

These are my all-time favorite biscuits.   I like them with Crisco, making the biscuits very tender and flaky.  However for a bit denser biscuit with a nice buttery flavor, butter is also great.  Usually I end up using a little of each.  Perfect with a dinner of oven fried chicken, corn, and watermelon or served as a breakfast-for-dinner side. 

Time: 15 minutes prep, 12-15 minutes baking
Makes: about 6-10 biscuits

• 2 cups flour
1 T baking powder
• ¾ t salt
• ½ t baking soda
• 5-6 T Crisco or chilled butter  (or a combination, I like to do 3T of each)
• 1 cup buttermilk*
*(You can use 1 cup of regular milk with 1 T of vinegar added, let it sit for 5-10 minutes to sour or use powdered buttermilk. The amount of liquid also depends upon the humidity. So add it a little at a time. The dough should not be too sticky to handle.  I've also used powdered buttermilk in a pinch with acceptable results.  I do find I use less liquid usually with the substituted buttermilk).

1. Pre-heat oven to 425ºF.
2. In a large bowl stir flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda with a fork.
3. Then using a pastry blender or 2 knives cut in the shortening/butter until coarse crumbs form.
4. Add the buttermilk gradually, tossing with a fork until dough forms. You may not need all the buttermilk, you want to add just enough so it sticks together and is not too sticky. Take care also not to over handle the dough.
5. Put dough on a lightly floured surface. Knead lightly a few times until smooth. Do not overmix. (Dough can be made up to 2 hours ahead, wrapped in plastic wrap, and refrigerated until ready to use.)
6. Pat the dough about 1-1½ inches thick. Then use a biscuit cutter or a glass dipped in flour to cut out biscuits. Gather trimmings and repeat.
7. Place the biscuits about 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Strawberry Shortcakes and Cream

This is the perfect biscuit for strawberry shortcake--light, buttery, with just the right amount of sweetness.

3 pints fresh strawberries , hulled; 1 pint crushed with potato masher or fork, 2 pints quartered
6 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 cups bleached all-purpose flour , plus more for work surface and biscuit cutter
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar for sprinkling
1 stick unsalted butter (8 tablespoons), frozen
1 egg , beaten
1/2 cup half-and-half
1 tablespoon half-and-half
1 egg white , lightly beaten

1 cup heavy cream , chilled
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix crushed and quartered berries with sugar in medium bowl; set aside while preparing biscuits (or up to 2 hours).

1. Adjust oven rack to lower middle position; heat oven to 425 degrees. Mix flour, salt, baking powder, and 3 tablespoons sugar in medium bowl. Using large holes of box grater, grate butter into dry ingredients or cut butter into tiny pieces. Toss butter with flour to coat. Use pastry cutter to finish cutting butter into flour.

2. Mix beaten egg with half-and-half; pour into flour mixture. Toss with fork until large clumps form. Turn mixture onto floured work surface and lightly knead until it comes together.

3. Pat dough into 9- by 6-inch rectangle, 3/4 inch thick. Flour 2 3/4-inch biscuit cutter; cut 6 dough rounds. (You can use scraps and make 1-2 more biscuits, though they will not be as smooth in appearance). Place 1 inch apart on small baking sheet; brush dough tops with egg white and sprinkle with remaining sugar. (Can be covered and refrigerated up to 2 hours before baking.) Bake until golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes. Place baking sheet on wire rack; cool cakes until warm, about 10 minutes.

Chill nonreactive, deep, 1- to 1 1/2-quart bowl and beaters for a handheld mixer in freezer for at least 20 minutes. Add cream, sugar, and vanilla to chilled bowl; beat on low speed until small bubbles form, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium; continue beating until beaters leave a trail, about 30 seconds more. Increase speed to high; continue beating until cream is smooth, thick, and nearly doubled in volume, about 20 seconds for soft peaks or about 30 seconds for stiff peaks. If necessary, finish beating by hand to adjust consistency.

Split each cake crosswise; spoon a portion of berries and then a dollop of whipped cream over each cake bottom. Cap with cake top; serve immediately.  Serves 6-8.  Adapted from Cooks Illustrated May 1997.