Biscuit saga. Biscuit saga. Must. Write. Worst. Blogger. EVER.
So, in the last week, I’ve made four batches of biscuits with three recipes. Well, actually, only two recipes, but the first one I made in two different ways, although the ingredients were the same.
I was going to make Alton’s recipe, but I was looking at it, and there was a note from Ma Mae (AB’s grandmother, biscuit doyenne) that said, “I don’t have much use for recipes but the one you get on a bag of White Lily self-rising flour is hard to beat. And it’s a lot easier than the one my crazy grandson dreamed up.”
So I decided to try the White Lily “Light” Biscuit recipe. The change I made was that instead of 1/4 cup of shortening, I used two tablespoons each of shortening and butter. The first day, I made the dough in a food processor. I figured that would be the easiest way, since I didn’t have a pastry cutter and the two knife technique seemed entirely too time-consuming. If you’re going to use a food processor, just use it to cut in the fat. I added the buttermilk to the processor and ended up overworking the dough. I also added too much buttermilk (one cup instead of the 2/3 to 3/4 cup specified- I had out the wrong measuring cup). Then, I decided to bake them at 425 instead of 500- I was trying to integrate certain aspects of the Alton Brown recipe (Food Network puts the oven temperature at 450 for his biscuits, but the episode transcript says 400- I put more faith in the transcripts to get what he said right). To finish, I cut the biscuits far too large. They looked like hockey pucks. They were really quite flat.
The next day, I tried again. I used the rasp on the butter, and that worked like a charm. I used the proper amount of buttermilk, I mixed the dough in a bowl so it wouldn’t get overworked, and I cut the biscuits smaller. I added a little extra salt and baking powder to the dough. I can’t remember if I went up or down 25 degrees on the oven temperature. These turned out much better, although they still weren’t rising as high as I had hoped. I brought a combination of the two recipes to D&D that night, along with my over/under-cooked fried chicken (more on that in another post).
Over on the Television Without Pity Good Eats forum thread, a poster by the name of lotusbear recommended the Cook’s Illustrated Flaky Biscuit recipe. I was over at Jon and Ryan’s and was flipping through their issues of Cook’s, seeing if that recipe had been updated recently. (The reason I did this was because the new mac & cheese turned out so much better than the old mac & cheese.) Lo! In the latest issue, there were a couple of pages on “Mile-High Biscuits.” Excellent!
Now, one of the differences here is that these biscuits are dropped, not rolled. I suppose this makes them more tender, since you’re not working the dough while pressing it out to be cut. The Cook’s Illustrated recipe use regular AP flour and all butter. Even with the extra protein in the flour and the lack of tenderness contributed by shortening, I have to say, these biscuits were the CLEAR winner. The only complaint I have is that the bottoms get a little overbrowned. The dough is extremely wet, so make sure you’ve got plenty of flour on the baking sheet or the dough will stick to everything.
So, three cheers for the crazy Yanks over at Cook’s Illustrated!