Monday, July 28, 2008

A stack of biscuits fresh from the oven

Among bakers, one hears the expression "She has a good biscuit hand". Like pie crusts, biscuits are a measure of a bakers talents and a pastry in which bakers take particular pride.

To have a good biscuit hand is to have a light touch and restraint–a biscuit dough is so soft that it invites poking and prodding, kneading and mashing, when it should be barely worked. The golden rule with biscuits is to stop doing whatever you're doing to them two beats before you have to. So when you're rubbing the shortening and flour together and there are still some chubby chunks of shortening–stop. When you're tossing the flour and shortening mixture with the milk and the dough looks only just moistened–stop. And when you turn the dough out onto the counter and knead it just to work it into a mass, count each knead, get to ten–and stop.

Baking with Julia written by Dorie Greenspan

It's strawberry season and therefore ... it's biscuit season. I'm constantly trying out new biscuit recipes, always on the search for the perfect biscuit - soft and flaky, a mile high and tender with a slightly crunchy crust. The dry ingredients most often stay the same but I've been experimenting with different recipes using butter, cream or shortening for the fat required to make the perfect "short" biscuit. This particular recipe is from the book Baking With Julia - and that would be Julia Child. It's written by Dorie Greenspan who has her own great food/baking blog here. It's a big beautiful coffee table cookbook, glorious photos and equally fantastic recipes. A book that was the companion to an amazing PBS (love my PBS) series called Baking With Julia. A show where each week she had a different famous pastry/dessert chef or baker guest to make with Julia one or two of their particular specialties.

I would say that I have finally found my go-to biscuit recipe. Leave out the sugar and lemon zest and it would be a perfect biscuit to accompany savoury dishes or to top Chicken Pot Pie. Yum.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup of solid vegetable shortening
1 cup of milk

I also added 1 tbsp. of white sugar for Strawberry Shortcake biscuits

I would also add a tbsp. of finally chopped lemon zest and next time I might try buttermilk instead of the 1% milk that I used

Preheat oven to 425 - place rack in the centre. Un-greased baking sheets. I used a pizza stone.

Stir dry ingredients together. Add shortening and with fingertips rub the flour and shortening together making little crumbs until most of the shortening is mixed with the flour. Don't worry if there are a few larger pieces left. Add the milk and stir with a fork. You'll have a sticky dough.

Dump the sticky dough onto a well floured surface and knead the dough 10 times, no more. I rolled and patted my dough into a circle about 3/4 - 1" high and then cut the circle into triangular biscuits. You can brush the biscuits with melted butter or whipping cream and sprinkle with sugar before baking. Bake 12-15 minutes or until golden on top.

The sounds outside my office window are mostly the usual suspects this morning - crows and seagulls, a distant cat squabble. But also a ship is leaving the harbour and the haunting and beautiful call of a loon swimming somewhere nearby. The sounds carry incredibly in this early morning stillness.

Oh and I have an amazingly neat and tidy garden shed ! How totally satisfying does it feel to have that job done - and done well I might add. I even had the time to mow the the other half of my lawn. Most of the items that I dragged to curbside including old wooden window frames-all 12 of them magically disappeared overnight. Our yearly big garbage day pick-up becomes it's own kind of Freecycle.


  1. I always struggled with biscuit making no recipe ever seemed to turn out, no technique or tip ever seemed to work for me. The biscuits never rose even though I made sure all the ingredient was at their freshest. I excelled at bread making, or so I’m told, biscuit making I failed. Then I discovered Firefly’s Blue Ribbon Biscuit recipe; I have not looked back. I now can say I can make biscuits… they are delicious, fluffy and beautiful, even if I do say so myself however best of all so does everyone who has tried them.
    The recipe
    Your biscuits look wonderful.
    Don’t you just love when you find the perfect recipe, the one that never fails?

  2. Oh! I'd love to sink my teeth into one of those biscuits right now! I love biscuits and being born and raised in the south, they were a staple in my home and I learned to make them early. I was sort of "famous" for them in my circle of friends. But then, 15 years ago or so I must have gone on a diet or something because I totally quit making them. Zoom to last year: I decided I would start baking them again and to my dismay I'd lost the touch. I must have tried 5 or 6 recipes, but I couldn't get it. Now your photos have inspired me to try again. I'll try Julia's recipe and Paula's also. Julia Child was my most beloved cooking mentor. I learned most of the techniques I know, and most importantly, how to cook vegetables from her 2 volumes on French cooking many years ago. I loved that woman.

  3. Mmmmmm.... those look wonderful Susan....

    My old Canadiana cookbook has some of the best and easiest to understand when it comes to fav and "go-to" recipes and also just for info.....I'll have to check out the biscuit recipe to see if it differs from yours....

    this week...I must get the Empire recipe up on the other blog...but, today...
    lunch and catch up with my favourite massage therapist. He is the best in the business Took me under his wing when I first began to do learn therapeutic massage... now that I don't work in the field anymore... ..he is my therapist... plus he is one of the nicest men I have met (other than my own sweetie) and we can talk about anything and everything for hours....wish I could still trade regularly for massage.....but my elbows and wrists just can't take it anymore....and he is a big body to work on..... however, he will get muffins today..... I always bake to take when I go....

  4. One of my favorite things in the whole wide world is baking. And, anything with dough...heaven! We always use buttermilk in our biscuits down here. With honey, or jelly, they are tasty little treats! My husband also turns those leftover into delicious cinnamon biscuits for breakfast. Gee...I gotta go make some now, don't I?

  5. Yum! And so glad you were successful in cleaning and organizing the garden shed. Our rosebush has eleven lovely buds, and my hubby longs for a garden of our own, sigh.

  6. hiya...again...who do you hear from more than me?...hahahha..

    I was too embarrassed to leave yet another entry on today's am here tell you that ... yesssss... *fist pump*... the Empire cookies are now up at Tea and Scones blog!!


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