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Cooking with Myra: Bake biscuits from scratch

By By Myra Starkey
Sept. 17, 2013 at 4:17 a.m.

Biscuits

ANGEL BISCUITS OR CREAM BISCUITS

Easy and quick, these are best made small and eaten right out of the oven.

• 2 cups flour, sifted

• 3 tsp. baking powder

• 1/2 tsp. salt

• 1 1/4 cup heavy cream

In a bowl, sift the dry ingredients. In another bowl, beat the cream until it can hold a shape. Fold in the dry ingredients and knead for one minute. Pat dough about 3/4-inch thick and cut with small biscuit cutter (1 1/2-2 inch). Prick the surface of each biscuit with a fork. Place on ungreased baking sheet and bake 450 degrees for 12 minutes.

BACON AND CHEDDAR BISCUITS

(My son, Spencer, thinks these are almost as good as Red Lobster Cheddar Bay biscuits.)

• 4 slices thick-cut bacon, fried and crumbled

• 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

• 2 tsp. baking powder

• 1/4 tsp. baking soda

• 1 tsp. kosher salt

• 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives

• 6 Tbsp. cold salted butter

• 1 cup grated medium cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cook bacon in skillet and then drain on paper towel. Reserve 2 Tbsp. of bacon drippings. Crumble bacon.

In a large bowl, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, bacon and chives. Using a fork or pastry blender, work butter into the mixture until the butter is in pea-size pieces. Stir in the cheese, bacon drippings and buttermilk. Stir with a wooden spoon until just moistened. Dough is very sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead about three times, adding a dusting of flour to keep from sticking. Pat into a 1/2-inch thick slab and cut biscuits using a 2-inch floured biscuit cutter or a glass turned upside down. Arrange on an ungreased baking sheet. You may reroll the scraps to cut out more biscuits. Brush top with butter and bake for 12-17 minutes or until golden brown.

BUTTERLESS BISCUITS

These biscuits are big enough to slather with sausage gravy or make an egg breakfast sandwich.

4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting work surface

1 tsp. baking soda

1 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

3 tsp. sugar

1 cup solid vegetable shortening

2 1/2 cups buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk flour, soda, baking powder, salt and sugar. Add shortening and using a pastry cutter, cut through the shortening until you have small, pea-sized pieces. These will disperse through the biscuit and make them lighter. Add buttermilk and use a wooden spoon to mix all ingredients.

Mix until you form a dough, which will be sticky. Flour your hands and then knead dough until you have formed a ball. Sprinkle flour on your work surface and place dough ball on surface. Pat out until you have a slab about 1/2-inch thick. Fold dough over once and roll out again. Do this five times and then pat dough out to 1/2- to 3/4-inch thickness. Using a 31/2-inch biscuit cutter, cut out as many biscuits as you can. Reroll dough and continue. Place on ungreased baking sheet.

Bake for 20 minutes, rotating the baking pan during the process to insure even heat distribution. Brush the tops with melted butter if desired and serve immediately.

Have you ever been so tired that it is hard to function? My grandmother, Hazel, used the expressions "bone weary" or "dog tired" interchangeably to describe how she was feeling after a day of cooking.

I could relate to the latter by seeing our old Labrador, Blackie, after the hunt, refusing to move and just laying still. Being a child, I was distressed by the dog's lack of desire to eat a dog treat or play with us, but my grandma said he was just dog tired, and that about summed it up. I am dog tired.

It hasn't always been that way. Lately, after a full day of work, I seem to just want to sit around and watch television. I am unsure of exactly what is sapping my energy. I seem to work about the same number of hours I always have, but for some reason at 52, I don't rebound as quickly.

Or perhaps it is stress that presses in on all sides but generally has no real name. Actually, I do know why I am stressed. My mom died a year ago, and my 80-year-old father is getting married again, and I am having to get his financial affairs in order.

Maybe I am finally finding out that things don't always turn out exactly like you think they will. I know I am not alone in this, as several close friends have confided that they feel the same way.

In each of our lives, there are things that occur which we have little control over. As I have gotten older and hopefully wiser, I have learned there are many factors that determine the outcome of any given situation.

No matter what occurs, I can always choose my reaction and my attitude. Situations occur in our lives that we can't anticipate. We merely have to grin and bear it. Therein lies the difficulty ... the ability to grin. It is hard to smile when things are not going your way.

Last week, I was in a rush. I had to cook dinner because I was entertaining friends, and something happened at work that delayed my departure until about 5:30 p.m. I still had to go to the grocery store to pick up several items for that night. I arrived and could not find a parking space close, so I ended up at the end of a row.

Seriously, there were so many cars I figured it was either a hurricane warning or a massive "everything must go" sale. I picked up my purse and ran to the door. Once inside, I realized I had left my shopping list in the center console and had to run back to get it.

By now, in the South Texas heat, my shirt was sticking to my back, and I was perspiring so much that I was wiping the sweat from my eyes. This would not have been a problem - except it appeared I was crying because the mascara had spread on my cheeks and underneath my eyes.

Not realizing my cosmetic situation, I raced through the produce, grabbing bags of lettuce and tomatoes. I did see several people look my way and give me a slightly odd look.

Once I made it to where the frozen bread used to be, I discovered that section had been moved because of the new and improved reorganization of the store. I was at my wit's end and out of time. There is nothing more frustrating than to not be able to find something you need while in a rush.

An elderly lady stopped me halfway down one aisle and asked if I needed anything. I inquired whether she worked at the store, and she did not. Weird, I thought, but she did not leave or move from in front of my basket. So I asked if she needed something, and she stammered and asked if I was OK.

I simply said, "Why do you ask?" She crinkled her old eyes and explained that I looked upset, like I had been crying. Now, I thought about crying. After all, in less than one hour, 10 friends would be arriving for dinner, and I was still searching for the frozen bread.

I checked my face in a compact mirror and was horrified. I looked like I had been sobbing for hours with my raccoon eyes. I thanked her for caring and explained that I must have rubbed my eyes, which she probably didn't believe. The fact is, I was weary, dog tired and could have cried. I felt rushed, not up to the challenge, inadequate, unprepared and simply a mess. And it is probably not the first or last time.

On the way home, I mentally went over the items on my list that had to be done - repairing makeup being the first. I pulled off the dinner, mainly by recruiting my early arriving guests to be my assistant chefs. I sat and enjoyed the food and conversation, feeling lighter, and then we said our goodbyes, and I fell into bed, exhausted.

At my age, sleep is something glorious when it happens instantly. That is frequently not the case. I don't drink alcohol, so I don't have that to assist me. Since menopause, I occasionally have to take a sleeping pill.

Taylor just falls right to sleep, but I think it is because he drinks a glass of wine every night. He claims his doctor told him to do that - but I know he considers himself to be his own doctor. I know I must get enough sleep to be able to get up and do it all over again the following day.

Not every day leaves me tired. Sometimes, I have so much energy that I feel like I should put on my jogging shoes and run, only I don't remember where I put them. I do try to cherish each day because I know a lot of people are not blessed with another sunrise. At times, I feel like I just want to sit down in a quiet room. Some of my feelings just mean I am entering middle age, and my drive to accomplish great things is diminishing.

I may not make it into the history books. I can barely concentrate well enough to even read a history book. I know that life doesn't always turn out like you hoped, no matter how hard you try. But I have also figured out that if I put on my apron, get out the flour, sugar and butter and start cooking, I feel a sense of purpose.

I have been working on biscuit recipes. Growing up in Louisiana, we never had white gravy poured over our biscuits. Biscuits are served with jelly or preserves from the season before when the harvest was plentiful. Taylor's mom, Nell, is a beekeeper, so we always have a ready supply of Texas honey, which we slather on almost everything from toast to biscuits.

I tried about three recipes - all very different depending on your mood. Most can be eaten the following day by reheating, but the biscuits are never as good as when they first come out of the oven and are hot and flaky.

The contents of your pantry and refrigerator might dictate the recipe you choose. Although prepared baking mix cuts your time in half, the greatest satisfaction comes from those you make from scratch.

Enjoy.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901 or email myra@vicad.com.

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