01 October 2010

biscuit-y goodness

When I think 'biscuit', I think of Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen, of light, fluffy, buttery, flaky, salty, warm, stupefyingly good, ode-worthy biscuits in the finest Southern tradition.

Their biscuits are the epitome of biscuity goodness. I've tried for years to come near that level of unbelieveable yumminess and textural delight, but to no avail. I mean, I've made some decent biscuits over the years, but nothing like the Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen.

So I recently revisited this obsession, searching the interwebs high and low for the SBK recipe, and finally found something in a Daily Tar Heel article. 5 pounds of flour, 24 oz of butter (that's SIX sticks, in case you were wondering) and a gallon of buttermilk. Mix ingredients, bake at 400 for 15 minutes. Makes 45 biscuits. And that, literally, is all they wrote.

I was so close, I could almost taste it. (Ha!) So I experimented. First I broke the recipe down into quantities a normal person would use. This required math, but I stuck with it. Then I did several test runs.

I'm sure they were using self-rising flour, and probably one of the traditional southern varieties, at that. This explains the lack of leavening agent; one cup of self-rising flour equates to one cup of all-purpose flour plus 1 1/4 tsp baking powder and 1/8 tsp salt. The next time I use this recipe, I'm going to use 4 1/2 or 5 teaspoons of baking powder (at high altitude, you're supposed to reduce the baking powder by about 1/4 tsp per tsp).

I also turned to the magical interwebs for biscuit-making tips. One was to press straight down when cutting the biscuits out; twisting the cutter/glass evidently compresses the edges and hamper the biscuit's fluffiness. And the good lord knows we definitely do not want that.

Keep your butter as cold as possible when baking. Another traditional tip is to keep your flour cold. One food blogger went so far as to always keep flour in the freezer. I think I'll just put the dough in the fridge when it's resting or if I need to step away for a few to take care of the kiddo.

If you want to increase the biscuit's flakiness, form a rectangle with the dough, then fold it in on itself in thirds before you roll it out and cut it.

One more tip: a professional baker once told me, "Never bake angry." That also goes for stressed out or otherwise upset. Your emotions will come out in your dough. I've had this tip confirmed by other pro baker friends over the years. So get happy, then get baking, friends.

I'm not gonna lie to you: SBK's biscuits still reign supreme. But this recipe takes a pretty good shot at bringing biscuity goodness into your home. Enjoy.

UPDATE: September 9, 2014 - I just updated and retested this recipe, and it's um, pretty freaking amazing. (If I do say so.) Let me know any other tips or modifications you used in the comments - thanks! 

Wanna-Be Sunrise Biscuits

4 c flour (18 oz, 510 grams)
2 tsp salt
5 tsp baking powder (4 tsp at high altitude)
1 tsp baking soda
10 T cold butter (unsalted)
1 3/4 c buttermilk
1 egg, beaten (for egg wash) (or you can use a dash more buttermilk)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees (425 high altitude). Briefly whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture. Make a well in the middle and pour in the buttermilk. Use your hands to gently, lightly mix together; handle the dough as little as possible. It will be extremely wet and sticky; do not panic. Add a tiny bit of flour, but resist adding too much. The more flour, the denser your biscuits. Instead, form into a ball and let rest a few minutes, say 5-10; this allows the flour in the dough to absorb the liquids and make it less sticky. You'll be surprised at the difference. Add a tiny bit more flour if it's still tacking to your fingers a lot at this point, and let it rest a couple more minutes.

Roll out on a lightly floured surface to 3/4 or 1 inch thick. Use a 3 inch glass or biscuit cutters to cut rounds from the dough. (If you make them smaller, just decrease the baking time a bit.) Place the rounds on a buttered baking sheet (or freeze them in layers of wax paper to bake later). Brush the tops and sides with an egg mixed with 1 T water, or a dash of buttermilk - like 1T or less - mixed with a bit of water. Bake for 15 minutes (add three or so minutes if baking frozen dough) until golden brown. Makes about 15 biscuits. Eat immediately for maximum bliss; once cooled, they will keep well in tightly sealed container for up to 48 hours (I mean, I'm guessing, but we never seem to make it that long.) You can also freeze the baked biscuits, but I recommend reheating in the microwave with a damp paper towel to restore that essential biscuity moisture. 

08 June 2010

Desperate times call for a delicious lunch.

Wow. I'm typing this as I savor the results of a successful kitchen experiment, and watching the world's cutest baby insert her foot into her mouth with joy and aplomb. (If only foot-in-mouth stayed cute; ditto for chubby thighs.)

Anyway. We have total randomness in our cupboards, I have a day off and three days' worth of stuff to get done, and I somehow managed to throw together something I'd never even dreamed of before, but that turned out tasty, fast and easy to make. It's also pretty heart-healthy.

With a baby around, it's hard to find the time to cook elaborate meals, let alone blog about them. Honestly, I don't know how Deb does it, and does it so darn well.  But this really is the ideal protein fix for anyone who only has the time or energy to spend about 15 minutes max on lunch or dinner.

Tuna Couscous Salad

1 can tuna (6 oz)
1/3 c couscous (I use organic whole wheat)
1 and 2/3 c water (divided)
~1/4 c frozen peas
~1 tsp lemon juice, or more to taste
~1/8 tsp oregano
~1/8 tsp dill
~1/8 tsp smoked paprika
~2 1/2 T olive oil, divided (I use organic extra virgin)
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
fresh ground black pepper to taste

Put 2/3 c water, about 1/2 T olive oil, and couscous in a pot with a tight-fitting lid. Cover, bring to a boil, remove from heat, let sit while you assemble the rest of the stuff (5 minutes).

While that's boiling/sitting, rinse the tuna, put it in a medium-sized bowl with the olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, dill, smoked paprika, and garlic. Use a fork to stir it all together. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. 

By now your couscous should be ready. Use the fork to fluff it (just stir it up a little in the pot) before you scrape it all into the bowl. Rinse out the pot and put the other 1 c water and the 1/4 c peas in there. Cover, bring to a boil, remove from heat and let sit for 3-5 minutes. Drain and stir into the tuna couscous salad. Add fresh ground pepper, taste once more, make any last minute adjustments, and enjoy.

Serves 2, or one very hungry nursing mother. :)

23 April 2010

Brunchy Joy

Ever have an ingredient that you love so much, you just want to use it every day til it runs out? Me, too. Especially when it comes to fresh produce; we had asparagus in our meals four nights in a row last week. This week, I picked up two 2-pound bags of Klamath Pearl baby potatoes on sale at the health food store, and now when I'm not eating them, I'm dreaming up recipes for them.

This morning I was in a brunchy sort of mood. This happens to me fairly often, but today is grey and chilly and the baby and I snoozed much of the morning away together. It was 1:30 before I got around to eating my first meal, but I saw no reason to miss breakfast just because I'd had a lazy morning. Okay, really, I just wanted eggs. And potatoes. And hollandaise sauce, which I'd only tried to make once before and was a spectacular failure at the time.

The thing that's so scary about hollandaise sauce, to me, is that there are about 813 billion ways of making it, and everyone claims theirs is the classic, perfect, awesomest method. Even the ingredients, which I thought were pretty much de rigeur, vary from recipe to recipe; some use vinegar, others lemon juice, some use both. Some use water, some don't. Some use cayenne, others use paprika. How is a hollandaise novice supposed to know which is the right path?

19 March 2010

Two-Tone Couscous

Since we had a baby, time's been at a premium. I am given yet another reason to love couscous; it's definitely new-parent friendly with its quick cooking time. Lately, I've been eating whole wheat couscous, which I was delighted to find doesn't taste very different at all from regular couscous. More whole grains are always a good thing.

This recipe is really simple and fast, I'm guessing under 20 minutes although I wasn't watching the clock. Sadly, I don't have a picture of the finished product, largely because my camera ran out of juice after I took my 8 billionth baby photo. But this dish is pretty much all red and tan, which is why I called it two-tone couscous; you could throw spinach in there and have a nice thematically-colored holiday meal, if you wanted (Christmas couscous! wouldn't that make your season merry and bright?).

Okay, anyway, speaking of lack of sleep (we were, weren't we?), I'd better get this recipe written down before the baby wakes up again.

Two-Tone Couscous

1/2 c whole wheat couscous
3/4 c water
2 T olive oil, divided
~ 3/4 tsp oregano
~ 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large roasted red pepper, diced
1 can garbanzo beans
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
~ 1 tsp lemon juice
~ 1/4 c fresh cilantro, chopped
fresh ground black pepper & salt to taste

Put the couscous, water and 1 T olive oil in a small pot, cover, and turn on high. As soon as steam starts coming out, remove from heat, stir once, and cover again. Let sit for at least 5 minutes.

In a medium saucepan, heat 1 T olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and let cook for 3-5 minutes, until the garlic smells awesome. Add the roasted red pepper and oregano, stir, and let cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, garbanzo beans, lemon juice, and smoked paprika, stir and cover. Let simmer for ~10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste, add pepper & salt, and adjust the other seasonings as desired.

Fluff the couscous with a fork and put in a serving bowl. Pour the sauce over the couscous. Top with cilantro.

Serves 2, unless one of you is breastfeeding, in which case it's all you.

15 March 2010

The bread o' the Irish

One of my favorite holidays of the year is fast approaching. Really, who doesn't love St. Patrick's Day? Let's drink some tasty stouts and listen to Celtic music. Sounds like a great plan to me.

In addition to some great beers and fast fiddlin', the rest of the world is lucky the Irish have shared another part of their culture: soda bread. I absolutely love Irish soda bread, especially when it's just out of the oven and you have some honey butter (or, separately, butter and honey) to put on it. So... tasty... *swoon*

I first posted this recipe way back in the summer of 2007, but thought I'd repost it in honor of the holiday. This recipe is adapted from the Moosewood Restaurant's Low-Fat Favorites cookbook and Bernard Clayton's Complete Book of Breads.

Slainte!

Irish Soda Bread

1 1/2 c unbleached white flour
1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 T packed brown sugar
4 T cold butter
1 egg
1 c buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375 deg. F. Lightly oil baking sheet. Mix dry ingredients. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or using two knives.

In a separate bowl, mix wet ingredients. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients, and pour the wet mixture into the well. Stir until evenly moist.

Turn onto lightly floured surface, kneading just a little. Mound on baking sheet into ~ 9" domed loaf. Lightly cut an X in the top with a sharp knife. Bake ~ 45 minutes.