"I want these hot biscuits and I want them RIGHT NOW!"
If that's your reaction, you're in luck. While immediate instant gratification isn't likely (unless you already know these biscuits' cold, dark secret), FUTURE instant gratification is a real possibility.
And the secret is...
Do the prep ahead of time, and delay gratification until such time as you REALLY need it.
As is apple pie. And cinnamon buns. To say nothing of sticky buns, and flaky cheese twists, a holiday standout that can appear on the table with drinks just 20 minutes after guests "funexpectedly" drop by.
The holidays are fast approaching. Take some time now (a Saturday afternoon, Sunday's "football zone") to plan, prepare, and freeze the treats you'll want to enjoy in late November and December – when you KNOW you'll be going in 10 directions at once.
Let's start with these simple, high-rising biscuits. They're ideal with eggs, tasty with jam and butter, they make lovely little sandwiches – and they freeze like no tomorrow.
Only with "make and freeze," there IS a tomorrow – a less-stressed, more enjoyable tomorrow.
One you'll really appreciate when "tomorrow" is December 24...
Biscuits are amenable to many kinds of flour, including whole grains. Our Perfect Pastry Blend makes particularly tender biscuits, due to its lower protein content (read: less gluten).
And with gentle handling (to tame the aforementioned gluten), our unbleached all-purpose flour makes stellar biscuits, too.
Bakewell Cream is an ingredient you'll be hard-pressed to find outside New England (or kingarthurflour.com). It's the secret to Maine's high-rising biscuits.
Here’s what the manufacturer, New England Cupboard, says about one of its favorite products:
“Bakewell Cream has been a staple in the cupboards of Maine families for generations. This unique leavening agent was created during wartime shortages in the 1940s as a substitute for cream of tartar. Its creator, Byron Smith of Bangor, Maine, named his mixture ‘Bakewell’ because he found that it did just that – bake well!
Honestly, I was never a good biscuit baker, but I swear by Bakewell Cream – and the following recipe, printed right on the can.
Preheat the oven to 475°F. Lightly grease a baking sheet, or line with parchment.
Whisk the following in a mixing bowl:
*NOT Bakewell Cream Baking Powder; just plain Bakewell Cream. If you don’t have Bakewell Cream, substitute 4 teaspoons baking powder and omit the baking soda.
Next: cold butter.
We'll need ½ cup (8 tablespoons) cold butter. I like to flatten it before adding it to the flour mixture; I think flattened butter is easier to work in.
So, whack the cold butter with a rolling pin or other heavy object...
And add it to the bowl.
Work in the butter until the mixture is crumbly; some larger, pea-sized pieces of butter may remain intact.
Add 1 1/4 to 1/2 cups cold milk; this time of year, after a long, humid summer, you'll want to start with the lesser amount of milk.
How come? Flour is like a sponge; in hot, humid weather it absorbs moisture from the air. You'll find the recipe you used all winter suddenly requires less liquid in summer.
Stir gently, just until the dough comes together. Use a spatula or bowl scraper to scrape the dough into the center of the bowl.
Gather the dough into a ball.
Transfer it to a lightly greased or lightly floured work surface (a silicone rolling mat works well), and fold it over once or twice. Pat it into a ¾"- to 1"-thick square, rectangle, or circle.
Note: I've divided my dough in half, since I want to make both square and round biscuits. If you're patting out all the dough at once, you'll make a larger circle than the one pictured below.
Cut the biscuits with a 2 1/4" cutter, or the cutter of your choice.
Gather any scraps, re-roll, and cut additional biscuits, until you've used up all the dough.
Unfortunately, re-rolling dough like this does tend to toughen the biscuits. If you're not heavily into round biscuits – make square ones, and avoid any re-rolling.
Or, rather than re-roll, simply pile dough scraps atop one another, press gently to combine, and cut. Biscuits shaped this way will have odd-looking tops, but will taste just fine.
Shape the dough into a square instead of a round.
Cut squares; a bench knife works well here. But if you're working on silicone, be careful! Press down gently, lest you cut the mat.
I wonder if you could avoid those rounded corners by patting the dough into a square pan before cutting?
Absolutely. An 8" x 8" square pan is just the right size. Pat it in...
...turn it out and cut squares. Or just cut them right in the pan, if you like, and lift them out.
OK, back to our round (and square, and triangular) biscuits.
Place the biscuits on the prepared baking sheet.
Now, you can go two ways here: bake the biscuits right away; or freeze, bag, and bake at a later date.
To enjoy biscuits right away, brush their tops with milk or melted butter, if desired. Bake them for 5 minutes, then turn off the oven. Leave in the oven for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, until they're golden brown.
But I think I'll freeze these biscuits. Cover with plastic wrap, and slide into the freezer.
Once they're frozen, remove from the freezer, bag airtight, and store in the freezer for up to a couple of months.
[leaves fall off calendar... time passes...]
Man, that was one tough day at work. I need some comfort food, and I need it FAST.
Frozen biscuits to the rescue!
Remove the biscuits from the freezer, and place them on a baking sheet. Brush with milk or melted butter, if desired.
Pssst... Here's another great thing about freezing biscuits: bake only as many as you need. Looking for 3 or 4 biscuits for your empty-nester dinner? You've got 'em.
Bake the biscuits for 8 minutes in a preheated 475°F oven.
They'll look half-baked; that's OK.
Turn the heat off, and leave the biscuits in the oven for another 5 to 8 minutes, until they're golden brown.
Remove from the oven.
Now those are some nice-looking biscuits!
Apply soft butter. Relax. Enjoy.
How about some variations?
Toss 1 cup diced sharp cheddar cheese with the dry ingredients and butter, just before adding the milk.
And then there's chocolate chip. Same deal; add 1 cup chocolate chips to the mixture just before adding the milk.
Once you've brushed biscuits with milk, sprinkle the chocolate chip version with coarse white sparkling sugar, if desired. I forgot to do it this time, but it totally makes the biscuit.
Frozen biscuits – they're money in the (food) bank.