March 27, 2018

Dear friends,

I do not dye eggs and decorate my home with china bunnies. I say that with regret. I admire the zest of elderly women in senior apartments who put spring wreaths on their doors and whip up a celebration, no matter how small. I wish I could join them but I can’t.

I’m not world-weary; I’m simply incapable of summoning enthusiasm for a spring fete that does not include chocolate. No chocolate bunnies. No chocolate-marshmallow eggs. No Cadbury eggs with caramel centers. No sugar, period.

Ah, well. If I can’t have chocolate I’ll say it with biscuits. I found a recipe for biscuits that are so tall and fluffy they’re almost cause for celebration themselves. If you plan to have friends and relatives over for Easter dinner, these biscuits will make your day. They rise to ridiculous heights in tender layers that puff upward like an accordion.

I found the recipe in my friend Kathleen Purvis’ blog, I’ll Bite (www.charlotteobserver.com/living/food-drink/ill-bite-blog). A few years ago a reader sent her a photo of the biscuits she perfected, and Kathi nailed down the recipe and technique. When I made the biscuits Sunday, I added a clarification or two to the recipe to help ensure consistent results.

The biscuits employ cold butter and a folding technique similar to that of puff pastry. The cold butter is grated into self-rising flour, enough buttermilk is added to produce a dough, and the dough is rolled and folded six times. The folding and rolling distributes the butter through the flour in layers that become air pockets when the butter melts in the oven. Ta da! — tall, flaky biscuits.

The butter must not melt before the biscuits go into the oven, so everything — flour, rolling pin, bowl, grater — is refrigerated before using. The butter itself is frozen.

You’ll need a 2 to 3-inch biscuit cutter or glass with a thin rim of the same circumference. Don’t twist the cutter into the dough or the biscuits won’t rise properly; press the cutter straight down.

I am munching a biscuit as I write this. It isn’t chocolate and I’m not belting out “Here Comes Peter Cottontail,” but for a biscuit it’s pretty good.

TALL FLAKY BISCUITS

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1/2 cup (1 stick) frozen butter
2 1/2 cups self-rising flour, preferably White Lily, plus more for dusting work surface
1 cup buttermilk
1 to 2 tbsp. salted butter

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Place butter in freezer. Place flour in a mixing bowl and the mixing bowl in the freezer. Chill a rolling pin (preferably marble) and a box grater.

When the butter is frozen, grate it with the large holes of a box grater into the bowl of chilled flour, tossing with flour every few minutes.

Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the buttermilk. Starting slowly with a wooden spoon, toss flour from the edge into the pool of buttermilk, then continue gently mixing until all the buttermilk is mixed in. All of the flour should be moistened enough to stick together. If not, gently stir in enough milk to produce a soft dough. Do not mix more than necessary. Place in the freezer to rest for 10 minutes.

Scrape the dough onto a floured work surface. Pat and press the dough gently to form a mound. Using a cold, floured rolling pin, roll in one direction to flatten slightly, then fold the dough in thirds like an envelope and make a quarter turn. Repeat five times to form a rectangle of dough that’s about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick.

Using a round biscuit cutter dipped in flour, press straight down without twisting. Place the biscuits on a parchment-lined baking sheet slightly touching. Pull the scraps together, reroll and continue cutting out biscuits until you have 12.

Bake 12 to 15 minutes, until tops are golden brown. Watch carefully so the biscuits don’t burn. Remove from oven and immediately brush with melted salted butter. Serve warm.

Yield: 12 biscuits.

Note: Biscuits are best when eaten fresh from the oven.

 

GUT CHECK

What I cooked last week:
Greek lemon-egg soup; chicken salad with dried cherries and pecans; tall, flaky biscuits; pan-grilled sockeye salmon with lemon-cilantro sauce, fried potato nuggets, asparagus with butter.

What I ate last week in and from restaurants:
Bacon and egg on English muffin at Alexandri’s in Wadsworth; salmon roe on sushi rice from Sushi Katsu in Akron; sloppy Joe at Mrs. J’s Restaurant in Orrville; fried lake perch, coleslaw (with horseradish, I think), a bite of mac and cheese, oven-fried potatoes at St. Thomas Eastern Orthodox Church in Copley (catered by Totally Cooked); a hamburger and onion rings from Hamburger Station.

THE MAILBAG  

From Mike:
After last week’s post, we found out that Southern Gardens is actually still open. They did away with the weird Southern food portion of the menu, kept the Asian and the spot is called Thai Pattaya. Same great Asian dishes including, of course, the pho. We went there last Friday. It was busy. I tried the red curry soup for a change and it was great, too.

Dear Mike:
Thank you and also Sally O. who notes the restaurant is alive and thriving at 497 Portage Lakes Drive in Coventry Twp.

The website is thai-pattaya-restaurant.business.site.

From Rachel:
Tell me more about sweet soy sauce for your lemon fettuccine and shrimp recipe. I use regular ol’ Kikkoman for most of my soy-based marinades; would it work here? What if I’m trying to cut sugars wherever possible? And would you recommend fresh or dried pasta for this one?

Dear Rachel:
Sweet soy sauce, called exactly that in Asian stores, is thick and sweet. It makes a nice glaze for grilled meats and vegetables. In this case, you could substitute regular soy sauce without much flavor difference. I used the sweet because it helps the coating to caramelize on the shrimp in the pan. I used fresh pasta for the recipe; either fresh or dried will work fine.

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