Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Biscuits in the Modern World

There's not a lot to be said about biscuits that hasn't been said already through the years....that doesn't mean they should be overlooked.  To the contrary!  Biscuits are important, some  might even go so far as to say mandatory with certain dishes.  And they're right!

Imagine if you will a piping hot bowl of stew without a crusty morsel or two getting dunked into the broth?  Horrors!   I know.  It's cruel of me to even suggest the possibility of such a situation.

Ingredients for home made baking powder biscuits
But you get my point.  Some foods just need a little accompaniment.  Like the difference between a solo musician and an orchestra member.  They both have talent and do what they do great....it's just that one doesn't need anybody else in a supporting role, the other one does.

Biscuits are part of that long breadline stretching all the way back through history to when the first of our ancestors pounded the heck out of something and made flour then mixed it with water and threw it on a rock in the fire. Mind you, they didn't have baking powder back then, so it would have been unleavened.

Still, imagine the "ughs" of approval around the dinner boulder that night!  Nothing like woolly mammoth stew with some freshly made cave biscuits!

Although this homey scene is fantasy, biscuits really do have a lengthy history.

Romans were issued portable breads with their rations.  They called these things  "bis coctus""  "Bis coctus" means "twice baked."  If you've recognized the root base of the term "biscotti" in that Latin, you're right!

In America, we reserve the term "biscuit" for very specific bread-types.  In England, "biscuits" mean what we call "cookies." Now the term "cooky" and "cookies" have their own language and history. We'll go into that in our upcoming holiday cookies extravaganza - a week of recipes, info and more in November!

At this point, I do want to give a shout out to a great website.  It's one I depend on for a lot of the food history info you see in this site.  Food Timeline. org.  Here's the link - http://www.foodtimeline.org!

Anyway, back to the action.
Life goes on, the cave people get tired of camping and make houses...they master the art of raising crops and improve upon their culinary skills. Some become Romans and bring the idea of  "bis coctus " into being.  Of course knowing their propensity for "incorporating" other cultures into their own, no doubt "bis cotus" had its origins on some other shore.
No matter. It all leads up to now where we have mixes, brown and serves and even fast food biscuits as possible accompaniment to our daily fare.

So how do we justify this starchy disk in these days of health consciousness and loosing weight?  We don't. We don't have to.  As in the rest of life, what someone eats is a personal choice. Besides, who said biscuits have to be unhealthy? Remember, they can be made using whole grains, just modify the recipe to allow for the density. And if you're someone who should watch their carbohydrate intake, there are great recipes out there that will allow you the enjoyment of biscuits without the no-no factor. That's why God made the Internet!

Check out this site, among many others, for diabetes recipes and info: http://www.informationaboutdiabetes.com , it's one of a ka-zillion sites out there just waiting to help you!

But enough of this talk already!  Let's cook!

BASIC BAKING POWDER BISCUITS
Recipe makes about 24 1 1/2" round biscuits       Preheat oven to 450 degrees

1 3/4 cups sifted flour   
1/2 tsp. salt (optional) 
3/4 cup milk
3 tsp. double acting baking powder
4 to 6 Tablespoons butter, margarine or shortening (or a combination thereof) solid and slightly chilled.

Dough leaving side of bowl
Sift flour again with baking powder and salt.  Cut the butter into the flour.  Make a well int the center, pour in milk then work the flour/butter combination into the milk.  Keep working until the dough freely leaves the side of the bowl.

I use a wooden paddle type spoon for this, so the heat of my hands doesn't mess with the dough. 

Turn onto a lightly floured surface.  A sheet cake pan or sided cookie sheet works wonders here.  Much better than having that mess all over the counter. Or you could try taping a few sheets of waxed paper to the counter if you want to for easy clean up.  Either way works, just don't go too wild with the rolling pin on the waxed paper....sometimes it tries to peel up and join the dough!

Knead your dough gently and lightly, folding it only 8 to 10 times. Cut this kneaded clump in half and let one half rest in the bowl while you roll the other out to your desired thickness...about 1/4 to 1/2 inch (depending on  how puffy-tall you want your biscuits).

Cut the dough into shape using a cookie or biscuit cutter that's been slightly floured.

Cut biscuits
Cap biscuit cutter
NOTE: for all you recycling fans out there, try using the caps or lids to things.  I use the release spray caps.   Being an arthritic, this re-use is as much a form of revenge as it is recycling.  See, it's hard for me to get those bloody things to snap off like they're supposed to.  So once liberated, I don't put them back.  Rather than have a bunch of caps laying around, I've found other uses for many of them. Stash cups for paper clips, bin cups for some of my larger spice jars and of course cookie and biscuit cutters! Go green!

Once cut, place the newly formed biscuits on an ungreased sheet.  While you might be tempted to give a distance between each doughy disk, when it comes to these baking powder biscuits - closeness counts!  Rather than having flat crackers, you'll have puffy, tall goodies if you don't space these things far apart. Seriously.  It's better for them to just touch one another, like those tube biscuits we all grew up with.  The closeness inhibits spreading, allowing the little bread-lets to rise together, shoulder to shoulder like a sheet full of Roman soldiers, facing the heat with brave determination.

Out of the oven, ready to eat

Okay, then put them in the oven and bake 12 to 15 minutes.
Serve piping hot with honey and butter, or as a side dish with stews, roasts, chili...you name it.

ALTERNATIVE:
To make drop biscuits, simply use 1 cup of milk, stir dough for only one minute.  Drop by spoonfuls onto an ungreased sheet and bake 12-15 minutes.

YUM!

As always, feel free to share your ideas,  recipes and comments! 





2 comments:

  1. I like your site, but I thought you were going to have more about cooking with marijuana.
    Why don't you?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for liking the blog. Please know that although I do cook with cannabis medicinally for myself, I am not blogging about it full time.

    That isn't to say you can't use the "how to" lesson I gave earlier in this blog to make Canna Butter, Canna Flour and so on then use these ingredients to modify existing recipes.

    I am not trying to hide anything. I'm just doing what I do and writing about it. When I cook with it again, I'll write about it for sure!

    I do have a question for you, however. Are you the same Anonymous who wrote before about Medical Cannabis cooking? Just curious.

    Thanks for your interest and your comments.

    ReplyDelete