Touch of Grace Biscuits
July 26, 2014
If you’re like me, there are a few recipes that you don’t deviate from. This might be because the recipe you have for pumpkin pie is amazing and you can’t think of anything you’d change (which is true. I’m always disappointed by new pumpkin pie recipes I try) or because it seems so simple and basic that there aren’t very many variations out there.
I’ll use the example of biscuits. Most people have a recipe they grew up with or feel comfortable using at a moments notice. Since biscuits usually play a supporting role in meals, they’re usually an afterthought. Something to spread jam on (like the glorious Bright Strawberry Jam ) or serve with sausage gravy.
It’s hardly surprising that I hadn’t looked for a new biscuit recipe, when most all of them are some ratio of flour, leavener, and butter/cream, but when I read Shirley Corriher’s Bakewise, her biscuit recipe caught my eye.
Her recipe starts out looking like the average biscuit recipe: whisk dry ingredients and rub in butter, stir in cream and then buttermilk till you get a cottage cheese like texture (hmm, intriguing, right?). But here’s where I knew I had to try them. You mix this strange concoction, but don’t beat in any more flour. Instead, you drop scoopfuls of the dough onto flour and then form a ball while passing it between your hands. The slightly floury balls of dough are squished together in a pan and baked till golden.
The science behind it (her book is all about the science of baking) is that the wet biscuit dough steams up underneath the flour exterior. If that sounds confusing or like magic, it’s because I’m terrible at explaining scientific things and, well, they are magical. These are the most tender, buttery, and slightly sweet biscuits I’ve ever had. After eating three or four right out of the oven (they are smallish), I forced myself to put some away for breakfast and I’m pleased to say that they keep very well the next day. Sort of like a reward for discovering my new favorite biscuits.
- 3 cups flour, divided
- 2¾ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup sugar (might want to use half if making biscuits for a savory dish)
- ¼ butter, room temp
- ⅔ cup heavy cream
- 1 cup buttermilk (can add more to achieve cottage cheese like consistency)
- 1½ tablespoons butter, melted
- Heat oven to 425 and butter an 8" or 9" baking dish/cake pan (a square 8" will make 16 and a round will make a few less).
- In a medium bowl, whisk 2 cups of the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Rub the butter into the dry mixture until no big pieces remain. Stir in the cream, then stir in the buttermilk till the dough looks like cottage cheese. You'll probably have to drizzle in more buttermilk to get this consistency, but make sure not to go overboard and end up with overly wet dough.
- Place the remaining cup of flour in a pie pan. Use a 2" cookie or ice cream scoop to scoop dough onto flour. Gently cover dough with flour and toss back and forth between your hands to make a ball. Don't squeeze or work the dough too much. Shake extra flour off and set in prepared baking dish. Repeat with remaining dough and squish them next to each other in the pan.
- Bake 20-25 minutes till light golden brown. Remove from heat and immediately pour melted butter over them. Invert the biscuits onto a plate and then invert again onto the plate you'd like to serve from. Cut the biscuits while they're still hot.
Bright Strawberry Jam
July 24, 2014
Will anything make you feel more domestic than making your own jam? Probably not. There’s something incredibly satisfying about choosing the fruit, cooking it down till your kitchen smells like a candy factory, canning the product, and then seeing all the colorful jars hanging out on your countertop. There’s an additional satisfaction in knowing that you’ll have the tastes and memories of summer to see you through the upcoming year, and if need be, you can always give a few jars away to deserving folks.
My mom made jams and jellies when I was really little, but didn’t continue as we kids got older. It was probably impossible to make enough grape jelly to last through four kids’ lunches all school year. I do recall helping one of my grandma’s make apple cinnamon jelly. I remember thinking it was really fun.
It’s a bit daunting to start making your own jams or jellies if you’ve never canned before. At least that’s the impression that I get from my friends who’ve never done it. I can understand why. Most of the canning books include the scary bit about botulism which can frighten even the most excited potential preserver away. Definitely read up on canning and safety (a lot of which revolves around not canning tomatoes, etc), but don’t let that stop you from trying simple recipes.
This Bright Strawberry Jam is an adaptation of the first jam I made on my own, from Marisa McClellan’s recipe for a strawberry vanilla jam. You’ll notice there’s absolutely no vanilla in my version. That’s because I really like how vivid the strawberry tastes. There’s also some zip from lemon juice and zest, which helps the jam set (in addition to some liquid pectin).
Since I first made this several years ago, I’ve tried my hand at a number of other jams and jellies. Hands down, this is my favorite (and yes, I’ve made peach jam). I learned my lesson the hard way last year when I didn’t make enough (understandably, I had my hands a bit full). This year I’ll probably make two or three batches so I won’t have to horde the strawberry deliciousness throughout the year.
Oh, and fair warning – this canning business is a addictive. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
- 9 cups hulled and chopped strawberries
- 4½ cups sugar
- 2 lemons, juiced and zested
- 2 liquid pectin packets
- Mix the berries and 2 cups of the sugar in a large dutch oven or stock pot. Refrigerate several hours or overnight.
- When ready to make jam, add remaining 2½ cups sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest to the pot with berries. Stir to combine. You should also prepare a boiling water bath and 7 half-pint jars. *
- Cook berry mixture on high till it comes to a boil and becomes syrupy (about 15-20 minutes). Don't worry if it foams a lot. Just stir regularly and skim off the foam occasionally.
- Once mixture is syrupy, you can take it off the heat and puree the berries to your desired consistency. I usually use an immersion blender and like to leave just a few berries intact. Return mixture to heat and bring it back to a rolling boil. Then stir in the liquid pectin. At this point, you want to attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pot and continue boiling the jam until it reaches 220 degrees. Let it boil two minutes at that temperature, then remove from heat and ladle into the prepared jars. Leave ½ inch headspace, wipe the rims, place the lids and bands on fingertip tight and process jars. (Return the filled jars to the pot you filled with hot water to prepare them. Make sure you do not let the jars touch each other or the bottom of your pot - use a small wire rack. Bring the filled jars back to a boil, cover, and let boil 10 minutes. Then carefully remove the jars to a cloth on the countertop.)
- Listen for the pings of the lids and check to make sure they've sealed (this usually happens almost immediately, but fear not if it takes a while).
- Jam will last for up to a year when preserved correctly and kept away from hungry people.
- *To prepare jars: place jars in a large pot with a rack on the bottom, to keep them from touching. Fill the pot with enough water so that the jars are covered by a few inches. Bring to a boil, then turn off and let the jars hang out till you're ready to fill them. Make sure your jars are at least warm when you go to fill them with the jam (cold jars + hot jam = big mess).
Summer Corn Chowder
July 22, 2014
I have a hard time bringing myself to make soup during the summer. Unless it’s potato soup. I can always eat potato soup. Despite the fact that it requires no oven time, soup still seems too hot and cozy to eat when it’s 85 out.
That being said, this is one of my new favorite summer meals. This isn’t a stew the day away chowder, or something that should bubble in a crock pot all afternoon. All the great summer produce makes this soup taste fresh.
It starts with bacon, so you know it will be good. Freshly cut corn and the cream from scraping the cobs are added, along with tomatoes, roasted red peppers, and yukon potatoes. This sautes until the potatoes are tender, at which point you can add any combination of cream and milk. The Summer Corn Chowder is brought up to heat and ta-da. I like to sprinkle some basil over top and serve with crusty bread. A cobbler for dessert wouldn’t hurt either.
- 6 ears corn, cut at half depth, then scrape milk into bowl along with the kernels
- 6 strips bacon, ½" pieces
- 1 12 ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained and diced
- 3 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped (preferably Campari)
- 4 small Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed and cubed
- 1 teaspoon salt
- pinch sugar
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1-2 cups milk
- basil or cilantro to garnish
- Fry bacon in a large pot and remove to a plate. Leave a few teaspoons of grease, but remove excess.
- Add roasted red peppers and saute a few minutes. Add tomatoes, potatoes, salt, sugar, corn kernels, and creamy milk from the cobs. Cook over medium till corn starts to sizzle. Reduce to medium-low, cover and cook until the potatoes are tender 35-45 minutes.
- Stir in heavy cream and milk (to desired consistency). Taste and adjust seasoning (salt and pepper) Bring just to a boil, then remove and top with bacon and basil. Serve with crusty bread.