Berry Crisp Ham and Black Pepper Biscuits

I think that this may be the first time ever that I’ve been away from my mom on Mother’s Day. It’s certainly the first time I’ve been over two thousand miles away. Feels weird. I miss her. I wish I was back in the Mitten sometimes, but especially times like now so that I could cook my mom a good meal as a way of showing her that I do love and appreciate her.

For any of my followers that are also far away from their moms on Sunday,  if your mother has passed away, or if you just don’t have the kind of relationship with your mom that you’d like to and the holiday is difficult for you–I’m sorry for that. I hope you can find a silver lining to the day.

Food has never failed to be one for me, so let’s focus on that for the moment.

Today’s recipe was actually the meal that I made for us on Easter. However, I thought it would work this week just as well. It also piggy-backs on last week’s where I shared the second best biscuit recipe I’ve ever had or made. I do hope some of you were able to give it a try like we both know you wanted to. But if you’re STILL dragging your feet and putting it off, maybe this week’s recipe & pictures will finally put the boot in your rear and make you just do it already.

Bargain shoppers know that the closer you get to major holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, the better price you can get for the huge ‘roast’ style cuts of meat like whole turkeys and hams in grocery stores. We haven’t had ham since Christmas and since we do enjoy it,  I knew for sure that I was going to wait until the last minute to buy an inexpensive one to make for Easter dinner. I just wasn’t sure of how and with what else to serve it with.

It didn’t take very long before I made up my mind. I’d been craving breakfast for dinner for a while. Since it’s just the three of us all the way out here I thought that that would be a simple, yet delicious celebratory meal: Easter Brinner.

I for one, just couldn’t imagine having a real ham brinner without the biscuits. So, I didn’t try. I cooked a ham and a batch of the newfound biscuit recipe that I was still swooning over and still wanting more of after they were gone–with some modifications that in my opinion, made it even better.

First off, I loveloveLOVE this ham. The rub I put together is sweet, zesty and with just the right amount of aromatic ‘kick’ from the cloves and nutmeg. It pairs just right with the berry glaze that gets brushed over the ham while it warms up and causes it to form that dark, bark-like, sugary crust on the outside. Using a standard/spiral ham is also pretty impossible to mess up as the thing is already cooked in the first place. So long as you don’t dry it out, which if you follow the baking time, is extremely difficult to do, it should turn out great.

The first time I made these biscuits, I left them plain, without any major seasonings added to the dough outside of some sugar and a tiny bit of salt. They were definitely delicious enough on their own. However, for Easter I did want to try and mix things up and see if they could be improved upon. I was right. They could. Best part was, the only changes I made from the original was the addition of 2 ingredients: black pepper and bacon drippings.

Just two simple ingredients and WHOA. They really did elevate the biscuits in not only flavor but the appearance. Although it’s definitely visibly flecked throughout the dough, the pepper isn’t overwhelming. Promise, it really isn’t: so do use the whole tablespoon. The biscuits also browned more evenly across the top and bottom and the layers were more pronounced than they were the first time I made them. The edges became perfectly crisp while the inside stayed light and fluffy. This  is just how biscuits ought to be.

See this?

Black pepper biscuit, sliced in half. Ham. A fried egg cooked just to where the egg white has set and the yolk is still runny. Smear both sides with the ham glaze. Smash it all together into one. This kids, is the best breakfast sandwich that I’ve ever had, bar none. And it was my Easter Brinner. (Actually, I loved it so much that I ended up having two, but mind your business).

I only wish I was back home so I could make this meal for my mom. I kinda think she’d be pleased with it.

Happy Mother’s Day and Fiesta Friday #171, where I’ll be linking this post up to.

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Berry Crisp Ham and Black Pepper Biscuits

Recipe Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens & King Arthur Flour

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Ingredients

For Ham

  • 8 lb. cooked ham, liquid reserved
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • About 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1/2 cup honey

For Biscuits

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 4 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen, plus more for brushing
  • 1 tablespoon bacon fat/drippings (solid or liquid, doesn’t matter)
  • 1 cup buttermilk, plus more if necessary

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. In a small bowl, combine the light brown sugar, cinnamon, coriander, ground cloves, and nutmeg.

Place the ham in a large roasting pan. Using a sharp knife, score the outer skin in crisscross pattern, being careful not to pierce the actual meat. Rub the spice mixture evenly over the skin with your hands. (It may get messy, and it may not all stick to the ham. That’s fine. The excess will form a syrupy sauce in the bottom of the pan as it cooks;  yum.) Pour the chicken broth in the bottom of the pan. Cover with aluminum foil and bake on the bottom rack for about 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until heated through (inner temp should be near 140 degrees F.)

Meanwhile, pour reserved ham liquid, OJ, jam, berries and honey in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and allow to cook for about 15-20 more minutes until syrupy, stirring occasionally. Take off the heat, and brush some of the glaze over the ham as it cooks.

Remove the cover from the roasting pan and crank oven up to 425 F. Allow ham to cook for about 20-35 more minutes until the skin gets crispy, brushing/basting with a bit more of the glaze. Remove from the oven, cover with foil again and allow to stand for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving with the extra glaze.

For Biscuits: Keep oven at 425 Degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, pepper and sugar with a fork.

Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the butter into the dry ingredients and stir a few times to combine. Make a well in the center of the bowl. Add the bacon fat and pour the buttermilk into the well and use a large rubber spatula to stir the mixture together. If it seems a little dry you may add additional buttermilk until it forms a shaggy dough.

Sprinkle a pastry mat, wooden cutting board or wax paper with flour. Turn the dough out onto the surface and pat a few times with your hands until it loosely holds together. (Don’t knead it too much or the warmth in your palms will melt the butter and cause the biscuits to be tough.)

Pat and roll the dough into a rectangle. Take the two opposite ends and fold them together like a business letter into thirds. Flip it upside down and pat & roll it into another rectangle, sprinkling the surface with flour if it gets too sticky. Repeat the folding process two to three more times before patting it into one final rectangle.

Use a bench scraper or very sharp knife to divide the rectangle in half, then divide the halves into thirds or fourths squares (depending on what size biscuits you want).

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and place the cut biscuits on it. Freeze them for about 30 minutes. In the meantime, fill a shallow pan with water and place it on the bottom rack of the oven.

Brush the biscuits with melted butter, then bake in the oven on the middle rack for about 15-20 minutes, until they’re golden brown on top. Remove from oven to a wire rack.

Baking Powder Biscuits

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What are some things you do to perk yourself up when you’re down?

For some of us, it may be a little thing called retail therapy. To some certain extent, I’m guilty too; buying new kitchen gadgets and appliances makes me happy. So do perfume & candles from Bath and Body Works and Victoria’s Secret. And cookbooks. I have an unhealthy obsession with collecting cookbooks. I also like oversize pajama shirts, wacky colored/printed socks, and hoodies.

Y’know. Just in case you guys felt like spoiling a chick.

Music, I think, is a go-to for most of us. I’ve got a playlist specially designated for mood-pick me ups.There are a handful of movies that I’ll watch when I’m feeling blue just because thus far, they’ve never failed to always lift my spirits up when they’ve sunk.

But because this is me, and because the subject of my blog is about cooking & baking I’m sure’ it’s pretty self-explanatory that the primary go-to way that I lift myself up is to get inside the kitchen and put something together.

There’s just something about baking that almost never fails to calm me down. I put on my headphones, preheat the oven, pull out my standing mixer, and just shut myself off to whatever else is going on in tedious real life. I think I’m drawn to it for several reasons: first, I’m focused on following a scientific process (which is what baking is, essentially) so my attention and thoughts are set on following the directions and not necessarily on something stressful that I can’t control.

My hands are usually kept busy measuring out ingredients, kneading dough, cutting, scraping, pouring, stirring or whatever the dish requires. Usually while the product is baking in the oven, I’m washing dishes and cleaning up the kitchen. Then by the time it’s cooled off, I’m basking in how good it smells in the house, how delicious is looks and tastes. I give myself a pat on the back for a job well done and feel at least tad bit better that I created something that gave me and someone else, some (and at times immense) satisfaction.

Today’s recipe was one of those times.

I woke up feeling sad. Well, actually I didn’t really sleep that well. I got maybe 3 hours of sleep tops that night and woke up very early in the morning. I felt restless. Frustrated. Tense. Bored. I tossed and turned several times and tried to fall back asleep. Didn’t happen. Finally, I just got tired of trying. I got out of bed, and went into the kitchen. I put on my headphones, preheat the oven and started getting out ingredients.

I was gonna bake myself out of this bad mood….with biscuits. Big, buttery, soft,  flaky biscuits.

I’m really proud of how far I’ve come on my biscuit-making journey. I used to be really awful at making them. But in the past two years I’ve made myself practice more and more and the practice combined with some handy tips I’ve picked up from reading some cookbooks and articles has really upped my Biscuit-game so to speak.

I make kick-ass biscuits. I just do.

And these? They’re good. REALLY good. What’s more, they take less than thirty minutes to put together.

I got up and out of bed just before the crack of dawn and started throwing together the dough for these. As the beautiful sun was rising outside over the trees, my beautiful biscuits were rising in the oven. It was glorious. And you know what? I started to feel better.

I cannot believe I’m about to say this but this recipe is RIGHT up there with the recipe I shared a while back for my Grandma’s Angel Biscuits. It’s not better. I can’t go that far (it’s my grandma’s recipe, after all) but…they can share a spotlight together. That’s how good these are. SOSOSOSO flaky and soft on the inside. Yet they’re sturdy enough to stand up to just about anything you want to do with them; sausage gravy, stew, breakfast sandwich bun, anything. They’re also just delicious to eat all by themselves; we switched between smearing them with butter and jam or butter drizzled with honey. Pure bliss, I’m telling you.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #170, co-hosted this week by Monika @ Everyday Healthy Recipes and Sue @ Birgerbird.

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Baking Powder Biscuits

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour

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Ingredients

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 4 tablespoons white sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen, plus more for brushing
  • 1 cup buttermilk, plus more if necessary

 

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar with a fork.

Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the butter into the dry ingredients and stir a few times to combine. Make a well in the center of the bowl.

Pour the buttermilk into the well and use a large rubber spatula to stir the mixture together. If it seems a little dry you may add additional buttermilk until it forms a shaggy dough.

Sprinkle a pastry mat, wooden cutting board or wax paper with flour. Turn the dough out onto the surface and pat a few times with your hands until it loosely holds together. (Don’t knead it too much or the warmth in your palms will melt the butter and cause the biscuits to be tough.)

Pat and roll the dough into a rectangle. Take the two opposite ends and fold them together like a business letter into thirds. Flip it upside down and pat & roll it into another rectangle, sprinkling the surface with flour if it gets too sticky. Repeat the folding process two to three more times before patting it into one final rectangle.

Use a bench scraper or very sharp knife to divide the rectangle in half, then divide the halves into thirds or fourths squares (depending on what size biscuits you want).

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and place the cut biscuits on it. Freeze them for about 30 minutes. In the meantime, fill a shallow pan with water and place it on the bottom rack of the oven.

Brush the biscuits with melted butter, then bake in the oven on the middle rack for about 15-20 minutes, until they’re golden brown on top. Remove from oven to a wire rack. Serve warm, spread with butter, jam (or drizzled/dipped in syrup, how I like them).

Pumpkin Cinnamon Crackers

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A few weeks back, I shared my first attempt at making crackers with you guys. They were a huge hit with my taste buds, and because they were just so easy to put together, I said that it made me enter into a cracker-making spree for the next few weeks or so where I tried out several other flavors & recipes.

You didn’t think I was playing, right? I’ve definitely tried like…three different cracker recipes and probably made close to about 100 since then. I’ve loved them all. And now, you guys are going to love them too. Trust me on that.

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So I did a quick Google Shopping search and as it turns out, pumpkin cinnamon flavored crackers are something that aren’t exactly in huge supply from the major cracker name brand producers. Triscuits has a limited edition Pumpkin Spice flavored Triscuit that they put out, but it’s a limited edition release that only gets exposure at, you guessed it: autumn.

It’s not autumn right now though. And suppose you’re like me and want to cure that pumpkin spice itch now and don’t feel like waiting for August?

I’ll tell you what you’re going to do: you’re going to make these and thank me later.

And if any one of you start to object and say that making your own crackers is too hard, time-consuming and a waste of effort–just…hush. Making crackers from scratch is actually simple. It’s worth it, guys. It really is. We’ve established that already with these curry and ginger crackers. That was my first attempt, it was a success, and to this day I still don’t know what took me so long to start doing this for myself.

It gets a bad rap from being so mass marketed in the fall, but I love pumpkin spice baked goods and there’s not a person who can make me feel bad about it.

A few tips: I used a teddy bear cookie cutter I had, but you can feel free to use any shape you like. You could even just cut them out into rough squares with a pizza cutter if you want, just don’t skip the step of pricking your shapes with the fork. You need the holes in the dough to help the heat circulate through the dough as it bakes and for air/steam to escape it, which will help them to crisp up better and avoid air pockets in the crackers themselves.

If you have a broiling pan, I’ve found that the top tray with the slats works REALLY WELL for baking crackers, even better than normal cookie sheets. The holes in the pan help the heat circulate better through the dough and nowadays, it’s my go to for them in general.

These are, of  course, ready to eat just as soon as they’re given time to cool crisp up, but I’ve found that the flavor does improve after they’ve sat for a few days. So if you can possibly help it and be patient, I’d put the cooled crackers in an air tight jar or bowl for about 2 days, then come back to them and go ham.

They’re not overly sweet as I wanted the flavor of the pumpkin and spices to come through, but you can always add about a tablespoon or two of extra sugar if you’re making them for kiddies or you just have an extra large sweet tooth yourself.

Oh, and yes: they are very yummy. I may or may have had trouble with portion control when eating them. I couldn’t possibly confirm, though.

Linking this post up to this week’s Fiesta Friday #164, co-hosted this week by the lovely  Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

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Pumpkin Cinnamon Crackers

Recipe Adapted from Pearls on a String

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Ingredients

  • One cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • Two teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 heaping teaspoon ground cinnamon (plus more for sprinkling)
  • Pinch cloves
  • One tablespoon brown sugar
  • Four tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • One cup pureed pumpkin (from the can is fine)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Coarse turbinado sugar for sprinkling

 

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a medium bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients and mix together with a fork. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer (or using a handheld one) beat the butter together with the pumpkin and vanilla extract until evenly combined (it’s fine if there are still bits of butter showing).

Slowly add in the dry ingredients. Switch to the dough hook and continue to beat until a ball of dough forms (it shouldn’t take very long)

Mold the dough ball into a thin disc, wrap the disc in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for about 30-45 minutes. Prepare 2 baking sheet with parchment paper.

Sprinkle a clean work surface  (like wax paper or a pastry mat) with flour, and flour a rolling pin as well. Roll the dough out to 1/8 inch thickness. Using a small cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out desired shapes for crackers and place the crackers on the prepared parchment paper baking sheets. Place the baking sheets in the freezer for about 15-20 minutes.

Using the tines of a fork, prick the crackers evenly, pressing through the dough to make holes. Sprinkle the tops with the coarse turbinado sugar. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. (You can bake them longer for extra crunchy crackers, just be sure to cover them with foil so that they don’t get too browned or burn.)

Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Mexican Fried Chicken and Drop Biscuits

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Let me tell you guys something–something extremely important.

When it comes to food, there are very few things I love more than fried chicken and biscuits. I love the mashed potatoes and collard greens or green beans I’ll often eat alongside them. But honestly for me, the main stars of a meal even consisting of chicken and biscuits, are –without question–going to be the chicken and biscuits.

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The chicken biscuit is something that most people here in the States can get anywhere.

Chik-fil-A are famous for their chicken biscuits drizzled with the red sauce. I’ve been known to slice a Popeye’s biscuit and layer it with chicken I took off the bone of a spicy breast and drizzled with honey to make a sandwich. And KFC has…something. I think. I don’t know. Maybe. (Haven’t been there in *years*).

Maybe you’ve brought home a bucket of chicken from one of the above places, then served them with the refrigerated Grand’s biscuits. Maybe you made the chicken and used the refrigerated biscuits. Or, maybe you’ve done the reverse and made the biscuits, but bought the chicken.

No judgment here. All of the above are cool. I like Popeyes. I like the flaky-style Grand’s biscuits. And to be honest, frying chicken and making biscuits from scratch may be something that scares more than a few folks, and I’m sure there are others who just don’t think that making either from scratch is worth it.

While I don’t judge taking those shortcuts, you guys still know what I’m about to say, right? I mean, cooking IS my sport.

So, it stands to reason that I’m gonna say that making fried chicken from scratch at home, IS worth it. Making biscuits from scratch at home, IS worth it. Scared of making fried chicken from scratch? Even more scared of making biscuits from scratch?

Don’t be. I got you.

Here’s what I love about this recipe: it takes one of my favorite food combinations, and gives it a twist that is not only yummy, but pretty simple to pull off, especially where the biscuits are concerned. The chicken is set overnight in a buttermilk marinade that ensures it will be extra juicy and tender, then tossed in a flour breading that’s mixed in with Mexican seasonings (chili powder, cumin, oregano) and fried until golden brown and crisp.

Now I know in some of my past posts I’ve talked a bit about the technique of making scratch biscuits being key to ensuring that they turn out right. Typically, I will ALWAYS freeze my butter and use a box grater to cut it directly into the flour to ensure that the butter is evenly distributed. Then, I take care to knead the biscuits as little possible to make sure they don’t end up tough.

Maybe all of those above tips seem scary. Maybe you don’t have a box grater and don’t feel like getting one right this second. Maybe the idea of kneading dough AT ALL is a no-go.Guess what? You can STILL get great biscuits. With drop biscuits, there’s no freezing the butter, no grating it in, no kneading. It all comes together in one bowl and the dough is then scooped out with a 1/4 cup measure onto a baking sheet, and baked off just like that. They come out golden brown/craggy on the outside and soft/fluffy on the inside. They’re also near impossible to screw up.

As you guys can see, once I had this finished I took a big piece of the chicken, sliced a biscuit in half, plopped a few pickles on top, then shook some Frank’d Red Hot on, and had myself a pretty sensational chicken biscuit. Why not all of you do the same for yourselves?

(Linking up to Fiesta Friday #163)

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Mexican Fried Chicken and Drop Biscuits

Recipe Adapted from Chow.com and America’s Test Kitchen

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Ingredients

For the Fried Chicken

  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 whole chicken (about 4 pounds), cut into 8 pieces (2 legs, 2 thighs, 2 breast/wing pieces, 2 breast pieces)
  • Canola or peanut oil for deep-frying
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch

For Biscuits

  • 2 cups (10 ounces) all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk, chilled
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted then slightly cooled, plus 2 tablespoons melted butter for brushing on top of biscuits
  • About 1 tablespoon of your choice of a combination of mixed dried herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage all work fine)

 

Directions

For the Fried Chicken:

Brine the Chicken: In a large gallon sized re-sealable plastic bag, combine the buttermilk, kosher salt, garlic and Mexican oregano. Add the chicken and refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours and up to overnight.

In a large heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat at least 2-3 inches of the canola or peanut oil to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a large wire rack over a baking sheet next to the stove. Place another wire rack over a baking sheet and set it aside (this will be for the finished chicken)

Combine the flour, chili powder, cumin, baking powder, and corn starch together in a bowl with a fork. Remove the chicken from the brine, shake off the excess and place in the flour mixture, using the fork to help the dry ingredients adhere to the chicken. Place the chicken on the wire rack baking sheet. (I recommend chilling the chicken like this for about 35 minutes to an hour if you have the time and space in your fridge. But if not, that’s okay.)

When the oil is heated, take the chicken and just before you add each piece into the oil, re-dip each piece in the flour ingredients. Add to the oil, no more than three at a time. (Also bear in mind that you’re going to need to adjust the heat to maintain the temperature of 325 degrees) Using a pair of tongs, fry the chicken until golden brown on both sides and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or a spider, remove the chicken from the oil and place it on the second wire rack baking sheet. Keep it in an oven or a microwave to keep the chicken warm. Repeat this process with the remaining chicken until done.

For the Biscuits:

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position in an oven and preheat it to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, table salt, baking soda and herbs together in a large bowl. In a medium sized bowl combine the buttermilk and melted butter  together until small clumps form.

Use a rubber spatula to incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry ones, stirring just until the mixture comes together. Place the bowl in the freezer for about 10 minutes. Spray a 1/4 cup measure with nonstick cooking spray, then scoop a level amount of batter out and onto the parchment paper lined baking sheet. Repeat until you’ve scooped out the rest of the batter, spacing them about 1 1/2 inches apart. Freeze the biscuits for about 30 minutes, then bake until tops are golden brown and crisp, 12 to 14 minutes. Brush the tops with the 2 tablespoons melted butter and let cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

 

My Grandma’s Angel Biscuits

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This week marks the third anniversary of Cooking is My Sport. My blog baby is three years old, guys.

Should I feel like a proud mom? Cause I kinda do.

I still remember when CIMS was first ‘borned’. I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to format my posts, write out the recipes, take the pictures.

It was actually kind of a hot mess.

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Kinda like my first major solo effort at baking.

Let me just give a useful piece of advice upfront for any of my followers who are excellent cooks, but not so excellent bakers: start with something easy.  Something that doesn’t require too much know how or technique. Something you’d have to try REALLY hard to mess up.

Don’t be like me. Don’t make your first baking experiment biscuits.

Chances are, you’re going to mess them up. Like I did.

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I didn’t realize that a good biscuit dough still has visible chunks of butter it. I didn’t know that it wasn’t like bread dough and therefore should NOT be kneaded.  I didn’t know that finding a warm place to let the dough proof did NOT count as setting it on top of the preheated oven–which made the bottoms of the biscuits start baking before I even placed them in the oven.

I was completely clueless guys. It wasn’t pretty. Don’t be like me. There are plenty of novice baker recipes on this blog I can recommend for you to try if you’re just trying to get your feet wet.

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But for those of you who are a little more wet behind the ears with baking, then I really do think you ought to pay attention. Cause you really do want to make these. Trust me.

The recipe for my grandmother’s angel biscuits was actually the first recipe I posted on the blog. I decided to start with that one for a number of reasons: first being it’s a family recipe and therefore very close to my heart. Second, it was around the time that I was learning from my mistakes & getting pretty good at making them. And third: they’re some of the best biscuits I’ve ever had.

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As the blog’s birthday came around, I was considering what recipe I would make to celebrate it. Cake was obviously something I considered, but if you’ve been following along lately you’ll know that I’ve done a few over-the-top cakes over the past few months already. I’m kinda over cake (at least for now) I felt I should try and do… something else. That something else is a flashback post where I remade the recipe for my grandma’s angel biscuits, and also did some tweaking to the language of the initial recipe that better reflects the lessons I’ve learned from trial and error making them.

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I’ve made these biscuits for breakfast where we ate them smothered in sausage gravy, or schmeared with butter/jelly or butter drizzled with syrup. I’ve made them for dinners where I fried chicken cutlets and had myself a homemade chicken biscuit that can more hold its own against anything Chick-fil-A cranks out. I’ve made them for holidays where we eat them on the side with our epic feasts. And, I’ve also made them for no other reason at all than just because I felt like having one (or two.) The leftovers, if you have any, also refrigerate very well. Whenever you want to reheat one, you can either slice it in half and reheat in the toaster, or cover with a damppaper towel and microwave for about 20-25 seconds. It’ll taste just as tender and flaky. Promise.

Taking me and my biscuits to this week’s Fiesta Friday #141, cohosted this week by Julianna @ Foodie on Board and Zeba @ Food For The Soul.

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My Grandma's Angel Biscuits

Recipe by Jess@CookingIsMySport.com

Ingredients

  • 1 package of regular or quick acting active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 2 tablespoons warm water
  • 1 cup shortening (I put mine in the freezer overnight to make it as cold as possible)
  • 5 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar, plus 1 tsp divided
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups buttermilk

Directions

 Grease 2 to 3 round cake pans (one or two half sheet pans will work as well)

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Sprinkle the one tsp of sugar over the yeast. Let it sit for ten minutes. (If the yeast does not foam with small bubbles on top after 10 minutes, the water was probably either too hot too cold. Think ‘baby bottle warm’: this is what you want.)

Cut shortening into pre-sifted dry ingredients with a pastry blender, with 2 forks OR (my personal preference) by running the shortening over a box grater in 4 qt. bowl until mixture looks like bread crumbs. 

Stir in buttermilk & yeast mixture until dough leaves side of bowl. (The dough is going to be VERY sticky and soft. To avoid a mess, rub extra flour on your hands, or on a rubber spatula when mixing.)

Turn dough onto generously floured surface. Gently roll in flour to coat, shape into a ball. Knead lightly 25 to 30 times, sprinkling with flour if dough is too sticky. (This is where it gets a little tricky. I reallyreallyREALLY want to emphasize the important of the word GENTLY here. My own past missteps have finally made me realize that when handling biscuit dough, the less you actually ‘handle’ it, the better. Avoid even clenching your palms around the dough. I use my fingertips to pat. Your palms carry heat, and heat will melt those marvelous shortening chunks that create tender, flaky biscuits.)

Roll or pat 1/2 inch thick. Cut with 2 1/2 inch round cutter. (You can also use a knife or bench scraper to cut them into squares) Place about 1 inch apart in cake pans. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in preheated oven until the biscuits have doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Heat the oven to 400°. Remove plastic wrap from pans, then place them back into oven and bake until golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes. Spread tops with butter.

   

English Tea Farthing Biscuits

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About a few months ago I got hooked on a show that popped up in the Recently Added queue of my Netflix account called The Great British Bake Off. I’d vaguely heard of it before then but didn’t really know the specifics. The amount of competitive cooking shows I like to watch is typically limited to just three: Top Chef, Chopped and The Taste. Other than that I tend to think that they too greatly resemble game shows with too many reality-show style theatrics. However, because I was bored and because it had a 4.5 star rating I figured it was worth viewing an episode or two.

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The show is a HUGE hit in the UK, having already gone through multiple seasons already and after only watching one episode, I totally understand why. There are no frills, flares or bells & whistles on the GBB. Filming takes place in a tent in the English countryside where the amateur bakers perform a combination of signature challenges where they can make a dish of their own, technical challenges of recipes that are considered ‘standard’ in baking, then showpiece recipes where they can give their own fancy interpretations to a loose guideline of a particular baking dish. It’s an incredibly simplistic show, yet for a baking enthusiast it’s completely enthralling.

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So you can imagine my disappointment when after finishing the season that was posted on Netflix, I saw that there were no additional ones put there. It’s been several months since Netflix put the one season up and no additional ones have been added since then. This pisses me off.

I’m not ready for it  to be over. If other people in the world could get more of GBB, then why shouldn’t I just because I live in America? How’s that even fair? Where’s the justice in that?

I demand equality.

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All I’ve had to console myself with the fact that I’m not getting more seasons and episodes of the GBB is that I can always rewatch what I do have on Netflix–which, I of course have been doing. I’ve also discovered since then that PBS has posted a number of the recipes from the season I watched on their website for the public to try out for themselves.

Needless to say, I was pretty excited when I found that out. My Pinterest board was very active that day.

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The word ‘biscuits’ actually have somewhat of a different meaning for Americans than it does for the British, or even elsewhere in general. When I first hear ‘biscuits’ I think of the thick, flaky, bready, fluffy things my grandma makes that I get to slather in butter, jam and sometimes syrup for breakfast. However, elsewhere ‘biscuits’ are actually another word for a kind of crisp and/or tender cookie or cracker that gets eaten alongside some tea or hot chocolate.

One of my favorite episodes from the season on Netflix (which was actually Season 5 in Britain) was the second one where the focus for the week was Biscuits. For the signature challenge, each one of the contestants had to make their own rendition of a Biscuit. There were lots of creative renditions shown that round but interestingly enough, the ones that caught my particular attention were the simplest of the bunch. They’re made with little more than flour, butter and a little bit of sugar but they still looked just delicious to me.

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I pinned it to my Pinterest recipe board and this past week I decided to try it out for myself. There is I think both good news and bad news about how my biscuits turned out.

First the bad: even though I rolled them out as thin as the recipe instructs, for some reason when these hit the oven they started to puff up and thicken, which ultimately affected how long I could bake them without letting them get too brown while trying to get them ‘crisp’. I do think they could’ve taken a bit more time in the hot box, but I wasn’t in the mood for burned biscuits. Next time maybe I could think about rolling them ‘paper thin’ and seeing if that makes them bake at the right thickness, or just leaving them in the oven longer.

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The next point isn’t necessarily a negative, but it is something of note. These bake up VERY tender and buttery but upon tasting them all on their own, the overall flavor is very…subtle. If you’re eating them alongside some tea or coffee then I think this is fine. They’d even be GREAT with some jam or preserves smeared on top. However, at the last second I decided to take half of this particular batch and ‘jazz it up’ so to speak with a quick chocolate dip that I then sprinkled with nuts. It was just what they needed, I thought, but if you tend to like your biscuits less sweet you’ll probably like these exactly the way that they are. I also made some recommendations in my rendition of the recipe for some additional flavor profiles I think would be tasty.

Happy Fiesta Friday #114, where I’ll be taking my biscuits for anyone who’s in the mood for a spot of tea 😉 Thanks to Angie and her co-host for this week: the lovely Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

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English Tea Farthing Biscuits

Recipe Adapted from The Great British Baking Show

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Ingredients

For Biscuits

  • 225g (8 oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 225g (8 oz) self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp table salt
  • 1 tsp sugar (plus extra for sprinkling)
  • 85g (3 oz) lightly salted butter, plus extra to serve
  • 85g (3 oz) lard
  • 1 tsp of vanilla, lemon, orange or almond extract (optional)
  • 1 tsp orange or lemon zest (optional)

Chocolate Dip

  • 1 cup diced pecans or walnuts, crushed
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips
  • 1 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil

Directions

For the biscuits:

 Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a bowl, mix the dry ingredients together. Rub in butter and lard so that mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Add just enough cold water (and the extracts and zest if using) to bring the mixture together to form a stiff dough (about 5-6 tablespoons). Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to a thickness just less than a £1 coin.

Using a 9cm (3½ in) round cutter cut out biscuits from the dough. Prick the top of the biscuits all over to decorate, leaving a plain 5mm/¼in border around the edge.

Transfer to wire racks or baking mesh. Place the racks/mesh on baking trays. Sprinkle with the extra sugar, then bake for 14-16 minutes, or until the biscuits are dry but not browned. Set aside to cool completely.  If eating plain, then serve the biscuits with chilled butter or jam.

If using Chocolate Dip:

Heat chocolate chips and vegetable oil in a glass measuring cup, then stir with a spoon until smooth.

Spread the chocolate dip over the biscuits, then sprinkle with nuts.

Set on a wire rack and allow for the dip to set.

Improv Chicken and Biscuits

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I think I should start this post off by being completely honest about something:

This was supposed to be a different dish.

Not a HUGELY different one, but a different one all the same.

It just didn’t happen that way. Because…stupid stuff.

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I originally set out to use my new springform pan to bake a deep dish chicken pot pie that I’ve had my cooking eye on for a while. I had a spare pie crust in my freezer that’s been there since I made my Deep Dish Apple pie a few months back. I thought that since it’d been in the freezer all this time, and since I could still see the chunks of butter in the dough that it would be okay to just thaw in the fridge and use, thus sparing me the necessity of making another pie crust from scratch.

I thought.

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So what had happened was, I rolled out the thawed pie crust and lined it in my springform pan. I thought it felt and looked fine. There waaaaaas a tiny little problem though: I didn’t have parchment paper and/or pie weights or beans to place on top of the crust while it pre-baked in the oven. All I had was aluminum foil.

So I knocked on wood,placed a layer of foil on top of crust and put it in the oven and waited for something to happen.

And turns out, something DID happen…it just wasn’t a very good something.

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About ten minutes into the bake, (just to be on the safe side) I looked in the oven and lifted the foil.

Yeah so….the crust was collapsing in the pan in a gelatinous, greasy pile. It was a hot mess.

No WAY was this gonna work.

To be perfectly honest, I have NO idea what I did wrong, guys.

Maybe I really did need the parchment paper and pie weights. Like, maybe they were the “heart and soul” of the recipe. (Doubt it, but hey, could be.)

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It’s very possible and likely that the fats in the butter of the frozen pie crust over the long period of time had in the freezer, I don’t know….evaporated? Maybe there’s an expiration date on frozen pie crust. I didn’t think so, but maybe there is. If one of you out there happens to be a food scientist, maybe you can explain it to me.

But then, I’m also half convinced that the oven in our new apartment hasn’t been properly calibrated. Despite being an electric range like our last one was,  it takes longer to bake things in this oven than the allotted time for recipes–sometimes much longer. I’m planning on going out and buying an oven thermometer this weekend and testing the temps to confirm my suspicions. I’m hoping I’m wrong about that though.

Regardless, my plans for a deep dish chicken pot pie were screwed.

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The problem was, I couldn’t just walk away. I’d already started making the filling. I’d involved myself. I was committed to this now.

After promptly shoving the misshapen blob of deceased, failed pie crust into the trash can, I took a step back and thought: How was I going to salvage this dish to my satisfaction? Technically, I could’ve just made the filling and served it all on its own. I just didn’t want to do that.

I had started cooking with the expectation that we were going to have chicken pot pie for dinner, not just chicken pot pie filling. I wanted the carbohydrate-stick to your-ribs-chicken pot pie-experience. You can’t get that with filling all on its own: that’s just called a chicken stew.

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As a general habit, I try to always have a box or two of frozen butter in my freezer at all times. That way, I always have butter that’s cold enough to make two things whenever I want: pie crust, and biscuits. After the embarrassing defeat of my other failed pie crust, I wasn’t up for making another one of those just then. Biscuits were an easier and quicker alternative (especially considering I only had a few more hours left until it would too dark outside for me to take pictures.)

I still had quite a bit of fresh rosemary left from making the filling that was meant to go in my pie. So I  called an audible and decided that I was going to make rosemary scented buttermilk biscuits to serve with the chicken filling.

Fortunately, the biscuits came together VERY quickly and easily. I was in a frustrated, frenzied hurry so I actually handled and kneaded at the dough much more than I’m usually comfortable with when I make biscuits, and they STILL came out flaky and tender on the inside. With some chicken filling spooned on top of these babies, you really are in for what I like to think of as the quintessential winter comfort food that makes you want to take a nap as soon as it’s gone. So despite my snafu with the failed pie crust, I still feel pretty good about how I rocked this out. It turned out well.

Y’know, thanks to improvisation and stuff. Thus the name of the recipe.

(I’ll be taking this dish to Fiesta Friday #104, co-hosted this week by Mila @ milkandbun and Hilda @ Along The Grapevine.)

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Improv Chicken and Biscuits

Recipe Adapted from Food 52 & Serious Eats

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Ingredients

For the Chicken

  • tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • large sweet onion, diced
  • 1 16 oz. bag of frozen mixed vegetables
  • cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Onion Powder
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • cups chicken stock
  • bay leaf
  • sprigs rosemary
  • sprigs thyme
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tbsp-1 tbsp. honey mustard (depending on taste preference)
  • cups chopped, cooked chicken (about 1 large rotisserie chicken)

For the Biscuits

  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 large eggs, 1 whole, 1 beaten
  • 2 1/4 cups (13 ounces) all-purpose or low-protein biscuit flour, such as White Lily or Adluh
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/5 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) frozen unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary

Directions

For the Chicken:

In a large pot, heat 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the onions and sweat until the onions are translucent, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the bag of frozen veggies, cook for further 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, 1 minute more. Remove the vegetables from the pot.

Heat the remaining 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in the flour. Cook until the mixture is just starting to turn golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Gradually whisk in the chicken broth. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the vegetables back to the pot, along with the bay leaf, rosemary, and thyme. Season with salt, black pepper, onion powder and the honey mustard. Simmer for 15 minutes.

Stir in the cream, and chicken and return to a simmer. Simmer for 4 to 5 minutes more. Remove the mixture from the heat.

For the Biscuits:

In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, cream, and whole egg.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and chopped rosemary. Using the large grates on a box grater, grate the butter directly into the flour mixture and toss gently with a spatula until fully coated. Working quickly and using your fingers, rub butter into flour until butter forms marble-sized pieces. Alternatively, add flour mixture and butter to food processor and pulse 2 to 3 times to form marble-sized pieces; transfer to a large bowl.

Add buttermilk mixture and gently mix with a fork until just combined; the dough should look somewhat dry and shaggy. Cover and let rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Form dough into a rectangle, lightly pressing and folding to bring it together; avoid squeezing or kneading the dough.

Fold dough into thirds like a letter. Using rolling pin, roll out dough and repeat folding once more. Roll out dough to about 1/2-inch thickness. Wrap in plastic and transfer to refrigerator for 10 minutes.

Return dough to work surface, and, using a 3-inch round cookie-cutter and pressing down without a twisting motion, cut out biscuits as closely together as possible. Gather together scraps, pat down, and cut out more biscuits; discard any remaining scraps. Brush the top of each biscuit with egg-wash.

Bake the biscuits in a 400°F oven until risen and golden, about 15 minutes. Let cool slightly, then transfer to wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature with the smothered chicken.