Cornmeal Angel Biscuits

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know that I’m always testing out new biscuit recipes, to the point where there’s a pretty good collection of them to be found in the Index. You’ll also know that I have a huge appreciation for cornmeal as a baking ingredient, and as such, there’s a pretty sizable collection of cornmeal recipes to be found here too.

I love combining my favorite ingredients together in baking and seeing what happens, and that’s pretty much what today’s recipe is doing. This isn’t the first time I’ve made cornmeal biscuits on the blog, but it is the first time I applied the angel yeast roll technique to my go-to biscuit making process.

Angel yeast rolls are very akin to parker house butter rolls that are extremely rich, and yet extremely light in texture. The only possible way to improve them is to make them in biscuit form, something I’ve been aware of for a long time thanks to my grandmother. Combining the angel roll with the biscuit really comes down to incorporating yeast into the recipe. I don’t know who thought of it originally, but it was a really good idea.

My favorite thing about this recipe are all the different textures it has. My biscuit-making techniques do their job in make it flaky, but the yeast also comes in to give it a light, inner fluffy texture that normal biscuits typically don’t have. But then the cornmeal also comes through to give it a sturdy and robustness and flavor that’s just enough to give it a really pleasant chew.

These made amazing breakfast sandwiches, they also make for really good accompaniments to hearty stews or braises, and they’re yet another winning biscuit recipe to add to the arsenal.

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Cornmeal Angel Biscuits

Recipe Adapted from Southern Living

Ingredients

  • 1 cup warm water (about 100-110 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon, plus 1/2 cup white sugar, divided
  • 8 cups all purpose flour, (plus more if needed)
  • 2 cups plain yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, frozen
  • 1 cup cold vegetable shortening, frozen
  • 2 cups whole buttermilk (plus more if needed)

Directions

Pour warm water in to a medium bowl. Sprinkle the active dry yeast over the water, then sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the white sugar on top. Allow to proof for about 10 minutes, until frothy.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the flour, corn meal, salt, baking soda, remaining sugar, and black pepper and stir with a fork.

Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the frozen butter and frozen shortening directly into the dry ingredients. Stir together until evenly combined.

Make a well in the center of the bowl. Pour in the buttermilk and stir together with the fork first, then 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.)

Use a bench scraper or a large knife to divide dough in half. Stack one half on top of each other, then roll into another rectangle, sprinkling the surface with flour if it gets too sticky. Repeat the process two to three more times before patting it into one final rectangle. (This is a process of layering so that the biscuits will bake flaky).

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven.

Sprinkle a pastry mat, wooden cutting board or wax paper with flour. Turn the dough out onto the surface.

Use a bench scraper or very sharp knife to trim the edges of the rectangle. Use a square cookie cutter, or a knife to cut the remaining dough into squares, about 2″ each.

Remove the cut biscuits to the baking sheet you’ve lined with parchment paper, placing them rather close to each other (it will help them rise higher). Freeze until cold, about 15 minutes.

Spray the tops of the biscuits with cooking spray, or brush with melted butter and place in oven.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown. (You may need to cover them with foil to keep from browning too fast. When you pull one away from the others, it should look baked all the way through; the edge shouldn’t look wet or unbaked.)

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #437.

Peach Blueberry Crumble Tart

I almost always mark the arrival of summer by when I can start baking with stone fruit. I’ve said multiple times before that the taste of peaches always reminds me of summer, and although I love nectarines and red plums, peaches will always be my first choice to eat or bake. A little over a week ago, my grocery store finally started stocking peaches; so you guys all know what had to happen.

I don’t think summer baking needs to be super complicated. In the first place, it’s hot, so when/if you use it, you don’t really want the oven to be on any longer than necessary. In the second place, the fruit’s delicious enough to where it doesn’t need a lot of embellishment/fancy stuff done to it. Just keep things simple.

This is definitely one of those recipes that colors safely within the Keep it Simple lines. The ingredients are minimal, there’s very little embellishment given to them, and it comes together relatively quickly as well.

It starts out with a quick vanilla cinnamon crust that gets pressed down into the tart pan and pre-baked ahead of time, which prevents the bottom from becoming soggy from all of the lovely fruit juices. While the crust bakes, you can put together the other two components: the fruit filling, and the streusel topping.

As I say in the recipe itself, one of the best things about this dessert is its flexibility; meaning, the fruit itself can be swapped out for substitutions of whatever you have on hand, or whatever you prefer. Peaches are my first choice, but any other stone fruit will work as well. Similarly, if you’re not a fan of blueberries or don’t have any on hand, raspberries or blackberries or strawberries will work just as well.

The star of the streusel topping for me are the almonds. They add both flavor and texture that plays really well against the flavors and texture of the fruit.

This is a perfect dessert for a summer cookout. I wasn’t at one when I made it, but in case you’re reading this and need a dessert/to make and take along with you to one, look no further: this is the one you want.

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Peach Blueberry Crumble Tart

Recipe Adapted from Taste of Home

Ingredients

For Tart/Crust

  • 1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries*
  • 2 cups fresh sliced peaches*
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract

For Streusel Topping

  • 1/2 cup, plus 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup, firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbs. chopped raw almonds

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a a 9-in. fluted tart pan with removable bottomm cooking spray and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix flour, sugar and cinnamon; stir in butter and the 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract just until blended and dough clumps together. (If it’s still too dry and you need to add in a tablespoon or so of water, that’s fine.)

Use your hands to press the dough into tart pan, making sure it’s evenly spread/layered to the edges.

Bake 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool for about 10 minutes on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine blueberries, peaches, honey and extracts; toss to coat.

For streusel topping: in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar and salt. Add the melted butter and almond extract and stir until the mixture is crumbly, with some large chunks remaining. Stir in the almonds.
Spoon fruit mixture into crust; Sprinkle the streusel on top.

Bake at 350° 45-50 minutes or until topping is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Cool on a wire rack at least 15 minutes before serving.

* Note: the peaches can be swapped out for any other stone fruit (nectarines, plums, even apricots) and the blueberries can be swapped out for any other berry.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #436.

Malinda Russell’s Washington Cake

Gather round guys. Hi(story) lesson time.

The ‘official’ independence day for the United States is July 4th, as the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain was signed by the colonists of the Continental Congress on July 4th, 1776. However, if we’re going to get down to brass tacks, the facts are these: freedom in the colonies was at that  time only extended to white men and women; the independence/emancipation of the sizable population of Africans who had been stolen from their homes & transported to the colonies through the Trans-Atlantic slave trade were not included in the Constitution, nor were they granted their freedom after the Revolutionary War.

A widely held belief is that the Emancipation Proclamation that President Abraham Lincoln authorized and put into effect in 1863 during the Civil War is what ultimately freed the slaves. This is somewhat inaccurate.  The official laws of the post-Civil War United States did not grant freedom to all African Americans until the ratification of the 13th amendment in 1865, almost 90 years after the Revolutionary War (and even then, there was still a loophole to that amendment if the individual had committed a crime, see Ava Duvernay’s “13th” documentary on Netflix for more on that). Without getting too bogged down into historical details, I’ll just say this: the EP was a military tactic that specifically freed slaves in the Southern rebel Confederate states that had committed treason against the Union and were then considered enemy territory, but had been won and occupied by the Union Army during the war. It left out slaves within the border states as well as territory within 3 Confederate states that were under Union control.

Why am I saying all of this?

Well, next Monday will be June 19th.  Even though the Emancipation had taken effect on January 1st 1863, the slaves in the state of Texas, widely isolated from the North and Southern parts of the country did not even receive word of it until June 19th 1865, after the Civil War had ended and President Lincoln had been assassinated. Many of these freed people of Texas commemorated June 19th as the day of their emancipation and made it one of celebration and religious ceremonies. Like any other celebration, this included good food.

(There’s a point to all of this, and I’m getting to it now, I swear.)

Malinda Russell was an African American woman born in 1820 in the state of Tennessee. Because her grandmother was freed by her owner, her subsequent children and grandchildren were also freed. By her account, Malinda wanted to immigrate to Liberia where there was a colony of former African American slaves, but was robbed by one of her traveling companions & forced to stay in Virginia. She worked there and in Tennessee again as a washerwoman, nurse, cook, and later kept a pastry shop. After this, she moved to Michigan where she published “A Domestic Cook Book Containing a Careful Selection of Useful Receipts for the Kitchen ” in 1866. The pamphlet that Malinda published became the first cook book published by a Black woman in the United States.

As an African American, I am the descendant of slaves myself on both sides of my family, so the date/celebration of June 19th, holds a particular historical significance to me. Second, like Mrs. Russell,  I’m a Black woman from Michigan who loves to cook/bake, and can do it rather well. (I’d also love to write a cookbook of my own one day, knock on wood)

Her story resonates with me. Her food resonates with me. Therefore, I decided I would pay tribute to the lady, her story and her food in this post.

This is, hands down, one of the best cakes I’ve ever made. The texture inside is SO tender and moist. When I first took it out of the oven, I was concerned that despite being the right temperature, I’d under-baked it because it seemed a little wet in the center of the tube. Nope. It wasn’t underdone in the slightest. It was just perfect.

I can’t claim to have altered this recipe too much; it’s practically perfect enough all on its own. My personal modification was to add orange zest and juice to the batter to give a citrus flavor to what’s already a dynamite butter cake, then add an icing also flavored with orange juice. If you’d like to try another citrus, like lemon, lime, (heck maybe even grapefruit), I think you’d get equally wonderful results.

Linking this post up to Fiesta Friday #176, co-hosted this week by  Monika @ Everyday Healthy Recipes and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

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Malinda Russell's Washington Cake

Recipe Adapted from “American Cake” by Anne Byrn

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temp
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon orange juice
  • 2-3 teaspoons milk

Directions

Preheat oven to 325°. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan and set aside.

Place the butter in the bowl of a standing mixer or a large bowl. Beat until light and fluffy on medium speed, about 1 minute. With mixer still running, gradually add the sugar and salt beat until mixture becomes light and creamy again. Make sure to frequently scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula to ensure even mixing.

Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing for about 15 seconds each. Turn mixer off.
In a small bowl combine the baking soda with the buttermilk. In a medium size bowl combine the flour with the cream of tartar. Alternate between adding the dry ingredients and the buttermilk mixture to the butter-egg mixture; start AND end with the flour and be sure to remember to scrape down the sides of the bowl with the spatula to ensure even mixing. Fold in the orange juice and zest last, stirring until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing with a spatula. Tap the pan a few times on the counter top to help prevent air bubbles.
Place on middle rack of oven and bake until the top of the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out just clean, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. (Pound cakes are done at an inner temp of around a 195-200°. Fahrenheit)
Allow to cool in pan for about 25-30 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

In a medium bowl, combine the powdered sugar with the orange juice and just enough of the milk to make a thick icing. Use the tines of a fork to drizzled on top of the cake, then allow icing to harden completely.