Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Dad's Baking Powder Biscuits
Growing up, it was a running joke that Dad made the best biscuits. For whatever reason, Dad's biscuits always rose until they nearly split in the middle, while Mom's were always flat and dense. (Dad used to call them hockey pucks, which is kind of rude but also kind of funny.) I don't know how much she played it up, but it always appeared that this drove Mom crazy, and Dad always joked that he'd never share his secret.
Well, years ago, Dad taught me the secret to epic-rising baking powder biscuits - folding. It's not enough just to roll out the dough and cut it out, you have to fold the dough over itself a few times, roll it out, and repeat at least three times. Folding creates little pockets of air to help with the rise - which you can often hear popping when you cut them out - and generates those nice flaky layers that we all love in a good biscuit. It works... just look at that rise!
These biscuits are perfect in every way. Flaky in the middle, with amazing buttery flavor that is even better than those silly biscuits in a can. They're the perfect accompaniment to warm beef stew, but they're also amazing smeared with a little berry jam or drizzled with honey. And, of course, they're a great base for biscuits and gravy!
Dad's Baking Powder Biscuits
adapted from the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook
yields about 18 biscuits
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 cup cold butter, cut into small cubes
1 cup milk, plus 1 tablespoon
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Lightly grease a baking sheet or line with parchment.
2. In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and cream of tartar. Using a pastry blender (or a fork), cut the butter into the mixture until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. (If all else fails, your own fingers work very nicely for this step.) Add 1 cup of the milk all at once, and stir with a fork until the mixture is just moistened.
3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Shape the ball into a cohesive ball, and roll with a rolling pin until about 1/2" thick. Fold the dough in half lengthwise and then again horizontally, and roll again until 1/2" thick. Repeat at least 2 more times (but not too many more than that). Once rolled out to 1/2" for the last time, use a 2 1/2" biscuit cutter (or a standard drinking glass, as we always did at home) to cut the dough into rounds. Reroll the scraps as necessary, and dip the cutter into flour in between cuts to keep the dough from sticking.
4. Transfer the rounds to the prepared baking sheet, placing about 1" apart. Lightly whisk the remaining 1 tablespoon of milk and the egg together in a small bowl, and brush over the tops of the biscuits. Bake for 10-14 minutes or until golden. Remove biscuits from baking sheet and serve warm.