Biscuits are devilishly tricky breads to get right, and I figured that by following Alton Brown's extremely scientific recipe I would have a greater likelihood of getting them perfect. Little did I know that just after Alton's super precise (aka: you need a kitchen scale) ingredient list, the actual process of making the biscuit dough would include terms like rubbing, poking, and massaging. If only that were being done to my back, I would be a very peaceful cook. Alas, I had to do it to the dough, and I had to do so in a way that would replicate Alton's grandmother's arthritic fingers. That's right-- the recipe explicitly talked about the advantage of stiff fingers and a semi-light touch in order to make my biscuits light and fluffy (excessive mixing of the fats and flour packs the dough together too densely and leads to thick, crumbly crackers).
Now, I don't have rock-climber-strong finger tips. I can't palm a basketball (...or throw one, but that's beside the point), and I am always afraid I am going to break a nail (zero pain threshold), but in general I have fairly strong hands. So, I had to act. In the most privately embarrassing cooking moment I have had since attempting to make a tableside Caesar Salad "with great flair and flourish," (yet another Alton Brown mandate), I crooked my fingers, pretended they were frozen and couldn't move, and prodded at my biscuit mixture until I had what I thought would be the perfect dough. Fortunately, nobody was around to see.
The biscuits were good... Not perfect arthritis biscuits, but good nonetheless. My first mistake was that I made the dough round too thin because I didn't think I would get enough biscuits out of it. I assumed that the dough would rise quite a bit... It did not rise even a little. My second mistake is that, looking back at the recipe, I put about 1/4 of the amount of baking powder I was supposed to. Oops. What I got were thin, slightly-too-dense biscuits with a really lovely flavor. Lesson of the week: double the recipe, cut the biscuits much thicker, and when the last biscuit is eaten, relearn that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Second lesson: Put enough baking powder.
The rest of the meal was not memorized, but it was such a delicious main course to have with our biscuits that I will share the recipes here too. The shrimp sauce was perfectly creamy without being too heavy (I don't know how Bobby Deen promotes healthier versions of his mom's recipes without completely insulting her, but he pulls it off without a hitch). I doubled the recipe, except for the tomatoes. Personally, I don't like my Shrimp and Grits too acidic. The recipe also called for instant grits, but the slow cook grits I used were truly spectacular once they cooked down. A word to the wise: if you are serving a group of people who choose rice as their preferred carbohydrate, the grits may not fly. Our dinner group consisted of my roommate, her dad, and our friend, all of whom are Asian and none of whom liked the grits. The situation would have been a culinary anthropologist's dream. (Do they exist? Because I may have just found my calling.) To top off a nice meal in a short amount of time, we made indoor s'mores on the gas range (so cute and fun!). And of course, the roomies brought wine.
|The one part of the biscuit that did rise was the middle,|
so press a little thumbprint on each for a flat top
|I made 1 1/2 times the recipe, but the dough was too thin. |
I would expect about half this amount if you make a better, thicker biscuit.
|Keeping the biscuits in a clean kitchen towel and popping them|
in the microwave (don't turn it on!) will preserve the warmth until dinner time.
The Recipe: Southern Biscuits by Alton Brown, adapted from Good Eats: The Early Episodes
Yield: 1 dozen biscuits
- 12 oz. all purpose flour plus 1/2 cup for dusting
- 4 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1 oz. unsalted butter, chilled
- 2 oz. shortening, chilled
- 1 cup lowfat buttermilk, chilled
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
- Using your fingertips, rub the butter and shortening into the dry goods until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
- Make a well in the mixture (volcano style) and pour in the buttermilk. Stir with a large spoon until the dough just comes together, then knead in the bowl until all the flour has been taken up.
- Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface, then start folding the dough over on itself, gently kneading for 30 seconds.
- Press the dough into a 1-inch thick round (don't get greedy here and make it thinner to make more biscuits: see "The Verdict" above).
- Using a 2-inch round biscuit cutter, punch through the dough and twist to release the biscuit. Reroll scraps and keep punching until all the dough has been formed into a biscuits.
- Place the biscuits on a baking tray so they just barely touch.
- Use your thumb to press a small dimple into the top center of each biscuit.
- Bake 15-20 minutes or until the biscuits are tall and light gold.
- Let cool a little bit in a kitchen towel-lined basket.
- Serve with butter, honey, jam, and whatever else your heart desires.
|The final product: perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner|
Yield: 8 large servings
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 2 lbs. uncooked shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 (14 1/2-oz) can petite-cut diced tomatoes
- 1/2 cup Pinot Grigio (or dry white wine of your choice)
- 2 tsp Sriracha (or hot sauce of your choice)
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 6 cups water
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 cups stone ground grits (I used the ones from Trader Joe's)
- 1 cup milk (any % fat)
- Bring water, salt, and butter to a boil in a pot.
- Gradually stir in the grits and return to a boil.
- Lower the heat and cover.
- Let the grits cook, stirring frequently, for 15-20 minutes.
- Add milk and cook, uncovered, stirring constantly, for another 10-15 minutes or until grits are a soft, oatmealy texture.
- As the grits get started, add oil to a nonstick pan and heat.
- Add onions and bell pepper and cook for about 8 minutes.
- Add the shrimp and garlic to the pan and cook, stirring, about 1-2 minutes.
- Transfer the shrimp to a bowl and set aside.
- Add the tomatoes, wine, hot sauce, and salt to taste to the pan and bring to a boil, gently scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any stuck bits.
- Lower the heat and simmer until the sauce begins to thicken, about 10 minutes.
|I have to give some credit to our household's preferred Malbec-- Layer Cake|
|If you don't have a chocolate bar, a little pile of chocolate chips will do the trick.|