It’s been a hot, stinky summer, and I should be thinking about all the cool and abundant foods that can be eaten without cooking – tomatoes, watermelon, peaches, strawberries, blackberries, any berries, radishes, celery, cucumbers… Instead I am beginning to think about baking some biscuits, and really ratcheting up the heat index the kitchen for the morning. There is nothing is better than a warm home baked biscuit, schmeared with sweet butter. Unless it is a scone, lathered with cream and jam. Or whipped cream and some of those berries. Mmmm.
And why I was suddenly compelled to bake biscuits you might wonder? I did an illo recently for my podcast friends at The Dinner Party Download – which is such a great podcast and you really should listen to it: http://www.dinnerpartydownload.org/ Rico Galliano and Brendan Francis Newnam engage in much banter, hilarity, booze, music, storytelling and generate a lot of pleasurable listening for me when I am walking the dog, or folding napkins. They weren’t able to use my design after all, but being good sports and gentlemen, they thanked me with the gift of a fabulous cookbook, which spurred me on to ridiculous temperatures. Rico and Brendan sent me the Tupelo Honey: New Southern Flavors From the Blue Ridge Mountains cookbook, which is packed to the rafters with photos and ideas and recipes for Southern cooking for the twenty-first century. The Tupelo Honey Café has cafes in Asheville, Greenville, Chattanooga, Charlotte and Johnson City. My bucket list just got longer.
The Dinner Party Download starts each episode with an icebreaker joke, and then some small talk, which leads to cocktail chatter. Appropriately the Tupelo Honey Café cookbook starts with “Moonshine, ‘Thunder Road’ and Mountain Elixirs”. Not that I will be hitting the moonshine before breakfast, but it’s good to know that these cookbook editors have their priorities straight, with their tongues firmly planted in their cheeks.
I moseyed past “Ode to Muddy Pond” and “Tupelo Honey-Molasses Eggnog”, made note of “Summertime Tomato Salad” which looked easy peasy and blessedly cool: cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, a red onion and some vinaigrette. I thumbed past the “Cheese, Cheese, Cheese Mac and Cheese, Please” and the “Smoked Hog Jowl – Creamed with Lima Beans with Tarragon” to reach the “Tupelo Honey Buttermilk Biscuits”.
Tupelo Honey Buttermilk Biscuits
• 2 cups White Lily Self-Rising Flour
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• ½ teaspoon salt
• ⅓ cup chilled shortening, cut into pieces
• ½ cup heavy cream
• 1 cup buttermilk
• Melted butter
Preheat oven to 425˚ and position oven rack slightly below center of oven. Lightly butter a round cake pan or cast-iron skillet. In a large mixing bowl, whisk flour, sugar, and salt. Snap pieces of shortening with your fingers until they’re no larger than peas. Make a well in the mixture and pour in cream and ⅔ cup of buttermilk. Using your hands, sweep in the flour and turn dough until dry ingredients are moistened and dough resembles cottage cheese, adding just enough of remaining ⅓ cup buttermilk to reach this consistency. Sprinkle rolling surface with flour. Turn dough out onto the surface and sprinkle top with flour. With floured hands, fold dough in half and pat it into a ⅓- to ½-inch-thick round, using additional flour as needed. Flour again if necessary and fold dough in half a second time. If dough is still clumpy, repeat folding process for a third time. Pat dough into a 1-inch-thick round. Dip a 2-inch biscuit cutter into the flour and cut out biscuits, ensuring you don’t twist the cutter. Place biscuits in pan, sides slightly touching. Brush tops of biscuits with melted butter and bake for 15-20 minutes, until light golden brown, rotating pan 180 degrees after 6 minutes. Remove from oven and brush biscuits again with melted butter. Yields 10 biscuits.
No more Bisquick for us!
If you would like to continue enjoying Southern recipes, here’s one from Southern Living for scones – which are just gussied up biscuits. But they are more acceptable for afternoons, particularly if you trowel on the clotted (or whipped) cream.: http://www.southernliving.com/food/entertaining/easy-scone-recipes
One blog I like to follow, indeed it is my fantasy life, is The Little Observationist. http://www.littleobservationist.com/ Steph is an ex-pat American living in London, who blogs (and photographs very nicely) about food and drink and London sights, smells and tastes. Recently she baked scones for the first time, which I found rather shocking as she has lived there for quite a while. But I suppose if I could have tea and cakes with regularity from the Paul Patisserie or The Drawing Rooms at the Ampersand Hotel, I wouldn’t be baking at home either: http://joythebaker.com/2014/04/tiny-strawberry-cream-scones/
Two more sites with lots of good ideas – Garden & Gun Magazine and Food52:
“Poetry is the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits.”