I wanted to have some biscuits on hand for breakfast and decided to try a different recipe this morning. They came out well – even the ones in the row on the left cut from the second gentle gathering and rolling of scraps. It’s not at all surprising because King Arthur Flour recipes have never disappointed me. I usually make Flying Biscuits from the cookbook by the café of the same name I often visited at Candler Park, long ago when they had just three restaurants around Atlanta. King Arthur Flour calls the ones I made today simply Baking Powder Biscuits. I followed their advice to use buttermilk instead of milk. Like most baked goods, biscuits freeze nicely and thaw quickly, so that’s where five of them are now.
Because you could probably call me an old geezer without me grimacing too much, and because I have a history of getting influenza and pneumonia at the same time – five days in hospital over Christmas 1997 and a much less severe episode stopped by speedy application of Tamiflu and antibiotics in 2016, when the vaccinations I had for both did not cover the strains I caught – I got permission to start working exclusively from home on 9 March and have self-isolated since then, encountering just eight people through yesterday, all at a distance. My company activated its remote work plan a week later on 16 March at noon.
Edited 23 March to add: The state of Massachusetts has followed suit a week later, shutting down non-essential businesses and issuing a “stay at home” advisory from 24 March through 7 April.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of monitoring the news minute-by-minute, so I’ve been trying to limit that to no more than thirty minutes once a day. I’ll admit I’m not successful every day, but I am certain that a normal work day followed by cooking, baking, reading, and watching shows and films from the many thousands of hours in my media collection are far healthier ways of spending my waking hours, and I remain pleased that I’ve never joined any antisocial media network. I wince at the endless hours of feverish scrolling a lot of people must be putting themselves through. During work, the twenty-one hours of live music from Transatlantic Sessions that I have makes for a mellow background. It occurs to me that this would be a fine time to bring out the data DVDs I have of the earliest series of The Great British Bake Off from a decade ago.
As far as cooking and baking go, in recent days I’ve made, along with a few other things, six quarts of my hybrid French onion pot roast beef stew, six quarts of split pea soup, corn bread, Nancy Silverton’s La Brea Bakery bran muffins, banana cream pie partially based on a recipe from McEwen’s Restaurant in Memphis, and these biscuits – see the title of this post for the rationale. Slow-cooked bacon and some freshly-baked bread are on the horizon. I may make the simple but quite excellent River Cottage basic white loaf recipe or, if I’m more ambitious, I’ll refresh my sourdough starter, which will take a few days, to make a boule. Some of those recipes are here on the site – search at the magnifying glass under Mark Twain there on the left or, if you’re on a phone, search is at top right.
Today’s breakfast was poached eggs and sawmill gravy on a split biscuit:
Click for a larger version
Edited 23 March to add:
Sausage, egg, and blackberry jam biscuit beats sausage, egg, and cheese
Back in July, I noted King Arthur Flour’s blog entry for blueberry hand pies, and finally got around to making a blackberry version this past weekend. Then I made a bunch more Monday night to bring in to work – the results pictured above – with some adjustments that made them noticeably better. Foremost, I did four turns of the rough puff pastry instead of just the two called for in the recipe. That added only an extra half-hour of chilling and five or six more minutes of pounding/rolling/folding, and it was worth every minute.
A friend I shared them with on Sunday had been looking for a fairly simple puff pastry recipe and asked for this one, so I sent her the link and my notes, that email pasted under the line here. I did all the “next time, I’m going to” things mentioned below for version 2 on Monday night and each of them paid off handsomely.
If puff pastry – even this simpler rough puff recipe – seems daunting to you, it isn’t. Scroll through their pictorial blog entry and you’ll see it’s pretty straightforward. I’ve wanted to try my hand at it ever since, some years ago, I saw the price on frozen puff pastry that’s made with actual butter – and quickly moved along, defensively clutching my money clip. Oooowee, that’s some profit! I should add that it wasn’t Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets because theirs haven’t been within a country mile of even two molecules of butter. Strictly oils and high-fructose corn syrup in there, friends – not what you would call traditional.
There were more pies than people on Tuesday; inside an hour, only five or six crumbs were left on the platter. This recipe is going onto my frequently-made list.
Step-by-step on the King Arthur Flour Baking Blog:
The changes I made were to 1) switch to blackberries, cutting them in half cross-wise because they were big (though they’re more tart than blueberries, I specifically did not increase the sugar in the filling because I prefer lightly sweet desserts where the fruit has the leading role), 2) add a half-teaspoon of cinnamon to the berry mixture, 3) use Sugar in the Raw to sprinkle on top instead of sparkling sugar because that’s what I have, and 4) use Julia Child’s method for the egg wash: Add a half-teaspoon of water to the egg, mix with a fork, then strain into a small bowl using the fork to further mix in the strainer and get the liquid through. Slackening the liquid and straining out the chalazae – those protein strands that anchor the yolk to the top and bottom of the shell – makes it easier to apply the wash well; coverage can be a bit spotty otherwise. This is especially true of very fresh eggs, where the chalazae are larger and thicker.
Note that you can use salted butter. There’s about an eighth teaspoon of salt in one stick of salted, so just reduce the ¾ teaspoon salt in the dough to ½ teaspoon and you’re all set. You can also sprinkle the pies with regular granulated sugar instead of larger crystals after the final egg wash. I think it does need that little bit of sweetness on top.
Flour your work surface well but not excessively throughout and brush excess off the dough before folding each time. Based on how quickly the dough softened as I worked with it, next time I make them, at the last rollout, I’m going to shape into the final 14×14″ sheet, cut the 3½” squares, arrange them on parchment on a baking sheet, and put them back in the fridge for 20 minutes. Then I’ll take them out and assemble the pies while the dough is nice and firm and get them in the oven. In assembling, I’m going to use a lighter touch with the fork crimping of the edges to allow the sides to rise more. The filling is thick enough that it’s not really trying to escape, so that won’t result in breaches.
Based on some other rough puff pastry recipes that do more than the two turns this one features, next time I’m also going to add the step of two more turns, for a total of four, after the initial 30-minute chilling, then chill the dough a further 30 minutes before the final 14×14″ rolling. This will produce 81 layers instead of just 9 from two turns. Traditional puff pastry dough gets five or six turns, producing 243 or 729 layers, respectively.
Sour cream is used here as the liquid instead of the water used in traditional puff pastry for four reasons: 1) adds liquid with additional fat to the recipe (like butter & shortening or butter & lard), 2), adds acidity that reacts with the baking powder (which reacts to both heat and acid), 3) tenderizes the gluten in the flour for a more delicate texture, and 4) helps baked goods in general retain moisture so they’re not dry husks after a day. Not that there are going to be any of these left in 24 hours, mind you.
I keep the butter & cream cheese icing separate, warm the buns before serving, and let people slather on as much or as little icing as they like
Printing tip: At the bottom of each article on the site, a print/PDF/email function allows you to print or save a PDF of just the body of the article without any web site formatting. Scroll to the end of the article to find these icons and click there: In the print dialog that opens, you can click any element on the page you don’t need to remove it from the printed/saved version.
This is my new favourite recipe for cinnamon buns. With a dough not too far away from a brioche, they’re a bit crispy on the outside and, inside, beautifully soft and light but not mushy.
Ahead of time: An hour or two ahead, take two sticks of butter (three if you’re doubling the icing), a package of cream cheese, and two eggs out of the fridge so they can warm to room temperature. Note that you can use salted butter if you want – there’s a negligible 1/8th teaspoon of salt in a quarter-pound salted stick, so it won’t make an appreciable difference.
Ratios are crucial in baking, so I measure by weight – especially important for the flour.
1 cup (235 ml) lukewarm milk [heat in microwave about 1 minute until 115F/45C or so]
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup (2 5/8 oz, 75g) softened unsalted butter, cut into half-tablespoon pieces
4 1/2 cups (19 oz, 540g) all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz, 100g) granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast or active dry yeast
1/3 cup (2 5/8 oz, 75g) softened unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar, packed (7 1/2 oz, 210g)
3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
Icing (original is really sweet – see my adjustments below)
[I usually double the icing recipe and then let guests use as much or as little as they like. I also decrease the sugar and increase the butter and cream cheese to make the icing not as sickly sweet as the original recipe. For a single icing recipe, I use 8 tablespoons (half cup, 4 oz., 115g) cream cheese, 1/3 cup (3 oz, 85g) butter, 1 cup confectioner’s/icing sugar (4 oz, 110g), and the 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.]
To make the dough: Mix together and knead all of the dough ingredients – by hand, mixer, or bread machine – to make a smooth, soft dough. [In a stand mixer with a dough hook, this will take 6 or 7 minutes. When the side of the bowl is fairly clean and the dough starts to climb the hook a bit, it’s ready. Note that, like brioche dough, which is similarly enriched with butter, sugar, and egg, this may seem too wet at the start, but it isn’t.]
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turn to grease all sides, cover the bowl, and let the dough rise for 60 minutes, or until it’s nearly doubled in bulk. [Enriched doughs can take longer to rise – up to two hours in a cold kitchen or if your ingredients weren’t at room temperature or if your yeast is a little tired – or just because. I use a large measuring cup that has a cover – see picture below – and wait as long as it takes to rise to almost the 2 quart mark.]
Deflate and roll out the dough: Gently deflate the dough, and transfer it to a lightly greased work surface. [It’s very important to grease the surface – you’ll need two feet by a foot-and-a-half – because you’re rolling a fairly wet dough to 3-4mm thickness and it would stick like tape otherwise. This may seem daunting, but don’t worry, the dough is very pliable and easy to stretch without tearing.] Pat the dough out into a rough rectangle, then roll to 16×21″/40x53cm, keeping the corners as square as practical.
Filling: [For this step, I find it’s easier to microwave the butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon for about 30 seconds, then mix to form a paste that you can spread fairly evenly onto the dough. Allow it to cool a bit if it feels hot. This method also stops a bunch of the filling from falling out and ending up on the bottom of your pan.] Original method: Spread the dough with the 1/3 cup butter. Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle it evenly over the dough.
Slicing note: I use a very thin and sharp boning knife to slice the roll into buns, but you may find it easier to chill the roll in the fridge for half an hour before slicing and then use a serrated bread knife.
5a. For 12 large buns [these are huge]: Starting with a short end, roll the dough into a 16″/40cm log and cut it into 12 slices. [Cut in half, then cut each half in half, then cut each quarter into three equal pieces.]
5b. For 24 smaller buns: Starting with a long end, roll the dough into a 21″/53cm log and cut it into 24 slices. [Cut in half, then cut each half in half, then cut each quarter in half, then cut each eighth into 3 equal pieces.]
6. Place the buns in a lightly greased 9×13″/22x33cm pan. [3×4 rows for 12 buns or 4×6 rows for 24 buns.] Cover the pan and let the buns rise until they’re nearly doubled in size, about 30 minutes. [Again, your results may vary – it can take up to an hour. Be patient and let them puff up.]
7. While the buns are rising, preheat the oven to 400F/200C
8. Uncover the buns, and bake them until they’re golden brown, about 15 minutes. [Check them every couple minutes starting at 15 minutes, but I’ve found that golden brown won’t appear until 18-22 minutes have passed. If you have a probe thermometer, 190-195F/87-90C inside the center buns is your target.] While the buns are baking, make the icing.
9. To make the icing: In a small bowl, beat together the softened cream cheese, softened butter, sugar, and vanilla. [I double the icing recipe and modify by using a little more butter and cream cheese and less confectioner’s/icing sugar. See note above.]
10. Remove the buns from the oven. Spread the icing on the buns while they’re warm. [I keep the icing separate, partly so people can have as much or as little as they like and partly because only the baker normally sees that nice spiral. It would be a shame to hide it away permanently.]
11. Serve buns warm, or at room temperature. [Room temperature? Stop it.] Wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for a day or so; freeze for longer storage.
This is how slack the kneaded dough will be
The first rise will result in nearly two quarts/litres
Island surface sprayed with canola oil
Patted into a rectangle, then rolled out to about 16×21”/40x53cm and 3-4mm thick
Filling spread over dough – it doesn’t have to be perfect
Dough rolled up on long side, sliced in half, then quarters, then eighths
Those eighths cut into thirds for 24 medium buns
Arranged in buttered 9×13”/22x33cm pan for second rise – a bit wonky looking, but…
…after the second rise, the wonkiness from the slicing has corrected itself
Out of the oven
A previous bake of the larger size – they’re pretty huge
Pork shoulder ends up fantastically moist when slow-cooked inside an oven bag – in the case of this half-shoulder, about five hours at 275F/135C. This cut is commonly known as “Boston butt” because 1) in the 1700s, pork shoulder was widely known as a Boston specialty and 2) a butt is a volume measurement equal to two hogsheads and was also the name of the casks butchers packed shoulders into for transport. So the odd name was not so much for the product as its origin and the container it arrived in.
The QA department, ever thorough, is responsible for the large missing chunk. Click for a larger version.
Pulled pork demands hamburger buns, and around here that means King Arthur Flour’s recipe for Beautiful Burger Buns:
They really are things of beauty. My friend appropriately said, “Oooo!” when she walked into the kitchen to see. Click for a larger version.
The corn below comes from Willard Farm in Harvard, Massachusetts, where the Willard family has been farming since the 1600s. A dozen or so generations directly back from the current owner is Simon Willard, who moved here from England in 1634 and founded the town of Concord, Massachusetts, serving as its clerk and counsel for a couple of decades. Their corn, quite sweet early this year due to lots of rain, cannot be beat. It’s in the form of Better Than Granny’s Creamed Corn here, made about two hours after the corn was picked.
After Christmas Eve dinner of cider-baked ham, breakfast Christmas morning was a shared four-egg ham and cheddar omelette with Americanos and the always delightful cinnamon crumb coffeecake from the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion, recipe below.
Cinnamon Crumb Coffeecake
From the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion
Makes two 8-inch rounds, one 13 x 9-inch pan, or one 9- or 10-inch tube pan.
8 tablespoons (1 stick, 4 ounces) butter, at room temperature
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar (caster sugar)
2 large eggs (2 oz. each with shells)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
Confectioners’ sugar (icing sugar), for dusting
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/175C. Grease two 8-inch round cake pans, a 9 x 13-inch pan, or a 9- or 10-inch tube pan.
TO MAKE THE CRUMB: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon. Melt the butter in the microwave or small saucepan and add the vanilla extract and almond extract to it. Pour the butter into the flour mixture and mix until all the butter is absorbed and you have a uniformly moistened crumb mixture. Set aside while you make the cake batter.
TO MAKE THE BATTER: In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, and beat between additions. Scrape down the mixing bowl, then beat in the vanilla and sour cream.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder together. Add to the butter/sour cream mixture, mixing until evenly combined. Pour the batter into the greased baking pan(s). Crumble the crumb mixture over the top, until the batter is completely covered.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes for 8-inch rounds, 30 to 35 minutes for a 9 x 13-inch pan, or 35 to 40 minutes for a 9- or 10-inch tube pan. Bake until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and cool on a rack; dust the top with confectioners’ sugar, if desired.
I saw these in the store last night and was briefly tempted…for about a millisecond.
They look appealing enough, but when I’ve given in to laziness and bought them in the past, I’ve regretted it. They’re far too sweet (first ingredient listed: sugar) and have quite an odd taste. They list artificial flavour in the ingredients, so I’m guessing it’s a miserable formula aimed at making soybean oil taste like the butter that ought to be in the recipe in the first place. Chemical trade name Butt•R•Not®, my imagination suggests.
Instead, I remembered a recipe for a homemade version in the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion, online recipe here, and made them this morning. The book version of the recipe suggested splitting, toasting, then applying softened butter and strawberry jam, so I tried them with preserves I had on hand from the good monks out in Spencer, Massachusetts, who also make my favourite blackberry seedless jam.
I don’t have a corncake pan, so I used a 9×13″ pan instead. You bake these until the bottom has some colour – see the upturned piece in the background – but the top has barely any so they don’t end up burning in the toaster.