Saturday, January 29, 2011

Tough Decisions & Tender Biscuits

I have been sitting in front of a blank post form for about 30 minutes now. I think I have started a first sentence at least ten times and promptly deleted the boring, meaningless words. Maybe it's the day-quil giving me serious writing block or, it could be all the butter I have consumed in the last few days.

The writers block and lack of posting in the past few weeks is more likely due to the slightly drastic changes my life has taken in 2011. It is almost February and all of the sudden I find myself once again with one job. I officially quit my design job (you know the one that I was laid off from, and was rehired to, all in the past 15 months) after a lot of pushing for some commitment and security, which turns out was all in vain. Hard decisions had to be made. What was best for my soul, my sanity, and my career? Was it better to take a part time job in a environment that wasn't healthy but where I was using my degree, or is it better to keep my job as a food server where my managers care about my well being and my sense of job security?

This dilemma was something I had been struggling with for about 3-4 months, but the issue was pushed front and center when I decided to enroll in a baking and pastry certificate program here in Chicago. This is something I have wanted to do for a long long time, and I finally decided to take the plunge and go for it. I am three weeks in, and besides a long and boring weekend sanitation class, it is everything I hoped it would be and more. We have made scones and biscuits, focaccia, challah, french baguettes, and other goodies. I have learned so much in the little time I have been in school and can hardly wait for what the rest of the year will bring.

I have come to feel really good about the tough choice I felt I had to make, and cannot wait to be able to put all my positive energy into school and the many baking jobs I have lined up for the spring. So, let's kick off what will probably be a long string of baked goods here on the blog with some delicious buttermilk biscuits. I have never made biscuits before, and for some reason had gotten it in my head that they were a difficult thing to make. I don't know what I was thinking, they are incredibly easy, and so fast. Most importantly though, they are buttery and flaky and taste amazing.

Buttermilk Biscuits
adapted from Professional Baking by Wayne Gisslen

2 lbs. 8 oz. all purpose flour (if you have them available, use half bread flour and half pastry flour for better results, but for the everyday home cook, AP still produces an excellent biscuit)
.75 oz. salt
2 ounces sugar
1.5 oz baking powder
.4 oz baking soda
14 oz. unsalted butter, cold and cubed into 1/2 inch pieces (plus some extra melted for brushing)
1 lb 10 oz buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. Sprinkle the cold butter over the dry mixture and with your fingers, break up the butter into smaller pieces to evenly distribute throughout flour (you can also use a pastry cutter, but using your fingers is way more fun). For flakier biscuits, do this until you have chickpea sized pieces, in other words, leave fairly big chunks of butter in your mixture. Just walk away, stop touching the butter (I know it's hard). For more mealy textured biscuits, you can break up the butter until it is in very teeny pieces, but I recommend the layered flaky goodness.

Add the buttermilk to your flour and butter mixture and mix with a spoon until dough starts to come together, then get in their with your hands and form the dough into a rough ball. Turn out onto a clean, lightly floured surface, and knead just a few times until you form a cohesive dough.

Gently press into a rectangular shape, and roll out with a rolling pin until about 3/4 inch thick, being sure to keep your surface underneath the dough floured to prevent sticking. Cut into 12-16 rectangles, depending on how big you would like your biscuits, and place on a parchment or silicone lined baking sheet. You can either keep them together in a tight rectangle for soft interior sides, or spread them out for a evenly baked, crispier biscuit. Brush tops lightly with a bit of melted butter. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until biscuits are golden brown and have puffed up.


Ana Rita said...

i'm willing to try these biscuits for so long and your recipe is so simple that i'll take it....



Rian said...

I think you forgot something at the end of the recipe. "Top with Mom's homemade raspberry jam".

I'm proud of you for making the tough decisions - I think in this case, they were the right ones!

Carrie said...

Beautiful biscuits! I wish I could eat one of those!! It seems as though you've made the right decision =) I'm excited for ya! It makes me want to run away to a pastry school when I'm done with my culinary program... I want to do more with pastry!! --Can't wait to see all your baking photos!!

tamilyn said...

Congrats on your brave choice. You will be happier in the long run and life is short, so enjoy what you love!

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