BIG OL’ BISCUITS

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I found this biscuit barrel at an estate sale.   This definition of biscuit barrel from the Collins English Dictionary sums it up pretty concisely: “an airtight container of circular section equipped with a lid and used  for storing biscuits.”  The same source offers this use of the term in a sentence:  “She looked with favour at the contents of his biscuit barrel.”  (Snicker.)  I’ve got quite a few biscuit barrels that I’ve picked up at estate sales, in cut crystal, oak, and silver-plate.  Most of them are in my kids’ rooms, where they hold “collections” of all sorts, including glass buttons, miniature Pokemon figures, ribbons, and coins.  I bet “she” would not look “with favour” at these contents.  About the only thing we don’t store in them are biscuits.

Recently my daughter and I treated ourselves to one of the giant biscuits with jam and crème fraiche at Blacksmith:

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Biscuits aren’t something we indulge in very often, and that big biscuit, with its fluffy interior and craggy exterior was worth the calorie splurge.  Inspired by the biscuit barrel and the monster creation at Blacksmith, I thought I’d surprise my daughter by making homemade biscuits for breakfast.  I looked at a bunch of recipes, in search of one that would be suitably tender inside and craggy outside.  Tips for biscuit success include using well-chilled butter, working quickly to keep the butter from softening, not overworking the dough (to prevent tough biscuits), and baking at 400 degrees or higher (for high-rising biscuits).

The recipe I wound up working from was billed as the “best, fluffy, flakey, buttery biscuits ever.”  I want to stop here and say that I chose the recipe because the picture with it looked like what I was looking for, and NOT because someone declared these the “best ever.”  Don’t you find it obnoxious when someone declares something the “best ever?”  How about just saying your family or your guests loved these, or they disappeared quickly, or you like them best of all the recipes you’ve ever tried in your whole life?  But “best ever?”  No.

The same is true for “amazing,” one of the most overused words around.  How is your coffee?  Amazing?  Really?  A-ma-zing?  I noticed a while back that “super” had slipped into our vocabulary, as in “super cute” and “super fun” and “super easy.”  What does “super” add, other than the impression that you are perhaps 12 years old?  And yet, there are apparently some things that even “super” won’t adequately describe, and lately I’ve been seeing “beyond” replacing it, as in “that outfit is beyond cute” or “I am beyond blessed.”  Like “super,” tacking on “beyond” adds nothing, and is best saved for describing that area of the bed and bath store that doesn’t neatly fit into either the bed or bath category.

So were these the best, fluffy, flakey, buttery biscuits ever?  I have no idea.  But I did think they were really good, although perhaps not beyond amazing (wink), and slathered with butter and jam, warm out of the oven, they made a pretty indulgent breakfast.  “She” would look with “favour” at these.  :)

BIG OL' BISCUITS
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Recipe type: Breads and Muffins
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ½ cup salted butter, cut into small pieces
  • ⅔ cup half and half
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
  2. Place flour, baking powder, salt, and cream of tartar in a food processor and pulse briefly to combine. Add butter and pulse until pea-sized. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add the milk and honey, and stir until a shaggy dough is formed.
  3. Transfer dough to a lightly-floured surface and knead several times. Pat dough into a circle about ¾" high. Cut out biscuits using a 2" biscuit cutter. Transfer biscuits to a baking sheet, spacing them approximately 2" apart. Bake for approximately 10-12 minutes, until tops are golden brown. In the last minute of baking, brush tops of biscuits with melted butter. Remove to serving platter and serve warm.

 IMG_5911Biscuits on the rise

A brush with butter is better than a brush with danger

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 Big ol’ biscuits with butter and jam 

butterWe used this Hand Rolled Butter, which has been showing up in grocery stores lately (including Kroger).  Not sure why hand-rolling is special, but the butter was sweet and creamy had a smoother texture than the sticks we usually buy.

HOT JALAPEÑO CORNBREAD

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The inspiration for today’s recipe comes from this Texas magazine, a Sunday insert to the Houston Chronicle, dated September 13, 1970, which I found among a stack of cookbooks at a recent estate sale.

IMG_5767 On the cover is Ann Criswell, the Houston Chronicle’s first food editor. IMG_5766

Ann was the Chronicle’s food editor from 1966 until she retired in 2000.  I still have tons of recipes I clipped during her time as editor, mostly from the ’80s and ’90s.  The Chronicle’s food section was the first food section in Houston, and the Houston Post followed suit a week later.  The food section, which featured an average of 60 recipes per week, was largely geared towards middle income families.  One of her most significant contributions (in my opinion) was arranging the recipes so that they could be cut out of the newspaper in one piece — a practice I wish Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, and other food magazines would adopt.

In an interview last fall, she reminisced about what a different world it was when she started the food section in 1966.   She said that she was constantly discovering and researching new foods that came on the market — things like arugula and starfruit.  As the recipes in the magazine reflect, there was a heavy reliance on canned soups.

In the section of the magazine on vegetables, she shares a secret:

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She goes on to advise that “[c]anned vegetables serve a purpose, of course, and can be company best . . . .  But no woman should consider herself an accomplished cook until she has mastered fresh vegetables.”  I found it kind of amusing that of the 14 vegetable recipes, half of them called for canned or frozen vegetables.

I found some of the ads interesting too, particularly this one, for the Trim Gym:

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My, how exercise has changed!  This looks like exercise that even I could do, which doesn’t look much harder than lying around on a broken ironing board, and I don’t think you need a Lululemon outfit to use it:

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Seriously — if you know where I can get one, please let me know!  (I’ve also been considering taking up bull riding, because even if you’re really, really good at it, it only takes 8 seconds, and that’s about my limit for exercise.)

I had a really hard time picking out a recipe from the magazine to make.  Although they might have been awesome in 1970, they sounded awfully unappealing today — dishes like “Tomato Wine Sauce” made with a can of condensed tomato soup, and “Swiss Shrimp Fondue” made with frozen condensed cream of shrimp soup, Swiss cheese, and small frozen shrimp.  But then this recipe for Hot Jalapeno Corn Bread called to me:

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With the exception of the addition of 1/4 cup corn oil, the recipe is pretty much the same as the one you can still find on packages of cornbread mix today.  It bakes up dense, and moist, and goes really well with barbecued anything.  My husband heated up a few slices in a skillet the next day, and it was perhaps even better, with its lightly toasted bottoms.

HOT JALAPEÑO CORNBREAD
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Author:
Ingredients
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups milk (can use low-fat)
  • 3 cups yellow cornbread mix (I used three packages of Martha White)
  • ¼ cup corn oil
  • 1 cup canned cream-style corn (the recipe calls for a No. 303 can, but I couldn't figure out what that was)
  • 1 cup grated Cheddar cheese
  • l large grated onion (optional -- I omitted)
  • 1 4-ounce can jalapenos, chopped (I used jarred pickled jalapenos)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Place eggs in a medium mixing bowl and beat slightly. Blend in remaining ingredients. Pour batter into a well-greased 13x9-inch baking dish. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, being careful not to let it dry out. Cut into squares and serve.

Easy and delicious

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 Here’s to you Ann — thanks for the memories!