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Cheap and Good: Biscuits and Stuff To Put On ‘Em

biscuits When things get tough..the tough make comfort food. That’s it in a nutshell. And if things get tough in the winter – it’s comfort food on steroids.

Best comfort food comes with stuff in it and gravy or “sauce” (whatever that means at your house) and comes on top of something else. In some people’s homes, it’s noodles or spaghetti…in other people’s homes, it’s on top of biscuits.

Today, it’s all about the biscuit and what you can do with it.

Now, you can go out to your local groceria and buy the “pop tube” of biscuits, but frankly, if you’ve got stuff on the shelf, I would never ever take freezer space for that, because, believe me: biscuits are not hard to make. There are two tricks:

1) Is your baking powder fresh? If you can’t remember when you bought your baking powder, it is not fresh and it will probably not work. Baking powder “off gases” and looses its oomph. One way to keep it fresher, longer is to put it into a sealable container once you’ve opened the can, but even then, it will NOT keep forever. One way to test is to put a teaspoon of baking powder into a little bit of vinegar (you do have a bottle of that, right?). If it foams up, you are good to go. If it does NOT, then ditch the package and write “baking powder” on your shopping list.

2) Do you have hard, cold fat? (No, this is not a discussion of you standing there, cooking in your underwear…). Repeat after me: If I want flakey, I need fat that is hard at room temperatures. This is the same piece of wisdom that works for pie crusts as well.

If you’ve got both of these, some milk and some flour, then you are definitely good to go. Here’s the basic recipe:

2 C. general purpose flour
Pinch of salt
4 teaspoons of baking powder
1 table spoon of sugar
½ C. of butter, lard, margarine or other hard-at-room-temp shortening
2/3 C. cold milk

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. and grease a cookie sheet.
Mix up the flour, salt , sugar and baking powder in a bowl
Cut up the shortening into little tiny chunks and use a pastry blender or two knives to cut the fat into the flour mixture. A pastry blender looks like this:

Pastry Blender

Once the flour mixture looks a bit like corn meal, then add your milk and mix it in. If you need a little more milk to get all the flour to go into the dough, then do that.

Throw a little flour on the counter and knead the dough a little – like three or four times. No more. You don’t want the heat from your hands to start to melt the shortening. Keep that dough cold.

Using a rolling pin or other rolling device (like…the wine bottle from the fridge…), roll out the dough about ½ inch thick and using a glass or other cutter (you can even just cut them with a knife into squares if you want), cut the dough into shapes and put on the greased sheet.

Bake for 12 min., until they start to brown on top (they should also be brown on the bottom already).

Eat or use for dishes like:
Creamed chicken or turkey
Chicken or turkey pot pie
Turkey on biscuits (with mushroom soup)

What else can you do with biscuits?

Well, if you want to make what we call at our house “winter short cake”, you take out some frozen fruit from the freezer and zap it for 1 or 2 min. in the microwave. If it is not sweetened with something, throw a tablespoon of sugar into it when you zap it. Or, you can use canned fruit as well.

You will need to change the dough just a teensy bit to make it into short cakes: instead of 1 table spoon of sugar, add one-third to one-half cup of sugar to the flour mixture. Now, it’s a sweet biscuit dough. Continue with the directions and bake as usual.

For the shortcakes:

Take a bowl, break a baked sweet biscuit in half and put one half in the bottom and add some of the fruit and juicy stuff on top. Add the top half of the biscuit to the bowl and top with some nice real whipped cream (Hey, you are going to go to Dietary Hell for just the butter in the biscuit part, so you may as well go dancin’). Voila.

You can use sweetened biscuit dough to make sweet pizza also: pat the biscuit dough thinly on a greased cookie sheet. Whip together one cup of ricotta cheese that has had one egg and some sugar added to it. Spread that on top of the biscuit. Put sliced fruits on top and bake at 400 degrees F. until the cheese is set.

Once biscuits are cold, they really are not as appetizing as they were, so if you have left overs, put them, covered, in the microwave and nuke for one min. and serve immediately, or refresh in the oven for 10 min. at 350 degrees.

Biscuits take so little time to make from scratch and taste soooo good that it is really worthwhile to make them yourself.

(originally published at Oxdown Gazette)

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  1. siri says:

    Hi Toby.
    Can you help a poor city girl with making 2 other things i’ve never been able to master? Pancakes (mine suck like no other!) and tortillas?
    I tried tortillas the other night and it was sooooo sad.
    Any tips or help there?
    If it’s not a bother. Sorry, I never had anyone tell me or talk to me about these things.
    IF YOU DON’T MIND AND HAVE TIME. Maybe these are ideas for other blog entries……
    Thank you!

  2. htwollin says:

    Tortillas: corn or soft flour? (not that it makes any difference, since I have had absolutely no luck in making corn tortillas. And as for soft flour ones, what we used to do Chez Siberia on the Susquehanna(before we got all decadent and just bought the things at the groceria) is this: I used to make crepe batter(no sugar) and make plain crepes and then use those instead. They worked not only for enchiladas, but also for various Italian dishes(stuffed with meat and sauced up like manicotti or with ricotta cheese and baked and sauced up, etc. I’m afraid Aunt Toby is a complete and utter waste in terms of producing Tortillas. Sniff. A great character defect I’m afraid.

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