Julia Child that is – one of my all-time kitchen faves. I used to watch Julia back when the real world only had access to 6 channels :: 4, 5, 9, 13, 25 & 43. Between Julia and Bob ((please tell me you know about Bob Ross)), I felt like a pretty well-rounded kiddo.
I have been on the hunt for the perfect biscuit and to my delight I found a great German biscuit recipe in one of my favorite vintage cookbooks (read all about that recipe HERE). The German biscuit has a hint of sweet, is really simple to make and is so light and fluffy – oh and it contains YEAST! 1½¢ worth, to be exact.
That vintage German biscuit is going into the recipe repeat folder FOR SURE.
But I am still on the hunt for the best basic biscuit – you know the one right? Flour flying, some splashes of milk, shortening and a biscuit cutter in hand.
Well, for me, biscuits and pie crust fall into the same category. Simple and complicated all at the same time. Basically, they intimidate me to no end. Almost a year ago, my BF buckled me down and forced me to learn the art of pie crust. I have been wheeling and dealing ever since. But my dream of becoming a better biscuit maker has been dangling out of reach. That is until I started cracking open some trusted cookbooks.
Isn’t it funny, I have 2 kitchen fears and Julia mentions BOTH of them, and goes on to declare they are a measure of a baker’s talents.
Today Julia whispered in my ear as I worked through her recipe:
To have a good biscuit hand is to have a light touch and restraint – a biscuit dough is so soft that it invites poking and prodding. The golden rule with biscuits is to stop doing whatever you’re doing two beats before you have to.
And I whispered back:
How do I know when that happens?!
But as my hands started mashing the messy dough, I began to see those minute details within; details that only one intimately involved in the process can notice: little wet pockets, blueberry-sized bits of shortening and hidden reservoirs of flour. Quickly, surprisingly quickly – those pockets, lumps and reservoirs became less and less. It was at the moment when just a few imperfections remained that I could almost hear Ms. Child yell “STOP!”
When Julia tells you to stop, you better stop. I stopped.
I think she gave me a little eyebrow raise and a warm but efficiently fast smile when I went outside the recipe “box”. Julia suggested brushing melted butter over the tops of the uncooked biscuits but I decided to add a sprinkle of turbinado sugar.
Into the hot oven they went. I must admit, as I surveyed the sight of melted butter, sprinkled sugar and the prospect of homemade biscuit goodness, I was hopeful.
As they baked, the oven smells told me I was on the right track.
They puffed nicely (although I think I should have left the dough thicker).
But the softened butter and red plum jam didn’t seem to mind the slightness one bit. The crunch of the sugar coming from that first hot buttery, fluffy bite, oozing with jam – as good as I have ever tasted and FAR better than I hoped on my first biscuit making experience.
I think my messy work space could use some improvement – I am sure Julia’s would have looked cleaner, haha!
- 2 cups AP flour
- 1 T baking powder
- 1 t salt
- 1/3 c vegetable shortening (I used butter flavored)
- 1 c milk (I used 2%)
- 3 T melted butter (optional)
- 3 T turbinado sugar (optional)
- Preheat oven to 425°. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients. Once dry ingredients are thoroughly combined, rub the flour mixture and shortening together, gently forming little crumbs. Rather than squeezing, let the bits gently fall through your fingers. Keep rubbing until mainly little bits remain (some larger bits are fine to leave).
- Pour milk over the flour/shortening mixture & stir with a fork to moisten the flour. Before everything is thoroughly mixed, dump the sticky dough out onto a well-floured surface.
- With floured hands, knead the dough no more than 10 times and work it into a 9" disk. Using a biscuit cutter, cut out biscuits. (You can form the scraps into another biscuit or two, so don't discard them.)
- Transfer the biscuits to the parchment-lined baking sheet. The biscuits can either touch or be 2" apart depending on if you want soft or crisp sides. Brush the uncooked biscuits with melted butter and sprinkle with turbinado sugar, if desired.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until they are golden on top.
- To reheat, warm for 5 minutes on 350°.
- Makes 10 2" biscuits