Sunday, June 27, 2021

ChezCindy: Crave-worthy Strawberry Drop Biscuits


I now consider myself to be a biscuit maker.  I have been baking since I was 8 or 10 years old, and I am only now finally able to make a tender biscuit worthy of craving.  

We were not a family that made biscuits for dinner or breakfast.  At Thanksgiving, we would pop open the can of ready-made biscuits.  In my adult years, I have tried many biscuit recipes, always using electric mixing tools thinking I was smarter than the recipe stating to mix by hand.  The biscuits were dense and tough, barely edible.  

This past year I have been taking virtual baking classes.  Sometimes the classes are just a confirmation that, yep, I already make that and it is great.  But most often I learn something new, even if it is just a small nugget of information.  The classes have been fun and something to look forward to every Monday night.  

One of the baking classes taught was biscuit making.  The instructors were real biscuit making folks from the South.  People who grew up with generations of biscuit making.  Passing down the skill from grandmother to mother to grandchild to great-grandchild.  So I watched with great interest.  No one used electric mixing tools.  Just relaxed time and patience, mixing everything with their fingertips.  As soon as the class ended, I was eagerly excited to try their recipe and process.  

I learned that making biscuits is all in the feel and touch of working the butter into the flour with your fingertips.  It is soft and gentle, kind of like an easy snapping of your fingers while immersed in flour and butter.  It is soothing, relaxing, and not hurried.  Once the butter is worked into the flour, you continue using your fingers to mix in the cream or buttermilk.  This is where it gets really messy, but it is right.

Key to successful biscuit making is to have all of your ingredients ready before you start mixing.  Because once you start, your fingers are covered in biscuit dough.  Stopping to measure out the buttermilk or to line the pan with parchment paper is a bit of a problem with doughy fingers.  Read the recipe, have the ingredients measured, the baking tray in place, and the oven pre-heated.  

This biscuit recipe is an easy one to begin with.  It is a drop biscuit, so there is no rolling out the dough, no cutting and shaping the biscuits.  You could make the biscuits without the strawberries and they will be delicious as such.  The addition of fruit is something nice to add if you have berries on hand.  Or you could add in shredded cheddar cheese for a savory biscuit.  That would be quite nice.  Try it once as is, and then make it your own.  

Strawberry Drop Biscuits
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
6 tablespoons cold salted butter*
4 large strawberries
5 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 cup cold water

extra cream for brushing on the biscuits
turbinado sugar to top the sweet biscuits

Makes 6 large biscuits

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.  

Cut the cold butter into small pieces.  I like to start with a stick of butter, cutting out 6 tablespoons, (setting the remaining 2 tablespoons aside for serving).  Then cut each of the 6 tablespoons into 9 tiny pieces. 

Cut the berries into small pieces, roughly 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch, setting these onto a paper towel to absorb some of the excess liquid.  

Measure out the cream, and the cold water.
Working with a large mixing bowl,  add in the flour, sugar and baking powder.  Using your fingers, mix the ingredients to combine.  Add in the tiny cut pieces of butter, tossing them to coat with the flour mixture.  Begin working in the butter by using your fingertips to "snap" or rub the butter to combine it with the flour.  This will take 5-8 minutes.  The butter will no longer look like tiny cubes of butter, but will be mostly combined with the flour.  It should look somewhat crumbly.  Add in the diced berries, tossing them gently to coat with the flour/butter mixture.  

Make a well in the center of the mixture.  Pour in 4 tablespoons of the cream, reserving 1 for additional use if needed.  This is where it gets really messy.  With your fingers, mix the flour with the cream to create a shaggy dough.  Add in the 1/4 cup of cold water, mixing to gently combine.  The dough should be wet but not gloppy.  Add in the additional tablespoon of cream if the dough is still a bit dry.  This is the judgement part of making biscuits.  The dough should be held together with no dryness of the flour bits.  Stop mixing.  

Using a 1/3 cup measure, spray the cup with oil.  This will help the biscuit dough to slip out of the measuring cup.  Scoop the dough into the measuring cup, drop the biscuit onto the lined sheet pan.  Repeat with the remaining dough to form 6 large biscuits.  Using a pastry brush, gently brush the tops with additional cream.  Sprinkle a bit of sugar (turbinado raw sugar if you have it) onto the tops of each biscuit.  

Bake in the preheated oven for 15-16 minutes until deep golden brown.  Remove from the oven, cool on the sheet tray for about 5 minutes so the biscuits are fully set.  Serve warm with butter and honey if desired.  

* If using unsalted butter, add in 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt

Saturday, June 19, 2021

ChezCindy: Asparagus Soup with Goat Cheese Toasts

The farmers markets are rich with asparagus and I have been fortunate to have gorgeous asparagus included in my CSA produce bag for the last 2 weeks.  Supermarket asparagus is fine.  But fresh local is heaven.  I generally roast or lightly sautĂ© my asparagus with olive oil and a bit of salt.  Simple and delicious.  If you care to venture into the world of soup this is a delightful recipe representing the goodness of springtime vegetables.  The recipe is versatile in that you could replace the asparagus with other vegetables such as squash or broccoli. 

Spring Asparagus Soup
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons oil
1 cup onion, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided 
1 cup of Yukon gold or russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 pound fresh asparagus
3 cups chicken stock, unsalted
3 tablespoons frozen peas
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Working with a soup pot over medium heat, melt the butter with the oil, swirling to combine.  Add in the chopped onions and 1 teaspoon of salt.  Cook the onions for about 5 minutes until softened, but not adding any color.  Add in the chopped potatoes, stirring to combine, cooking for another 5 minutes until the potatoes begin to soften, stirring occasionally to keep the potatoes from sticking to the bottom of the pan.  For the asparagus, remove the bottom woody part of the asparagus stems discarding that bit, cutting the remaining stalk into 2-inch pieces.  Add the cut asparagus to the soup pan, stirring to combine.  Add in the chicken stock, bringing to a boil.  Reduce the heat and cover the pan, cooking until the vegetables are soft and tender, about 15-20 minutes.  Turn off the heat and allow the soup contents to cool slightly, about 10 minutes.  

Using a blender, add the now slightly cooled soup contents to the blender, pureeing the until smooth.  Add in the frozen peas, continue pureeing until all is combined.  The peas will enhance the green color of the soup.   Taste the soup for seasoning adding in the remaining 1/2 teaspoon as needed.  Add in the fresh lemon juice with one last blend to combine.  Serve the soup hot with a swirl of sour cream and with a slice of toasted bread topped with soften goat cheese.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

ChezCindy: Sumac Dusted Sweet Potatoes


Sumac is a spice associated with Middle Eastern cooking recipes.  It derives from tiny red berries, dried and crushed into a powder to add a citrusy bright flavor to foods, usually sprinkled on right before serving.  I love it paired with sweet potatoes, using just enough to wake up the sweetness adding a hint of bright lemon flavor.  It is also delicious sprinkled over cooked fish as a finishing spice to add a pop of color, especially on a white fish such as tilapia or cod.  Add a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of chopped herbs for a simple and stunning fish dish.  

This sweet potato recipe is more of a process than a recipe.  I sliced the potatoes with my Spiralizer, but you can slice with a mandolin or just use a knife to cut thin slices.  Using a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, add a tablespoon of oil, then place in the sliced potatoes in a single layer.  Sprinkle a pinch of salt evenly over the potatoes.  Cover and let them cook undisturbed for about 7-8 minutes.  Carefully remove the cover, flip over the slices to cook uncovered on side 2 until cooked through, about 3-4 additional minutes.  Cutting the potatoes very thinly allows for quick cooking.  If you want the potatoes to be more browned, allow to cook longer until your reach the desired color.  Remove the potatoes from the pan to a serving plate.  Sprinkle with a small amount of sumac seasoning.  Serve hot or warm.  Keep any left-over potatoes as a snack or added to a green salad.