Taste testing biscuit recipe sounds like a job for a culinary adventurer

 
By Penny Kazmier
Daily Herald correspondent
Updated 9/19/2018 7:38 AM
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  • The fluffy layers baked in make it easy to pull biscuits apart.

    The fluffy layers baked in make it easy to pull biscuits apart. Courtesy of Penny Kazmier

I remember looking forward to the shiny cylinders of dough in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. I used to get to help pick which variety my mom would purchase and then help "pop" the container open to reveal perfectly formed pieces of biscuit dough that would bake in just minutes and then get topped with butter, jam, or if we were lucky, honey.

While these biscuits are good, a well-made homemade biscuit can be so much better.

On a visit to Charleston, South Carolina, I tasted a "fresh out of the oven" biscuit from the famous Callie's Hot Little Biscuit. I was on a food walking tour, so we were able to interact with Callie's staff while sampling their warm biscuits topped with pimento cheese. They openly shared their recipe: White Lily Self-Rising Flour, butter, cream cheese and buttermilk. The result was a perfect tender fluffy biscuit that was unbelievably good.

I had never heard of White Lily Flour before, but now I understand if you live south, it is your flour of choice. The package says it's made from soft red winter wheat and I have since learned this is significant as it's low in protein and gluten. I immediately did an internet search to see where I could buy this flour in the Chicago area and was surprised to learn while you can buy it online, it is not sold in stores in our area, only in the south. So, I went to the grocery store on the way to the airport and bought myself a bag of this southern treasure and packed it in my checked luggage; my friends still laugh at me.

If you are a Fixer Upper fan, you know Chip and Joanna Gaines recently opened their restaurant, Magnolia Table, in their hometown of Waco, Texas. Joanna reportedly worked to perfect her biscuit recipe, included in her cookbook and served at the restaurant, for over a year until finding perfection. I was lucky enough to be able to have breakfast at their restaurant while visiting family in the area and ordered their version of eggs Benedict where they serve the usual toppings over one of Joanna's biscuits instead of the traditional English muffin. It was delicious.

Folding in cold butter creates air pockets and thus tender, flaky biscuits.
Folding in cold butter creates air pockets and thus tender, flaky biscuits. - Courtesy of Penny Kazmier

JoJo's Biscuits are also made from self-rising flour, but add baking powder, baking soda, butter, and buttermilk, along with a nontraditional ingredient, eggs. The biscuits were fluffy, tender and very tasty.

To even further complicate recipe options I searched the internet for the best biscuit recipe and found yet another variety called Angel Biscuits published in the Southern Living website that contained many of the ingredients included in other recipes, but also added yeast.

Recipes in hand, my curious inner baker, had to bake some biscuits, but which method? So, I decided to make all three and have a biscuit taste test at home with my family serving as judges.

All three recipes came together well, although the Angel Biscuits required two additional steps; blooming the yeast and allowing the dough to rest two hours in the refrigerator before baking, but please don't let this extra effort keep you from trying this recipe.

There were many similarities; cutting cold fat into a dry flour mixture -- which is essential for achieving flaky layers, buttermilk, and mixing the dough just enough to allow it to come together. Mixing this way prevents gluten from forming which will produce a tougher biscuit. My research also uncovered another interesting tip; use a sharp biscuit cutter and don't twist it after cutting the dough, as this can prohibit the biscuit from rising by compressing the layers of dough, causing them to stick together. My first biscuit tasting day didn't go so well. My biscuits, while tasty, didn't rise very much. After some evaluation, I determined my baking powder wasn't as fresh as it could have been, I had cut the fat in too much, and I needed to work on my biscuit cutting technique. My second attempt was much better.

It was a tight race, and I was reluctant even to declare a winner, but while all tasted delicious and had their fans among my family, the one that edged out the others ever-so-slightly was the recipe that included yeast, the Angel Biscuit. Comments from judges included fluffy, light and good enough to eat without toppings. Tied for second place were the other two recipes receiving comments like airy, light, and my niece thought one tasted a bit like pizza dough. Joanna brushes her biscuits with a little buttermilk and egg before baking creating a shiny crust, while the other two use melted butter, and the Angel Biscuits brush on even more after baking. I do not think you can go wrong with any of these recipes, as long as you follow the directions and learn from my mistakes.

Cook biscuits in cast iron or on a baking sheet.
Cook biscuits in cast iron or on a baking sheet. - Courtesy of Penny Kazmier

September is National Biscuit Month, so there is no time like the present to whip up a batch and pop them in the oven. Biscuits can be part of any meal, think biscuits and gravy, a topping for a cozy casserole, or topped with my favorite, honey. I am planning to use some Thanksgiving leftovers to create a "hot turkey sandwich," substituting a biscuit for the traditional slice of bread. What will you make?

• Penny Kazmier, a wife and mother of four from South Barrington, won the 2011 Daily Herald Cook of the Week Challenge.

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