A biscuit worth its weight in goat butter
Developing and testing recipes for our upcoming biscuit book, "New Southern Biscuits" (Gibbs-Smith), my co-author Cynthia Graubart, our interns and I tried every imaginable kind of pan and every kind of flour, liquid and fat. The flour was easy. We settled on soft-wheat Southern flour; there are several, but we mostly use White Lily for its silky lightness.
Liquid and fat were a real challenge. We tried soy milk (good for vegans, but not ideal for a ham biscuit); whipping cream (light and fluffy, melt in the mouth); yogurt (ultra tangy and sassy); buttermilk (a light trace of tang); butter (an incredible flavor); and shortening (great capacity to lighten). Ones made with ginger ale and Coca-Cola are still in the freezer, hoping for a good afterlife in a Brown Betty or banana ginger pudding.
Then I met goat butter biscuits, and I fell in love.
It was mere happenstance. One of our interns, Hayley Daen, and I went on our weekly walk here in Charleston to pick up my CSA (community-supported agriculture) box, slogging two blocks through 90-plus heat. Once we were in the charming Queen Street Grocery, we peered into the cooler for a bit of cold air and perhaps to find one of our favorite ice creams. Queen Street Grocery is mightily trying to be a 21st-century corner store, trendy and inviting, in a foodie and college neighborhood, and it is coming very close.
It's our backup grocery store as well. We frequently load up on fresh eggs there, for instance, or goat cheese or Irish butter on occasion. This day, Hayley was eye level (she is perhaps 5 feet) with goat milk butter. Somehow, neither of us had ever had goat milk butter before. I plunked out my $5-plus for it, and we were happy about our choice.
Finally cool, we transferred the vegetables to our carrier bags, some cooler-type, to avoid lugging the box and to prevent the vegetables – and our goat milk butter – from wilting in the blanket of heat.
We were so eager to make our biscuits with the goat butter we didn’t even wait until we had goat’s milk. Hayley whipped them up using whole milk and baked them in the little oven we keep on our counter for emergency baking when we don’t want to heat up the kitchen.
In less than 15 minutes from start to finish – the typical amount of time it takes to make homemade biscuits and bake them – we had goat milk butter biscuits. Oh, yes, with pats of goat milk butter melting in them, dripping down the sides onto our hands.
Who knew? No one, we think, knew that goat milk butter makes perhaps the best, most ethereal biscuits, layered and light, fluffy and feathery, capable of creating dreams and desires. It was and is my favorite, my very very favorite of all biscuits, but not the only one I love.
We did try making them later with goat milk, and they were good – but not better. We decided that any milk will do – but the goat butter must reign, not be dominated, so it can shine on its own.
See for yourself. It is our golden biscuit, for although it costs the earth, it is worth every ounce.
-- Nathalie Dupree
Makes 10 to 12 biscuits
Wow. That is the only word to describe these creamy, rich biscuits. They are incredibly tangy, but not overwhelmingly so. Not only do they pack an intense flavor punch but also bake up as downright beautiful. Goat's-milk butter is available at Whole Foods Markets. MAKE AHEAD: The biscuits can be cut and placed on the baking sheet (at room temperature) for up to 1 hour. The baked biscuits are good hours later at room temperature or heated. From Charleston cookbook author Nathalie Dupree.
2 1/4 cups self-rising flour, plus more as needed
4 ounces (1/2 package) chilled goat's-milk butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, plus more butter, melted (see headnote)
3/4 cup regular or low-fat milk
Select the baking pan by determining if a soft or crisp exterior is desired. If a soft exterior is desired, select a cake pan or cast-iron skillet where the biscuits will nestle together snugly, creating the soft exterior while baking. If a crisp exterior is desired, select a baking sheet or other baking pan where the biscuits can be spaced apart, allowing air to circulate and creating a crispier exterior. Brush the baking pan with butter if a crispy biscuit bottom is desired, otherwise leave it ungreased.
Position an oven rack at the top; preheat to 425 degrees.
Fork-sift or whisk 2 cups of the flour in a large bowl, preferably wider than deeper, and reserve the remaining 1/4 cup of flour. Scatter the pieces of chilled goat’s-milk butter over the flour and work it in by rubbing your fingers with the goat’s-milk butter and flour as if snapping your thumb and fingers together (or use 2 forks, knives or a pastry cutter) until the mixture looks like well-crumbled feta cheese, with no pieces larger than a pea.
Refrigerate for 5 minutes if the cutting in took longer than 5 minutes (to chill the fat).
Make a deep hollow in the center of the flour mixture. Pour the milk into the hollow and stir quickly, pulling the flour in using broad circular strokes. Mix just until the dry ingredients are moistened and the dough begins to pull away from the side of the bowl. If there is some flour remaining in the bottom and sides of the bowl, stir in a tablespoon or two of milk to incorporate the remaining flour. If the dough is a little sticky, it may become easier to handle when shaping.
Use some of the reserved flour to dust a clean work surface. Turn the dough out onto the floured surface and sprinkle the top of the dough lightly with flour. Flour your hands.
Fold the dough over in half and pat it out into about a 1/2-inch-thick round, using a little extra flour as needed. Fold the dough again, then pat it to a thickness of 1/2 inch. Brush off any extra flour.
For each biscuit, dip a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter into the reserved flour. Cut out the biscuits very close together, starting at the outside edge, being careful not to twist the cutter. The scraps may be rerolled, although these scraps make tougher biscuits.
Use a metal spatula to transfer the biscuits to the pan or baking sheet. These cut and shaped biscuits may be made ahead an hour or do, and get a better rise if they are. Bake the biscuits on the top rack for 6 minutes, then rotate the pan or baking sheet from front to back. (If the bottoms of biscuits on a baking sheet are browning too quickly, slide a second baking sheet underneath.) Bake for 4 to 8 minutes, until the biscuits are lightly golden brown.
When the biscuits are done, lightly brush the tops with melted butter. Turn the biscuits out upside down on a plate to cool slightly before serving.
Serve hot, right side up. If desired, split and fill with goat's-milk butter. You might think you've died and gone to heaven.
160 calories, 9g fat, 6g saturated fat, 30mg cholesterol, 340mg sodium, 17g carbohydrates, n/a dietary fiber, n/a sugar, 3g protein.
Posted by: hhmadden | August 17, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse