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Bring Back the Art of Baking Biscuits


I have a recipe for the best biscuits on the face of the planet. It’s adapted from a recipe from Chef Michael Smith, who grates his frozen butter by hand. I find it much easier to use the food processor to save time and knuckles.


(You can find Chef Michael Smith online. He’s a New York-born Canadian chef.)


These biscuits are versatile! The recipe is an excellent base for garlic and cheese biscuits, or you can add sugar and serve them as shortcakes with fruit. You can make the recipe plain and serve them with sausage gravy. Since my husband and I are empty nesters, I have concluded that I can bake two nicely-sized biscuits and freeze the rest of the dough to make fresh biscuits later.


I have two caveats: You need to use frozen butter. It holds its shape until the oven’s heat melts it, making light, fluffy biscuits. This information comes from Michael Smith, who, I promise you, knows exactly what he’s doing.


Second caveat: It took me years to learn that you need to use winter wheat (only grown in the south) to make light biscuits. I’ve been told that winter wheat is not sold in grocery stores north of Richmond, Virginia. If you use regular all-purpose or self-rising flour, your biscuits will be a little heavy and a little tough. Biscuits made with northern wheat are indeed better than no biscuits at all, but try to get yourself some winter wheat. I use the White Lily brand. It makes a beautiful, light product.


Here's what to do:


Ingredients


4 cups winter flour

2 tablespoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup frozen butter

1 ½ cups milk


Procedure


Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together until they’re evenly mixed.


Cut the butter into tablespoon-size pieces and put them in your food processor. Whirl them until they are the size of pebbles. Add the flour mixture to the food processor. Process until the mixture is smooth and free of chunks of butter. (Put your hand over the top opening of the food processor before whirling, or you'll be breathing flour.)


Put it all back into the bowl. Pour the milk into the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon. Fold the dough over a few times with your hands until all the ingredients come together. If necessary, add a few spoonfuls more milk to help gather up any stray flour. This kneading will strengthen the dough but not enough to toughen the biscuits. It will also help them form a crisp crust when they bake.


Pat the dough out on a lightly floured cutting board, forming a loose round shape. Cut into wedges –like a pie—or any other shape you’re in the mood for. Position on a baking sheet; sprinkle on a bit of coarse salt and coarsely ground pepper. Bake for fifteen minutes or so. You’ll know they’re done when they turn golden brown. Enjoy at once with lots of brown butter!


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