Confessions of a Biscuit Groupie

The Road to the Biscuit Festival | Persnickety Biscuit

The International Biscuit Festival is this weekend. If you have not already made plans to attend, you should. Just cancel whatever you had going on Saturday and get your hungry self to Knoxville. If you are already in Knoxville? Well, lucky you! Check out my festival tips from two years ago and head downtown on Saturday morning for some biscuit goodness! In honor of this weekend’s festival, I am posting my recap from last year. If you are on the fence about attending, perhaps this will change your mind.

Biscuit

Pork Maple Syrup Biscuit

 

Biscuitfest 2014

It was almost a disaster. I bought my ticket and happily traipsed off, only to look down at my hand and realize in horror that I had somehow already lost the ticket. Not twenty yards from the booth! I felt like a little kid whose ice cream had rolled off the cone onto the ground. I must have looked like one, too, as M. went back to the booth and explained. The kind fest-worker peeled another ticket off of the stack and handed it to me. Whew. Disaster averted.

Biscuit Ticket | Persnickety Biscuit

Humbled, we began again. Luckily, the previous day I had gone back and read my advice to festival goers from last year. One of the key pieces of advice was to arrive early. Tickets go on sale at 8:30 and they start serving biscuits at 9:00. Technically. But several started serving early, including Tupelo Honey, so we were able to get one of their large, fluffy, peach BBQ chicken topped masterpieces before a line really formed.

Biscuit Festival 2014

With a biscuit in our stomachs and a thimbleful of coffee (given away by one of the Biscuit Boulevard vendors), we were fortified and began sampling our way through the festival.

Biscuit Festival 2014

Biscuit Festival 2014

These were incredible – from Nashville-based Biscuit Love. That tomato jam. That pimento cheese. That biscuit.

After a few biscuits, we stopped eating the whole serving. We knew from last year that you can get very full very fast. It is kind of a waste, I know, but if you want to try a lot of biscuits, you need a strategy. There were a few that were smaller and we fully consumed those, and others were just so darn good that we ate every bite before realizing what we had done. We got a kick out of the couple we met in line who were filling up bags with their biscuit selections. They were going to take them home to enjoy in the peace and quiet.

Biscuit Festival 2014

We moved back and forth among the lines of booths until at some point we realized that we could not move at all. The lines had gotten so long and the crowd so thick that you could not tell where one started and another ended. Still, there were biscuits to be tasted. We bought a third and final ticket for our last selections and got into one of the longest lines with an elaborate biscuit at the end of it. The line stretched around the corner and about a block down the side of the building. It was, ironically, kind of a relief to be out of the crush of humanity on the main drag. Eventually, we made it through the line for that biscuit and our remaining spots in our ticket were filled quickly.

Biscuithead

Points for presentation – this one was from Biscuit Head out of North Carolina, I think. Called Country Fried Dream. And it was.

 

Biscuit Festival 2014

It was called the Hawaiian Hillbilly. I just remember there was bacon involved and some kind of banana jam. Sublime.

After the biscuits, we stopped at the Sprouted Designs booth, since it is owned and operated by M’s cousin. We bought a couple of gifts and then she gifted us with a few towels as a wedding gift, which we will treasure. Such a nice surprise!

On our way out of the festival, we glanced at the booths we had missed. I noticed that this one had a full jar of votes for best biscuit and realized we had probably missed something really good. One more reason to return in 2015!

Biscuit Festival 2014

Terrible picture, I know, but I had to include it. This one won and we did not even get to try it! There was corn, tomato, and Bentons Bacon involved, apparently.

 

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Wedding Strawberry Shortcake Bar

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Call it shortcake. Fine. Whatever makes you happy. But you know it looks like a biscuit. A sweet biscuit with strawberries and whipped cream and almonds.

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This was the scene at a wedding I recently attended. In lieu of cake, the bride and groom chose to serve this abundance of fabulous flavors and textures. Brilliant.

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So how was the biscuit . . . er . . . shortcake?
Delicious. Tender and sweet. The strawberries were served in a light syrup that was absorbed by the biscuit and brought the whole dessert together.

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What would you do differently?
I would think of it first. Kidding! I love that this bride and groom thought beyond the traditional wedding cake and did things their own way. It was a beautiful celebration of two special people and the shortcake was just a bonus.

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Five Tips for Festive Gifts

The question quickly arose: how exactly do you make biscuits look pretty, festive, and gift-ish?

Pumpkin Biscuits for Christmas| Persnickety Biscuit

I spent quite a while figuring it out. While these tips are about biscuits, they could easily be used for any baked gifts.

  1. Think about the color of the biscuits.  I made pumpkin biscuits, but you could easily use sweet potatoes or cheddar cheese or even beets or orange, to lend a lovely tint and flavor. Also think about adding fresh herbs or fruit or chocolate chips to add a bit of texture and additional color.Pumpkin Biscuits | Persnickety Biscuit
  2. Add some sort of spread, like the maple cinnamon butter I made to go with these. You could make a simple honey butter or get more fancy and use a strawberry butter, herb infused butter, or homemade jam.Maple Cinnamon Butter
  3. Carefully choose the containers. I decided it would be nice to have a baking dish that could go right into the oven for reheating, so I got some of these paper baking pans. They look elegant and are also practical. I could bake the biscuits and wrap them in place. I did find that the biscuits stuck to the bottom when I did a test run so I put a layer of parchment into the bottom. I also made a special trip to The Container Store (love that place!) for little containers for the butter.Pumpkin Biscuits | Persnickety Biscuit
  4. Go bold with tags, stickers, and wrap. The “tags” that I used were actually cardboard coasters that I found at Target. So festive and bright! I just made a hole in them and pasted the note onto the back. I also found some round stickers that I used on the containers of butter. That added to the color and graphics of the package. The wrap was large cellophane bags from Michael’s. The bags were big, but I think the extra wrap at the top looked really pretty, tied with a bit of ribbon.Pumpkin Biscuits for Christmas| Persnickety Biscuit
  5. Add more information. Tell your giftees exactly what you have given them and what to do with them. People don’t always know the best way to reheat or serve something homemade. Give them some directions. Tell them that these were homemade by you. You want them to look pretty and professional, but you also want people to know that you made them!Pumpkin Biscuits for Christmas| Persnickety Biscuit

Are there things I would do differently next time? I suppose. I think the sides of the baking pans were pretty high. I would get lower ones or just add more biscuits. I would probably brush the tops of the biscuits with an egg wash and sprinkle with salt and pepper or sugar and cinnamon to make them a little prettier. I would make a different flavor, mainly because I like to give different things each year.

I believe the most important thing to remember, though, is that people really do love biscuits and they will be thrilled to get a package of homemade ones that they can just pop into the oven for a treat.

What about you? Do you like to give baked goods as gifts? What are your tips for making them look festive and pretty?

An Encounter with a Biscuit Star

What are the chances? How do the stars align in such a way as to bring biscuit people together so unexpectedly?

Biscuit Poetry

Biscuit Poetry

Here’s the story. We arrived late to the Yelp event and found ourselves seated next to an interesting couple we had not met before. It was a rather long, drawn out meal with a multitude of courses so we had plenty of time to chat and get to know one another. She is getting her PhD in Special Education. He is a puppeteer. Really. A puppeteer. You don’t run into those every day, do you?

At one point M. and I were talking about biscuits, as we frequently do these days. The husband, who was seated next to me, turned and said, “Excuse me, but are you talking about biscuits?”

“Yes. I am kind of obsessed with biscuits.” I confessed. “I have a blog that is all about biscuits.”

“Have you been to the International Biscuit Festival in Knoxville?” he asked.

“YES! We DID go to the biscuit festival this year!”

At that point, he shared that he had actually competed in the Bake-off at the Biscuit Festival, in the savory category. He won first place in the category! I felt like I was seated next to a star, a Biscuit Superstar. What are the chances? Seriously. I was beside myself.

Biscuit Trophy

Much discussion of biscuits ensued. The proper kind of baking powder (aluminum-free). The variety of biscuits tasted at the festival (like the Pimiento Cheese one). Favorite biscuit places (he recommends Biscuitville in North Carolina). How the Bake-off actually works (prep before you get there). We had to admit that we were so stuffed after sampling all the biscuits at the festival, that we did not stick around for the Bake-off. We will have to change that next time!

Well, he was kind enough to share his award-winning recipe for Paige’s Family Dinner Biscuits and photos from the bake-off. Don’t you just love the eyes and the quotes? I particularly liked the “hyacinths and biscuits” one. It is from Carl Sandburg.

Stay tuned for my next post, in which I will include the recipe and my attempt to recreate these winning savory biscuits!

Biscuits and Quotes

Paige’s Family Dinner Biscuits

Thank you to Matt Sandbank for the photos and upcoming recipe!

The Biscuit Bash

Can I still call it a bash if there were only three people there? I wanted to have a few friends over for an afternoon of biscuit baking. But my kitchen is not that big and so, well, it was a small bash.

hands

Regardless, we had a blast and tried several different recipes, eating our fill and saving the leftovers for later. In preparation, I had printed out several different recipes to choose from. I supplied all of the flour, butter, buttermilk, and pans and we also had some non-biscuit snacks while we cooked. One friend brought some fresh rosemary to try as an add in. Another brought strawberries and whipping cream for strawberry shortcake.

Rosemary Cheddar Biscuits

We made:

  • Orange Biscuits – I don’t think I have a picture of these without a portion of one eaten. They were sticky and gooey and yummy. They were also extremely persnickety! I’m not sure that I would make these again.
  • Buttermilk Yogurt Biscuits – These were fabulous. They rose so high and were light and fluffy. They were the group’s favorite.
  • Yeast Biscuits (aka Angel Biscuits – more on these in a post to come)

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  • We added rosemary and cheddar to the Buttermilk Yogurt Biscuits – those are the rectangular ones in the photos. This recipe was a perfect vehicle for add-ins.
  • Finally, we used the plain Buttermilk Yogurt Biscuits to make strawberry shortcake with whipped cream. Delightful!

Strawberry Shortcake Biscuit

  • There was also an experiment with Gluten Free Bisquick. I can’t really count them as biscuits. They were more like eggy corn muffins – not necessarily bad, but not a biscuit!
Clockwise: Orange Biscuits on the left, then a couple of Angel Biscuits, Gluten Free Bisquick Biscuits, and at the bottom you can see the rectangular Rosemary Cheddar Biscuits, made with the Yogurt Biscuit recipe.

Clockwise: Orange Biscuits on the left, then a couple of Angel Biscuits, Gluten Free Bisquick Biscuits, and at the bottom you can see the rectangular Rosemary Cheddar Biscuits, made with the Yogurt Biscuit recipe.

International Biscuit Festival – 7 Things to Know Before You Go

Thinking about going to the International Biscuit Festival in Knoxville? Whether you are local or have to travel across the country, you should find some of my notes helpful.

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1. Go! Yes, it is worth the trip and there are so many delicious, creative biscuits to be devoured in a relatively short period of time. Read my previous posts of favorite biscuit, second favorites, and honorable mentions to see examples of the kinds of biscuits you might encounter.

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2. Go early! Tickets for Biscuit Boulevard went on sale at 8:30 while the festival started at 9:00. We got there at 9. There were already long lines for some of the really popular booths. Although the festival officially goes to 3:00 pm, some booths were out of biscuits by 11:00.

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3. Finish your coffee before you get there. You want to have your hands free because they will fill up quickly. You will be carrying around your ticket, plates with biscuits, and the bottle of water they give you when you buy the ticket. Better yet, bring a shoulder bag you can put the water into. You may have to manage a huge biscuit like this one!

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4. Prepare for weather. It was raining when we left our hotel but that did not seem to diminish the crowd (I kind of hoped it might mean more biscuits for me!). See #3. Even more difficult to hold everything when you also have an umbrella.

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5. Bring a friend. Eating biscuits together is a bonding experience. Also, the way it works is you purchase a ticket for $10 that allows you 5 biscuits. If you and your good friend share each of the biscuits, then you each get to try 10.

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6. Stay close to Market Square if you are coming in from out of town. This area of Knoxville is lovely and everything you could want is within walking distance. Great restaurants. We stayed at the Crowne Plaza because it had a discounted rate for festival goers. Check the festival web site a few months ahead for info.

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7. Don’t panic! You will get your fill of biscuits. I wish I had taken a little more time to think about which biscuits I wanted to try because I missed a few that looked really good. I was worried by the long lines at first and then realized they move quickly. We actually could not finish all the samples that we did get.

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See you next year!

International Biscuit Festival 2013 (part 3)

While they did not quite make it into my top three, there were several other biscuits that are definitely worth mentioning. The Biscuit Love truck totally rocked the sweet category with their Bonuts. Yep. That’s a biscuit donut combo.

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It was filled with cream and served with some kind of berry compote. Folks were talking about this one. Biscuit Love Truck is from Nashville, too. Nice to see my hometown represented.

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This biscuit with bacon, clabbered cream, and a balsamic reduction drizzle was the most “gourmet” of the bunch I tried. Sometimes that kind of thing feels forced and sounds better than it really is. Not so in this case.

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I had to Google clabbered cream. It is basically a sour cream but better. It was piped into the hot biscuit right before serving and then the balsamic was drizzled on top. It was slightly sweet and the flavors all melded well. It is so pretty, too!

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Southern Living is another I have to mention. They made a kind of “pigs in blankets” biscuit that was crusty and buttery on the outside, soft on the inside, with the perfect proportion of sausage to biscuit. I read later that they went through all 1000 biscuits they had brought in two hours! See my next post for tips on getting the most out of your festival-going experience so that you don’t miss out when you go next year.

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