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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Biscuits on The Row

Biscuits at The Row | Persnickety Biscuit

The name of the place kept popping up. “Happy Hour at The Row this week.” Special deep fried pimento cheese bacon balls from The Row at the Bourbon and Bacon festival. Facebook postings from friends celebrating at The Row. So when I had the opportunity to join a group of friends for “girls’ night out” at The Row, I gave an unqualified “YES!” Little did I know at the time that they also have biscuits. Bonus.

Biscuits at The Row | Persnickety Biscuit

I have not yet tried every permutation of biscuit offered by The Row, but I did try two different items. The first was simply their appetizer portion. I loved the way it was presented. All in a row. Pun intended, perhaps? Hot biscuits wrapped in a flour sack towel, on a cutting board, with all the fixin’s. Not only was there butter, and strawberry jam, and blackberry jam, but there was also tomato jam which turned out to be this sweet savory topping that was unique and delicious. The biscuit was warm and fluffy and satisfying.

Biscuits at The Row | Persnickety Biscuit

I passed the rest down the table, but there was still one left at the end of the night. The waitress asked if I wanted any of it wrapped up to take home and I said, with a bright, hopeful smile, “I’d like all of it!” She willingly took the board away and returned with a huge bag – all for one lone biscuit.

The Row Nashville

At the end of the evening, the manager came around and handed out cards with a free item printed on the back. Mine just happened to be for a free order of Biscuit Beignets. That was all it took. On Saturday, I informed M and the monkey (soon to be stepson) that I had a great place for us to go for brunch. Off to The Row we went!

The Row Nashville

The Biscuit Beignets were lovely. Hot, fried crescents of biscuit dough, rolled in sugar and cinnamon, and served with a ramekin of rich, sweet creme anglaise. What is creme anglaise, you ask? Well, I looked it up for you. It is a custard sauce and it was fabulous.

Biscuit Beignets at The Row | Persnickety Biscuit

The Road to Scrumptious Cheddar Dill Beer Biscuits

Cheddar Dill Beer Biscuits | Persnickety Biscuit

These scrumptious, buttery, cheesy biscuits were the goal, but it took a couple of tries and a bit of heartache to get there. It was humbling, making a bad biscuit. So far, I had managed to elude the problems that so many novice biscuit-makers complain about. I suppose I got a little cocky.

I blame it on “New Kitchen Syndrome.” You know that stage where everything has been unpacked and stowed away, the counters have been cleared, and you should easily, at least in theory, be able to get back to baking again. Except you can’t remember where you put the measuring spoons and the ingredients you need are all in the very back of the cabinet. It is harder to do just about anything you want to do and can make you quite grumpy.

Eventually, I got to this. We are still talking about these Cheddar Dill Beer Biscuits. Buttery, cheesy, and slightly tangy biscuits made with beer instead of buttermilk. They were incredibly delicious and I will tell you how to make them in a moment.

Cheddar Dill Beer Biscuit | Persnickety Biscuit

First, though, we had this. They look pretty good, don’t they? Tall, flaky with a crisp slightly browned exterior. These should be wonderful. I am going to be honest and tell you they were not! They were incredibly dense and heavy and dry. They were edible but only with vast quantities of butter or completely smothered in soup.

Bad Beer Biscuits

So what went wrong? Two things. I forgot the cheese, for one. I was so mad when I realized, then kind of relieved that good cheese had not been wasted on this sub par biscuit. Second, not enough beer. Seriously, I believe the liquid to dry ratio was off, not allowing the beer to connect with the leaveners and help them work their magic. I was so concerned about making the dough too sticky that I made it too dry.

Well, with this little lesson under my belt I set out to make it right. I started again using the same ingredients, just with a little more beer. Despite the fact that I had trouble with the recipe the first time around, it is only a slight variation on my favorite buttermilk yogurt biscuit recipe. Self-rising flour, a little sugar, part shortening and part butter (frozen and then grated). I added grated sharp cheddar cheese and dill, along with a bit of black pepper. Because I did not want to waste a bunch of fresh dill, I got a paste from the produce department. Have you seen this before? It worked really well.

Dill

I mixed it in with the beer before adding it to the dry ingredients. Don’t be afraid to be a little heavy-handed with dill. I have found that it is one herb that can get lost if you don’t use enough. It is also a terrific compliment to the cheddar cheese.

Dill and Beer

The dough was a little sticky but still held together pretty well. I put the cut out biscuits pretty close together.

Cheddar Dill Beer Biscuits | Persnickety Biscuit

They rose nicely and joined together just enough to keep the sides moist. With a few minutes of baking time to go, I took them out of the oven, brushed them with butter, and sprinkled them with sea salt and a touch of fresh ground pepper. Then I put them back into the oven for a few more minutes.

Cheddar Dill Beer Biscuits | Persnickety Biscuit

Yes, that is a Yazoo beer – brewed in Nashville! Click on the photo for their site.

They broke apart perfectly and were thoroughly delicious with the slight amount of pepper and perfect melding of cheddar and dill. No additional butter was required and these definitely did not need to be smothered in soup! I felt completely vindicated. Here is the recipe. Don’t let my initial failure scare you off. These really are easy and so worth it when you get it right!

>>> Click here for printable biscuit recipe.

Cheddar Dill Beer Biscuits

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups self-rising flour
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1/4 cup butter, frozen and grated
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 3 T dill (fresh or paste)
  • 3/4 cup beer
  • Melted butter for brushing tops of biscuits

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Cover cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Mix the first three dry ingredients.
  3. Add Crisco to dry ingredients and rub with your fingers to break the Crisco up into small, pea sized pieces.
  4. Add grated, frozen butter to dry ingredients and stir to coat butter pieces with flour mixture.
  5. Add grated cheddar cheese to dry ingredients and stir to coat cheese pieces with flour mixture.
  6. If using fresh dill, then add it to the dry ingredients and stir. If using dill paste, mix with the beer in small bowl or measuring cup.
  7. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the beer. Mix quickly with large spoon or hands, turning bowl and gently scooping the dry ingredients into the wet. Add more beer, if needed, to make dough moist but not too wet. It will be somewhat sticky.
  8. Sprinkle flour onto countertop or pastry board. Dump dough out of bowl onto flour. Sprinkle flour onto dough and rub onto hands. Knead a few times. Press dough together and flatten to about 1/2 inch. Fold dough in half. A pastry scraper can be really helpful here to lift up the dough.
  9. Transfer dough to parchment paper. Press out to about 1/2 inch. Make into a rough rectangular shape. Using a pastry scraper, knife, spatula or other edge, cut dough into squares about 1 1/2 inches across. You do not need to move the dough after cutting. Alternately, use a biscuit cutter to cut out rounds. Place them close together on the parchment. Press remaining dough together and repeat.
  10. Put cookie sheet in oven and bake for about 12 minutes, until tops of biscuits are slightly browned. Take the biscuits out of the oven and brush the tops of the biscuits with butter, sprinkle with sea salt and fresh pepper, then return them to the oven.
  11. Bake about 5 more minutes. Remove from oven and let rest a few minutes.
  12. Share with someone you love!

Happy Hour and Biscuits at Sportsman’s Grille

I watched his plate arrive, my eyes getting wide, mouth watering. They have biscuits here? How did I not know this? Has it been so long since I looked at their menu?

Sportsman's Biscuits | Persnickety Biscuit

To explain how we got to this point in my little story … I am lucky enough to belong to a long- lasting Friday night Happy Hour group. The group existed long before I invited myself to join their ranks, and I’ve been going since, oh, 2008 or so? The members come from all walks of life and parts of town.

On any given Friday, there might be anywhere from four to a dozen or so members gathered around a table, decompressing from the week. We talk about anything, from pop culture to politics to TV to sex, and any combination thereof.

The location changes every week, although there are a few spots that we tend to rotate through. One of our favorite places has been Sportsman’s Grille in Hillsboro Village at their upstairs bar. It is too smoky and for a long time you had to watch where you sat because the springs were coming through the booth seat (recently repaired). Somehow, though, this place has come to dominate the rotation. Brad, the bartender, knows us and what we like to drink, we have our favorite table in the corner, the chicken tenders are the best, and, of course, there are a lot of memories.

Sportsman's Biscuits | Persnickety Biscuit

All of which makes it shocking that in all this time, all the years, all the late nights, I had never tried their Chicken Biscuits. How did I miss that? Well, the time had come. I placed the order and waited with great anticipation. The serving was huge. Three large biscuits, each with a hefty piece of fried chicken nestled within. I was intrigued to find that the biscuits had been split and grilled to warm them. An ingenious way to reheat a biscuit, making it taste fresh and toasted at the same time. As I previously noted, Sportsman’s makes great fried chicken tenders, so I already knew those would be good.

Sportsman's Biscuits | Persnickety Biscuit

Mmm… It may have taken me a while, but those were worth the wait.

Biscuits in Bellevue: Dalton’s Grill

After we had spent a while debating which place to go to for a late lunch in my new part of town, he finally described it as “you know, the place I told you about that has different kinds of biscuits.” Well, why didn’t he say so before?

Dalton's Grill Steak Biscuits | Persnickety Biscuit

Once we had the biscuit tie-in established, off we went to Dalton’s Grill. It was a little dark inside and definitely had the vibe of a little neighborhood joint, but the lady behind the bar was really nice. What’s more, the steak & biscuits was on special!

Dalton's Grill

They were simple but wonderful. The steak was tender and nicely seasoned. There was some sort of a sauce involved. And the biscuits were soft and fluffy but had enough body to hold their own against the steak. I also had slaw and a cucumber salad on the side that was terrific. Sweet and tangy.

All in all, a successful meal. We will be back!

Dalton's Grill

Loveless Hootenanny

Loveless Biscuits | Persnickety Biscuit

I’m not sure if there is a common use of the word “hootenanny.” Here in Nashville, it probably is mostly used to describe some kind of music event. Like a picking party, but with more alcohol? Or singing? Or both?

Loveless Biscuits with all the Fixin's| Persnickety Biscuit

A few years ago, my team at work started having quarterly meetings, where everyone who works remotely comes into the office for a few hours. We talk about strategy and process and eat a meal or two together. There is no music, or singing, or alcohol, but we call it our Quarterly Hootenanny anyway. This most recent quarter, a request was made for biscuits made by yours truly. I begged off, claiming the hassles of packing and moving and no space in my kitchen to make anything right now.

One of my coworkers graciously offered to bring in Loveless biscuits, as he lives out that way. When he came into the office that morning, he was glowing. There was a large tin wrapped in a beach towel sitting on his desk. “Get one while they are hot, ” he said, since our meeting did not actually start for a couple of hours. He said that when he picked them up, they brought the container to the car with potholders. They were truly fresh from the oven.

Loveless Biscuits | Persnickety Biscuit

Never one to do things halfway, he had gotten all the fixings. Butter. Three kinds of jam. Even Red-Eye Gravy. What is Red-Eye Gravy, you ask? First, it is really thin, more like an au jus than a gravy. Second, it is made with pork drippings and coffee. Yes, coffee. I had never had it before. Not exactly my favorite, I have to admit. But now I know. Here is a link to a recipe, in case you ever want to make it, because I don’t think I will.

Loveless Biscuits with Red Eye Gravy | Persnickety Biscuit

Regardless, the biscuits were warm and soft and fragrant and I had one before the meeting and one during. The jams that came with them – strawberry, blackberry, and peach – were homemade and amazing – perhaps even more noteworthy than the biscuits. My mouth is literally watering as I write this. Is that too much information? Too bad.

Loveless Biscuits | Persnickety Biscuit

Moving Day Biscuits (er… scones?) – Sweet Sixteenth

Sweet Sixteenth Breakfast Sandwich | Persnickety Biscuit

It is important to plan a little treat for yourself occasionally. Especially in times of great stress. Moving Day qualifies. This would be my last stop on the farewell tour of East Nashville.

Sweet Sixteenth | Persnickety Biscuit

I planned it out far in advance. Sweet Sixteenth has these amazingly delicious breakfast sandwiches. They used to make them only on the weekends, but must have received many requests to offer them the rest of the week, because they are now available on weekdays, too.

They call them scones, but I think they are basically biscuits. I’m really not sure what differentiates the two and will have to explore that in more detail some day. For now, though, I’m just going to call this a biscuit sandwich. It is made with a cheddar cheese scone/biscuit that is heavenly on its own. I should know. I’ve eaten many of them over the years. Slightly sweet, fluffy, with a nice crisp outer layer and rich cheese. For the sandwich, they add a layer of egg casserole with bits of peppers in it – just enough to add flavor but not be hot.

Sweet Sixteenth Breakfast Sandwich | Persnickety Biscuit

When you order one, they literally call out “one to go” or “one for here” to the kitchen. Because that is the only item that comes from the kitchen. Everything else is in the cases out front. This is a tiny place where the counter is always manned by the couple that own it. When they want to go on vacation, they close up shop. Just like that. It is really quite charming. Thank goodness they were not on vacation on my Moving Day!

Sweet Sixteenth | Persnickety Biscuit

The breakfast sandwich was all I hoped it would be, everything I knew it could be. It came out of the kitchen quickly, wrapped carefully in paper and in a brown bag. I took it home for the last meal in my kitchen. I savored the flavors, the warmth, the large cup of coffee I got to go with it. Then I was ready to move to my new home.

Sweet Sixteenth Breakfast Sandwich | Persnickety Biscuit

Sky Blue – Worth the Wait

Em's Bowl at Sky Blue Cafe | Persnickety Biscuit

I have to admit, when we went to Charlie Bob’s, we were originally headed to Sky Blue Cafe. They have one of my favorite biscuit dishes. Then we saw the line and thought that Charlie Bob’s would be faster. It was not. At all. So this time I was prepared for a wait.

Sky Blue Cafe | Persnickety Biscuit

It was a lovely day, if a bit chilly. As long as you were in the sun, it felt great. Sky Blue is fairly small. There is no space to wait inside, so we joined the group standing outside at the side of the building. I noticed there were even people waiting in the lot across the street, letting the children run around.

Sky Blue Cafe | Persnickety Biscuit

We had not waited too long before a table opened up outside. Rather than wait longer, we snapped it up. M. grabbed a couple of sweatshirts out of the car and we bundled up at our little table, appreciating the warmth of the fresh coffee. We knew exactly what to order. Em’s Bowl comes with hash browns, a biscuit, egg, gravy and cheese. It is something to behold. M. got his with jalapenos.

Em's Bowl at Sky Blue Cafe | Persnickety Biscuit

The biscuit was great, as were all of the toppings. Yum. Yum. Yum. Such a great combination. This is the dish that inspired my own layered biscuit concoction in St. Petersburg. It is the kind of meal that either prepares you for the day or makes you want to go home and take a nap. In our case, there was packing to do, so back to work we went!

Em's Bowl at Sky Blue Cafe | Persnickety Biscuit

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?

Charlie Bob’s Biscuits and Gravy

Charlie Bob's | Persnickety Biscuit

There are some places you just really want to like, whether it actually makes sense or not. Charlie Bob’s is like that for me. And I do like it. I’m just not sure how much of that is deserved and how much is folklore.

Charlie Bob's | Persnickety Biscuit

Let me explain. First, I found out about this place from the East Nashville “listserve”. Restaurants in the ‘hood often get a lot of discussion on the listserve and it is fun to be in on what people are talking about.

East Nashville Mural

East Nashville is all about the dogs – even on the murals.

Second, it has this blend of old diner style and new kitsch. Old sign, checkered tablecloths, old photos on the walls. But there is also a bar in the back and a tiny stage area for songwriter nights. All of the ingredients of a hidden gem.

Charlie Bob's | Persnickety Biscuit

Third, it is on Dickerson Pike. When I was growing up here, Dickerson Pike was known as one of the seediest parts of Nashville. Drugs. Prostitution. Violence. But as East Nashville has gotten cleaned up, so has Dickerson Pike. At least to some extent. M. and I recently did a photo safari down Dickerson Pike, attempting to capture some of the character, before it all disappears.

Dickerson Pike

So we have been to Charlie Bob’s twice now, for breakfast. The first time we were practically the only ones there and could wander around, looking at the interesting stuff on the walls. This last time they were busy so we stayed put in our booth. Our breakfast was good, but I told M. I would have liked it a LOT better if it had arrived about 20 minutes earlier. The service was incredibly slow on this visit. I was really hungry and got pretty grumpy, especially when the people at the neighboring table (who arrived 15 minutes after us) got their food first.

Charlie Bob's | Persnickety Biscuit

So how were the biscuits?
Pretty good. They did not have the crisp “just baked” exterior that I like to find. I expect they were pulled from a warming drawer or something.

But the sausage gravy was really good! I think I hit on the distinction between good and better sausage gravy while at the Nashville Biscuit House. The better gravy is cooked with the sausage so that the flavors meld. I believe that was the case here.

The rest of the meal was good, too. Solid breakfast standards like super crispy bacon. It did not last long, though. We were too hungry. At one point, M. asked me a question about something and I did not even bother to answer. I just kept on eating. . . .

Charlie Bob's | Persnickety Biscuit