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!

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Biscuit Ice Cream? Yes!

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You know how you can get focused on something, thinking you are the only one who cares about it, and then you start to notice that the thing you are focused on appears to be everywhere all of a sudden?

M. calls it the “plate of shrimp” thing from the movie Repo Man. All I know is that biscuits are everywhere these days – even in ice cream!

I read about it almost a week ago. Jeni’s ice cream has teamed up with the Loveless Cafe to make ice cream with biscuits and jam. They wrote a nice blog post about it, too.

All week I have been thinking about that ice cream. Finally, M. and I went out for a nice dinner, since it is Restaurant Week here in Nashville. The restaurant had an impressive dessert menu. “Ya know,” I said, as if I had not been thinking it all along, “we could go to Jeni’s for the biscuit ice cream instead?”

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That was all I had to say. We got the check, finished our wine, and headed back to East Nashville.

I first went to Jeni’s a couple of years ago, soon after they opened. I remember thinking how different the place was from the rest of East Nashville. The gleaming white tile and bright interior seemed incongruous. Perhaps East Nashville has changed, or Jeni’s, or me… but it now seems to fit in perfectly.

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This night, the line was literally out the door. I had this fear that they might not have the biscuit ice cream or it might run out. But they did and it didn’t, and the line moved quickly.

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So how was the ice cream?

Fabulous. Truly fabulous. The flavor was called “Loveless Biscuits & Peach Jam.” It went far beyond your ordinary peach ice cream, which usually has chunks of peach in a sweet base. This had ribbons of sweet peach jam that were the perfect counterpoint to an almost tart buttermilk base ice cream. There were little chunks and crumbs of biscuit throughout that made the texture even more satisfying.

So now I can’t help wondering … Where else will there be biscuits? What other surprises are in store?

A Memorable Memorial with Jalapeño Cheddar Cornbread Biscuits

Sweet Corn Jalapeno Cheddar Biscuits

Sweet Corn Jalapeno Cheddar Biscuits

On July 4th, I went to a Happening. No, that is not some kind of supernatural event . . . well maybe it is. In this case, it was a gathering of artists, friends, and fireworks enthusiasts; a tribute to beloved artist and Vanderbilt Professor Don Evans, who died a few months ago.

Don was known for opening his home, gathering people together, and encouraging everyone to “do something.” Make something. Participate in some way. While I never knew Don, I was honored to attend this event and be able to Do Stuff in his honor. I was a little nervous, though. What would this thing be like?

First, it turned out to be a reunion of sorts, as many memorials/funerals are – I saw people there that I had not seen in years, which was a wonderful surprise. Beyond that, there were different activities going on all over the property – in the barn, the house, the yard. There was a variety of simultaneous art projects; screenings of Don’s films; the release of a huge whirligig made of an airplane wing and a rocket while we all sang a song called Hard Work; the distribution of ashes; and sharing of stories about Don.

The evening ended with a fireworks show that was truly unlike anything I had ever seen before – a fireworks hat on top of a sculpture and a whole tower of spinning fireworks. Participants had spent many hours constructing it and shielding it from the rain that came and went all day. It was truly a unique celebration of a man’s life.

fireworks

Fireworks Sculpture

As one might expect, there was lots of food. Everyone brought something, from chips, to hummus, to salad, to an amazing chocolate cake. I know it is shocking, but . . . I brought biscuits. Sweet Honey Jalapeño Cheddar Cornbread Biscuits to be specific.

Sweet Corn Jalapeno Cheddar Biscuits

Where did this biscuit recipe come from?

This recipe comes from a blog called Half Baked Harvest. She tells a pretty entertaining story about her first time cooking with jalapenos. A cautionary tale, one might say.

Why choose this biscuit recipe?

I enjoyed reading the post and thought these sounded really different, while still being a biscuit. Plus, I knew that the biscuits would have to sit a while – there was no way everyone would get to eat them hot out of the oven, so I wanted something with enough flavor to come through at room temperature.

Sweet Corn Jalapeno Cheddar Biscuit Dough

Sweet Corn Jalapeno Cheddar Biscuit Dough

What is Persnickety about this biscuit recipe?

The cheese is cut up into cubes, instead of grated. That seemed like a good idea, but the cubes on the outside of the dough melted and ran out of the biscuit and onto the pan. I’m not worried about my pan, since I used my trusted parchment paper. But it is sad when good cheese is lost in the baking of a biscuit!

What changes were made in the making of this biscuit recipe?

I followed the recipe closely. The only change I made was to add less chopped jalapeño, which was a mistake. I was afraid they might be too spicy.

Sweet Corn Jalapeno Cheddar Biscuit

Sweet Corn Jalapeno Cheddar Biscuit

So how was the biscuit?

I found them a bit dry and the flavors were too mild. More jalapenos, cheese, and honey might have all helped. I wanted them to pack more of a punch. But I have to admit that they were all devoured at the Happening, so it might have just been me!

I also made them quite small so that there would be plenty to go around. I think they might be better if they were bigger so that there would be more of the soft interior, to contrast with the dry and crumbly exterior. I would also make some kind of filling next time, or serve them with a healthy slather of honey butter. Because everything is better with honey butter!

How were the leftovers prepared?

There were not many leftovers, but I toasted the few that were left behind. They got nice and crispy.

Toasted Sweet Corn Jalapeno Cheddar Biscuits

Toasted Sweet Corn Jalapeno Cheddar Biscuits

Top Five Unexpected Biscuit Lessons Learned [So Far]

All of the biscuit baking and tasting and studying over the past few months has been quite enlightening. Lately, I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve learned along the way.biscuits

There are many sites, articles, cookbooks, and blogs that will teach you the basics of biscuit baking, so I decided to share my slightly less traditional advice. Without further ado, here are my top five favorite, but unexpected, lessons learned [so far].

  1. Frozen, pre-grated butter. First of all, if you grate frozen butter, you really have to do very little to “cut it in” or incorporate it into the dry ingredients. Second, you can pre-grate it and store it in batches. The next time you make biscuits and get out the grater and frozen butter, grate a lot of extra butter, divide it up into 1/4 or 1/2 cup portions (measure before grating for accuracy) and throw it back into the freezer for the next time you bake biscuits. The last time I made biscuits, I used butter that I had pre-grated and it was a revelation. It made the whole process so easy and fast.grated butter
  2. Rectangles and squares are good. Who said round biscuits are better? Don’t believe them! Think about it. One of the traditional recommendations for biscuit baking is to not overwork the dough. So when you flatten the dough into one big rectangle and use a pastry scraper or knife to cut it into squares or rectangles, there are no leftover scraps. Therefore you are only “rolling” out the dough once. And those weird, last, misshaped biscuits formed from the remaining cutout scraps are all but eliminated.Pesto Parmesan Biscuit Dough
  3. Parchment paper rocks. I have learned to love parchment paper. It is the perfect venue for baking biscuits (or just about anything else) and can usually guarantee that the freshly baked items will release easily. I keep a roll of it on hand at all times now. Remember that wax paper and parchment paper are not the same.
  4. Cut where you cook. I think the best advice is often the thing that makes you say, “Well, duh! Of course!” Put the just kneaded dough onto the parchment paper, press it out into a rectangle, and cut it into squares right there. No need to cut out and pick up and move each biscuit.

    Sweet Corn Jalapeno Cheddar Biscuit Dough

  5. No fancy tools needed. While I have, and love, a pastry cutter, scraper, mat, and a whole assortment of different shapes and sizes of biscuit cutters, you don’t really need all that. You can cut butter or shortening in with your fingers, knead on your countertop, and cut out the biscuits with a knife or old tin can. Biscuits really are low tech.baking tools
  6. Bonus Item: Freeze raw dough. Everyone knows that the best biscuit is a freshly baked one (regardless of my fondness for toasted leftovers). So cut out all the dough but only bake what you need and freeze the remainder. Then thaw the frozen dough overnight, let it rest at room temp for a few minutes, and bake as directed in your recipe. They may not rise quite as much as the originals, but you still get that great fresh-baked flavor and texture.buffalo blue cheese biscuit dough

Do you have any favorite tips or tricks? Please comment and share!

cheddar herb biscuits

Oh, and if you are still a bit mystified by the basics of baking a good biscuits, here are a few references you might find useful.

  • This is a video of Sean Brock, the famed chef/founder of Husk in Charleston and the newly-opened Husk Nashville. I really like how you can see how he works the dough. It looks so soft and light as he is turning it and incorporating the buttermilk.
  • This blogger provides a wonderful list of the traditional suggestions for biscuit making.
  • Finally, White Lilly, the biscuits flour of all biscuit flours, provides their own tips here.

Now go grate some butter, make some biscuits, and share them with someone you love!

lovely biscuits

Buffalo Blue Cheese Biscuits with Creamy Buffalo Chicken Filling

buffalo blue cheese biscuit

It seems to come out of nowhere. Perhaps I got a whiff of vinegar or pepper or just chicken. It’s hard to tell. All I know is that I am suddenly craving buffalo chicken wings. Can you relate?

buffalo blue cheese biscuits

I address this in a few different ways. Sometimes I’ll go get wings at Broadway Brewhouse – simple enough. Or I might make a Buffalo Chicken Pizza, or just add some Frank’s hot sauce to roasted chicken. On this day, though, I tried something different. Something new. Something that took the Buffalo Chicken experience to a whole new level. I made Buffalo Blue Cheese Biscuits with Creamy Buffalo Chicken Filling.

buffalo blue cheese biscuits

Where did this biscuit recipe come from?

I made up the biscuit recipe and was really happy that the balance of flavors turned out the way I wanted. The filling is a Hungry Girl recipe for Buffalo Chicken Dip. It was perfect on the biscuit, adding a bit more spice and a creaminess that complemented the fluffy, tangy biscuit.

buffalo blue cheese biscuit

Why choose this biscuit recipe?

I had seen recipes for blue cheese biscuits and I had seen a recipe for biscuits made with Frank’s Red Hot sauce and parmesan cheese. I was shocked that I could not find a recipe that combined the hot sauce and the blue cheese, so decided to create my own.

buffalo blue cheese biscuits

What is persnickety about this biscuit recipe?

Honestly, this was one of the simplest recipes I’ve made so far. I already had grated butter waiting in the freezer and I bought blue cheese that was already crumbled. The only tricky thing was that I tried making the dough a bit more wet and then adding flour to even it out. That seemed to work well. The dough stayed soft and I believe the biscuits were more moist as a result.

buffalo blue cheese biscuit dough

So how was the biscuit?

Forgive me for my lack of modesty, but I think I truly captured the Buffalo Chicken Wing experience in a biscuit. The blue cheese and touch of ranch dressing offset the heat of the hot sauce, and the added celery seed even approximated the celery that is usually served with wings. I took these to book club and think the hot filling helped to keep the biscuits tasting fresh. buffalo blue cheese biscuit How were the leftovers prepared?

There were a few left that had filling already in them, so I microwaved them briefly and that worked well. I had also put several biscuits into the freezer – before baking. I later took them out, thawed them overnight, let them rest at room temperature for a few minutes, then baked them. They did not rise quite as much as the fresh dough, but were still really good. I served those with honey butter and was delighted to find out how well the honey butter complemented the hot sauce and blue cheese.

buffalo blue cheese biscuit dough

>>>Click here for printable biscuit recipe.

>>>Click here for Buffalo Chicken Filling from Hungry Girl.

Buffalo Blue Cheese Biscuits

Ingredients:
3 cups White Lily self-rise flour
1 tsp. Celery seed
3 T. sugar
1/4 cup butter, frozen
1 cup blue cheese crumbles
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Cover cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Mix the first three dry ingredients.
  3. Grate frozen butter.
  4. Add butter to dry ingredients and toss to coat butter pieces with flour. You do not need to “cut in” the butter at this point.
  5. Add cheese and toss to coat.
  6. Whisk buttermilk, hot sauce, and yogurt in a small bowl until combined.
  7. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the buttermilk mixture. Mix quickly with large spoon or hands, turning bowl and gently scooping the dry ingredients into the wet. Add more buttermilk, 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.
  10. Put cookie sheet in oven and bake for 15 minutes, until tops of biscuits are slightly browned. If you wish, take the biscuits out of the oven a couple of minutes before they are done and brush the tops of the biscuits with butter, then return them to the oven.
  11. Remove from oven, let rest a few minutes, then break apart and eat!
  12. Share with someone you love.

Pleasing Pesto Parmesan Biscuits

Pesto Parmesan Biscuit

I used to be a much pickier eater than I am now, especially when it came to vegetables. I remember the first time someone offered me pesto pasta. I thought it would be like eating a vegetable. Spinach or something. Was I wrong about that! One bite and I was hooked. I love pesto on pasta and chicken and pizza. So why not biscuits?

Where did this biscuit recipe come from?

This one is mine! I took the base from the Rich Cheesy Cheddar Herb Biscuits and tweaked it to allow the basil pesto flavor come through.

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Why choose this biscuit recipe?

Besides the fact that pesto just rocks, I had some leftover in my refrigerator and thought it would be fun to add it to biscuits.

What is Persnickety about this biscuit recipe?

You may have noticed that I’ve made a few biscuits that are this small rectangular shape. I’m sure I will vary it soon enough, but I just love how easy it is to cut up all of the dough at once, while it is on the parchment, and slide the whole thing into the oven. The opposite of persnickety, really.

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I do like to freeze the shortening. One thing about shortening compared to butter is that it is still workable when frozen. Just colder. You can’t grate it like butter, but you can easily work it into the dough. I tried to work really quickly and not worry about making the little shortening/butter bits too small. They were more flat than round, which I think helped to make the biscuits a little more flaky.

Pesto Parmesan Biscuit Dough

So how was the biscuit?

Incredibly flavorful. The basil and parmesan were perfectly incorporated into the flaky biscuit that was soft and moist inside.

How were the leftover biscuits prepared?

Leftovers? What leftovers?

Pesto Parmesan Biscuits

>>>Click here for printable recipe.

Pleasing Pesto Parmesan Biscuits

Ingredients:
2 cups White Lily self-rise flour
¼ tsp. black pepper
¼ tsp. salt
¼ cup butter flavored Crisco shortening, frozen
¼ cup basil pesto
¾ – 1 cup buttermilk
Shredded parmesan to sprinkle on top

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 475 degrees. Cover cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Mix dry ingredients.
  3. Cut shortening into small pieces and add to dry ingredients. Rub between your fingers or cut in using pastry cutter or two knives. Work quickly so that shortening does not get warm.
  4. Add pesto, again using your fingers to incorporate but don’t worry about blending perfectly.
  5. Make a well in the center and add 3/4 cup buttermilk. Mix quickly with large spoon or hands. Add more buttermilk, if needed, to make dough moist but not too wet. It will be somewhat sticky.
  6. Sprinkle flour onto countertop or pastry board. Dump dough out of bowl onto flour. Sprinkle flour onto dough and rub onto hands. Press dough together quickly and flatten to about 1/2 inch. Fold dough in half. A pastry scraper can be really helpful here to lift up the dough. Flatten dough again to about 1/2-3/4 inch.
  7. Transfer dough to parchment paper. Press out again if needed. 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. Sprinkle tops of biscuits with shredded parmesan and a little more pepper if you like.
  8. Put cookie sheet in oven and bake for 12-15 minutes, until tops of biscuits are slightly browned.
  9. Remove from oven, let rest a few minutes, then break apart and eat!
  10. Share with someone you love.

Rich Cheesy Cheddar Herb Biscuits

Cheesy Cheddar Biscuits
This is when things start getting fun! I had learned some biscuit lessons along the way and was ready to really put them into practice with this new recipe.

Where did this biscuit recipe come from?

This one is mine! I was inspired by a few different recipes – the most influential was this one from Bon Appetit.

Why choose this biscuit recipe?

I had family in town and a friend was having a bad week and, well, I thought I should make them all some biscuits. Nothing says “I love you” like a rich, buttery, cheesy biscuit, right?

Cheesy Cheddar Herb Biscuits

What is Persnickety about this biscuit recipe?

In some ways, I think this recipe is easier than many. You have to remember to freeze the butter – that must be done ahead of time. And grating the butter is a little persnickety. It is hard to hold onto a stick of butter to grate it! But once that is done, putting everything together is really easy. You don’t have to cut the butter in or wonder if you are working fast enough or if your butter is starting to melt too much. It is already the perfect size, so you just toss it with the dry ingredients.

Cheesy Cheddar Dough

I have to admit, I got the butter freezing idea from that first biscuit recipe. The Tupeolo Honey one. Remember that? I decided that was an idea I could definitely salvage from that recipe.

The other thing to note is the way the whole piece of dough was put onto the parchment before it was cut out. How much easier is it to cut the biscuits out in place and then just slide the whole thing into the oven? I also really love making these little biscuits. They are almost bite-sized and I can have a couple of them without feeling like I’m going to gain a million pounds in a weekend.

Cheddar Dough Cut out

So how was the biscuit?

Is it too immodest if I say “wow”? Honestly, they were really good. Moist, cheesy, with just enough herb and garlic flavor to make them perfect all by themselves. No butter was required for these little gems.

Rich Cheesy Cheddar Biscuit

How were the leftover biscuits prepared?

I reheated them in the microwave and also toasted them. Very good, of course. I mean, how could buttery rich cheesy cheddar herb biscuits not be good when toasted?

Toasted Cheesy Cheddar Herb

I also was going to try a new freeze, thaw, rest, bake thing. I put a small piece of cut out dough into the freezer. The idea (from that Bon Appetit recipe) was to thaw them overnight in the fridge, let them rest for 20 minutes at room temp, then bake. But I got impatient and just pulled them out of the freezer and put them into the oven. They still baked up pretty well, just did not rise as much. Oh well. Another time I’ll follow those directions and let you know how they turn out.

Trio of Cheesy Cheddar Biscuits

>>>Click here for printable recipe.

Cheddar Cheesy Herb Biscuits

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups White Lily self-rise flour
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. dried mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. Mrs Dash original (or any combo of herbs you like)
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 T. sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, frozen
  • 3/4 – 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 475 degrees. Cover cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Mix all dry ingredients.
  3. Grate cheddar if not using pre-shredded.
  4. Grate frozen butter.
  5. Add butter to dry ingredients and toss to coat butter pieces with flour. You do not need to “cut in” the butter at this point.
  6. Add cheese and toss to coat.
  7. Make a well in the center and add 3/4 cup buttermilk. Mix quickly with large spoon or hands. Add more buttermilk, 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. Press dough together quickly and flatten to about 1/2 inch. Fold dough in half. A pastry scraper can be really helpful here to lift up the dough. Sprinkle board, hands and top of dough with flour again. Flatten and fold again. Flatten to about 1/2-3/4 inch.
  9. Transfer dough to parchment paper. Press out again if needed. 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.
  10. Put cookie sheet in oven and bake for 12-15 minutes, until tops of biscuits are slightly browned. If you wish, take the biscuits out of the oven a couple of minutes before they are done and brush the tops of the biscuits with butter.
  11. Remove from oven, let rest a few minutes, then break apart and eat!
  12. Share with someone you love.