Friday, January 27, 2012

The Daring Bakers January 2012- Scones (Biscuits)

Audax Artifex was our January 2012 Daring Bakers’ host. Aud worked tirelessly to master light and fluffy scones (a/k/a biscuits) to help us create delicious and perfect batches in our own kitchens!

I have had quite the month since the last challenge. Honestly, I probably didn't even look at the challenge for about a week after it had been posted. Over the holidays we took a trip to Iowa to see my family and spend some time with them. What began as a quick visit to my grandfather in the hospital became two days, and a certainty that we would be coming back to Iowa very soon. We got back to Wisconsin on a Friday and the following Friday found us driving to Iowa to attend my grandfather's visitation and funeral. It was a very difficult beginning to 2012 to say the least.

I like to think that my grandfather would have enjoyed the fruits of this challenge. Whenever I think of biscuits I think of down-home cooking (although, I know that when titled as "scones" as in Britain and elsewhere you eat them at tea time) and that certainly makes me think of my grandmother. She grew up on a farm and learned her cooking there. Grandma's version of cooking was make it from scratch and don't hold the butter. My earliest cooking memories are of making bread or cookies with my grandmother, calling my grandpa on the phone (somehow we called him when he was upstairs in the same house. Without a cell phone. I still don't know how that worked) and telling him to come down to get some warm cookies.
Delicious Amish Jam

Perhaps it is just me feeling nostalgic and trying to find connections to the grandfather I miss deeply, but I really do think that he would appreciate these made from scratch, delicious biscuits. I was very preoccupied this month, so the most I managed was the basic biscuit recipe. No frills, no additions, but I can tell you even this "naked" form of biscuit was delicious. When paired with the Amish- made raspberry jam I got for Christmas, they were heaven. I also appreciated that these took so little time to make. I like foods that you can have a craving for and be eating them within the hour.

Old Baking Powder Biscuit
I actually made two batches of these. The first I made with my baking powder of undetermined age. That alone means it was far too old. You could definitely tell, as the first batch of biscuits didn't rise quite as much as I had hoped. So I bought a new container of baking powder and it really made a difference!
New Baking Powder Biscuit! Magic!

Basic Biscuits (makes about 8 2-inch biscuits)
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons fresh baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons frozen butter cut into small pieces
Approx. 1/2 cup cold milk
optional 1 tablespoon milk for glazing the tops of the biscuits

1. Preheat oven to 475.
2. Triple sift dry ingredients into a large bowl (or if you don't have a sifter like me, whisk them really really well)
3. Rub the frozen butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles very coarse bread crumbs with some pea-sized pieces if you want flaky biscuits or until it resembles coarse beach sand if you want tender biscuits.
4. Add nearly all of the liquid at once into the flour/butter mixture and mix until it just forms a sticky dough (add remaining liquid if needed). The wetter the dough the lighter the biscuits will be!
5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, lightly flour the top of the dough. To achieve an even homogeneous crumb to your scones knead very gently about 4 or 5 times until the dough is smooth. To achieve a layered effect in your biscuits knead very gently once (don't press too firmly) then fold and turn the kneaded dough about 3 or 4 times until the dough has formed a smooth texture. 
6. Pat or roll dough out into a 6 inch by 4 inch rectangle about 3/4 inch thick. Using a well floured biscuit cutter cut into rounds, or use a well floured, sharp knife to form squares or wedges as you desire. 
7. Place the biscuits just touching on a dish if you want soft sided biscuits or place them spaced widely apart if you want to have crisp-sided biscuits. Glaze the tops with milk if you want a golden color or lightly flour if you want a more traditional look.
8. Bake in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes (check at 8 since at this temperature home ovens are quite unreliable) until the biscuits are well risen and are lightly colored on the tops. The biscuits are ready when the sides are set. 
9. Immediately place onto cooling rack to stop the cooking process, serve while still warm.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Blueberry Muffins, no topping

I am fully aware that there is a Blueberry Muffin recipe already on this blog. But that one has a topping. And while good, it tastes different from this one? Okay, I know that some people think a blueberry muffin is a blueberry muffin, good however it was prepared. But I am one of those people that truly appreciates the nuances of different blueberry muffin recipes. As long as I get to eat a great many blueberry muffins in gaining that appreciation, that is. 

When I was making this recipe I was surprised. The batter had an almost cookie like consistency that literally has to be scooped into the muffin tin. If you overturned the bowl and tried to pour it, you'd probably just end up with a whole bowl's worth of muffin batter on your counter. I didn't know what to expect, because the texture of muffins and the texture of cookies just doesn't really seem the same to me. When I brought these out of the oven, I totally got it. The muffins are dense, but not hockey puckish, and they are so full of blueberries! 

Blueberry Muffins (adapted from Brown Eyed Baker and Cook's Illustrated)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1¼ cups sour cream
1½ cups frozen or fresh blueberries
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a standard 12-cup muffin tin (or line with paper liners) and set aside.
2. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl untill combined. Whisk the egg in a separate medium bowl until well-combined and light-colored, about 20 seconds. Add the sugar and whisk vigorously until thick, about 30 seconds. Add the melted butter in 2 or 3 additions, whisking to combine after each addition. Add the sour cream in 2 additions, whisking just to combine.
3. Add the berries to the dry ingredients and gently toss just to combine. Add the sour cream mixture and fold with a rubber spatula until the batter comes together and the berries are evenly distributed, 25 to 30 seconds. Small spots of flour may remain and the batter will be very thick. Do not overmix.
4. Using a large spoon or a cookie scoop sprayed with nonstick cooking spray, divide the batter amount the muffin cups. Bake until the muffins are light golden brown and a toothpick or thin knife inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pan from front to back halfway through the baking time. Immediately remove muffins to a wire rack and cool for at least 5 minutes. Serve immediately or at room temperature. Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature.