Biscuits (and Buzz Cuts)

I'm betting if you're here it's because you care about food on some level. You may not consider yourself a foodie—whatever that means—but on some level you have a connection with what you're consuming. You want to know where your ingredients come from, you have strong memories of the recipes you used to eat as a kid, or of your family eating together at the holidays—OR—my mom convinced you to read this thing—which is fine too; I could use the readers. Thanks, Ma. 

When I moved to Colorado in 2006 I was never more unsure of myself. I had been accepted to grad school and decided to take that route because school was the only thing I had ever been good at. I had no clue what I wanted to be when I grew up—and quite honestly, I still have no idea—so it seemed like the natural next step. I remember moving day; standing in a parking lot—my dad squeezing me tight, both of us crying (he's more of a Jewish mother than my own)—and him whispering in my ear, "You can do this." Uh, I wasn't so sure. 

I moved to a tiny town—a blip on a map. I hated it. I lived with my friend and her toddler—who's going to be 14 later this year—yikes. I was lonely, had starting dating a schmuck, and was in an art program where I felt like I didn't fit in. 

And then two things happened that would change my life forever: I met the man with a buzz cut who would later become my husband (and who was actually my employee at the time—ay-oh!); and I bought a cookbook, called With a Measure of Grace, at the local bookstore.

This cookbook, from Hell's Backbone Grill, a restaurant run by two women in Boulder, UT—a blip on a map—is one of the most thoughtfully written books I've ever read. It made me think about cooking, and ingredients, and farms, and people, and the ways we gather together around food unlike ever before.

Sometimes it can feel silly to wax poetic about breakfast—but it's the meals we share with friends, the cookies we bake with our grandmothers, the local restaurants we grow to love—that shape our memories. 

I read the book cover to cover, engrossing myself in the stories of the Buddhist monks who visit the restaurant, the staff who've become family, and the farmers dedicated to growing and raising food. And then I got to cooking—and by this time I had brand new boy to cook and bake for.

This biscuit recipe is from their cookbook and it's one of my favorites. I've made some slight changes to theirs, but the gist is still the same buttery, flaky deliciousness you'd want in a biscuit.

Now get off your own biscuit and go make these.

TO MAKE THIS RECIPE YOU WILL NEED:

2 tablespoons cornmeal
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
8 tablespoons butter, really cols and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup of cold buttermilk

Cold meets hot. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. You want to keep your other ingredients really cold. It's the best way to get nice, flaky biscuits. Let your oven get really hot, at least 15 minutes. Meanwhile line a 9 x 11-inch baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the cornmeal.

Prepare your dries. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flour, salt, soda, powder, and sugar until well combined.

Add the buttah. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or two knives until the mixer resembles coarse crumbs.

Now the buttahmilk. Pour the buttermilk over the top of the mixture and using a rubber spatula, fold in the milk, rotating the bowl with each fold. The mixture should be moist and sticky with very few dry patches.

Turn out for what. Turn the dough out on to a floured counter and lightly flour your hands. Lightly press the dough into a rectangle about an inch thick. Then fold it in on itself in thirds, like a letter. Add a little flour to the stack and light roll or press the stack back down to an inch-thick rectangle. Turn the rectangle and repeat the folding process two more times, being gentle with the stack. End with a 1-inch high rectangle of dough. 

Slice 'n bake. Place the rectangle of biscuit dough on the prepared pan with the cornmeal. Using a knife, and hopefully better measuring skills than I have, cut biscuits into two-inch squares and leave attached to each other on the pan. Sprinkle with the other tablespoon of cornmeal.  Bake for about 15 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool for more than the 10 seconds I wait, to avoid scalding your fingers and tongue, then top with your favorite jam.

Sugared Popovers with Goat Cheese

My grandma Sylvia—when she had her wits about her, as they say—was a chef. She was funny, creative, and little meshugganah. She owned her own restaurants, created innovative menus, and hosted dinners where she cooked elaborate meals for family and friends.

My grandpa—the chief dishwasher—adored her. My mom and I recently found stacks of letters they wrote to each other in the 30s. Back and forth, referring to one another as "my darling", they shared stories of what they were doing and how they missed each other. 

 

I've learned a lot about food from my grandmotherand I probably get some of my craziness from her too. I learned not to overmix cakes, the correct way to chop nuts, and the importance of presentation from her. And I like to think that if she had any idea what day it was—or what my name is—she'd follow this blog. "Bubbeleh," she'd say, "I'm so proud of you. Now, taste this chicken."

Learning from the greatest doesn't make me immune to kitchen mishaps. I have had some serious baking disasters in my day: Cakes that implode, pies that leak, bread loaves that could break windows. But I never feel more like a magician than when I make popovers. The ingredients and directions are simple and I've never had them... pop under. If you catch my drift.

They feel fancy and they taste like heaven. What more could you want out of a pastry? Calorie-free? Ain't gonna happen.  You can make them sweet or savoryor both—in this case. With a small dollop of creamy goat cheese and quick roll in sugar, these popovers are somethin' else. 

If the combination doesn't suit your fancy, you can omit the sugar, the cheese, or both.

Now, pop on down to the recipe.

TO MAKE THIS RECIPE YOU WILL NEED:

1 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted, plus more for greasing the pan
1 1/2 cups milk, at room temperature
3 eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar

Make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature. If you decide at the last minute that you're going to make popovers (like me), you can bring your eggs to room temp by placing them in a bowl of warm water for ten minutes and warm your milk until the chill is gone.

Preheat your oven and your pan. Having a hot oven and hot pan are crucial. Don't ask me to explain science, just trust me. So, preheat your oven to 425. Spread softened butter all over your popover pan (you can try a muffin tin, but I used a popover pan and can't vouch for a muffin tin). Heat the pan in the hot oven for two minutes.

Mix up your batter. In a large mixing bowl (I used an 8-cup measuring cup with a spout to make pouring the batter easy), combine the melted butter, milk, and eggs, whisking until well combined. Add in the flour and salt and whisk until the large lumps are gone.

Fill your pan. Pour batter into hot, greased tin, filling each cup a little over halfway full. Place a dollop (a couple teaspoons) of goat cheese into the center of each cup.

Bake on. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 30 minutes on the nose. No matter how bad you want to see the magic: Do. Not. Open. The. Oven.

Marvel at the magic and give 'em a roll. Take the pan out of the oven and let popovers cool for a minute. Place sugar in a shallow dish. Carefully remove popovers from the pan and roll in sugar, coating each side.

recipe adapted from Barefoot Contessa Parties