Perhaps it Was Fate
January 11, 2009
I didn’t expect to check one of the New Orleans-inspired recipes off my To Make List this soon. For the biscuits, in particular, I thought I’d be searching for the perfect recipe for weeks. And, frankly, I was kind of looking forward to the buttery, flaky auditions. But they won’t be necessary: this recipe is a clear winner.
As I mentioned last week, one of the first things Kevin and I ate in New Orleans was a big, hot biscuit, served with a foil-wrapped pat of butter at Mother’s. And it was perfect—dunked in my gumbo or standing alone. None of the other biscuits we ate during the trip quite lived up and I was doubtful that I could find a recipe to stand up to the Mother’s memory in my own kitchen.
Oddly enough, I wasn’t even looking for this recipe, which comes from Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food—a very excellent cookbook. I was re-visiting the cookbook because, while in New Orleans, I read Thomas McNamee’s biography of Waters and Chez Panisse, which had me captivated by both of them (the chef and the restaurant). It was one of those books you wish would never end, which is why I was trying to get my fix through the cookbook.
So it just seemed very meant to be when the biscuit recipe popped up as I flipped through the cookbook—two of my favorite parts of New Orleans together on the same page. I was sold.
Perhaps it was the element of fate, perhaps it’s just an excellent recipe or perhaps it’s the addition of heavy cream—but whatever the reason, these biscuits were incredible. And so, so easy. Just whisk a few pantry staples together—flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in some small pieces of cold butter and pour in a thick stream of heavy cream until the dough just barely holds together. Pat that out into a thick circle and roll it to just shy of an inch thickness. Brandish your (brand new!) biscuit cutter to stamp out rounds, which you next brush with cream. After only 20 minutes in the oven, these little disks will transform into puffed, flaky, golden, completely irresistible biscuits. Simple food, indeed.
Preheat the oven to 400F.
Stir together in a large bowl:
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
6 tbls cold butter cut into small pieces
Cut the butter into the flour with your fingers or a pastry blender until they are the size of small peas.
¾ cups heavy cream
Remove 1 tablespoon and set aside. Lightly stir in the remainder of the cream with a fork until the mixture just comes together. Without overworking it, lightly knead the dough a couple of times in the bowl, turn it out onto a lightly floured board, and roll out about ¾ inch thick. Cut into eight 1 ½ inch circles or squares. Reroll the scraps if necessary.
Place the biscuits on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and lightly brush the tops with the reserved tablespoon of cream. Bake for 17 minutes or until cooked through and golden.