Archive for October, 2008

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Ask nicely please.

The following comment was left for me to approve and I chose not to. Because…well…I don’t have to. I am tired and it struck me wrong. So I am going to respond to it here and hopefully next time I read it, it won’t bother me. Why am I tired you ask? Because I found out yesterday that we will close on my mom’s house, most likely by Friday and I have until then to get 50 years worth of stuff out of it. So I am busting my butt. And catty comments don’t go over very well when I am tired. What is wrong with asking nicely?

Someone wrote:

I’m questioning the usefulness of advocating only one flour brand, expecially as it’s not available everywhere (like here). I’ll be keeping my eye out for it, and Bulgarian-style buttermilk. But if we can’t find those things, you seem to be saying we might as well not even bother. If so, then your cookbook will have a very limited market. That’s all well and good if that’s your intent – is it?

As a matter of fact this particular cookbooklet is for a specific class I am teaching locally. I wanted some input on the content, grammar, instructions. And what I am saying is White Lily is THE BEST I HAVE FOUND. You may find some you like, some that suit your purpose. And by all means, use whatever you have. I AM saying if all you have is Pillsbury or Gold Medal, then yeah, in my not so humble opinion, I think you are wasting your time making biscuits with either of them. However, if you have a source for flour made from soft winter wheat and it specifically says so on the package, then that is what you are looking for. Less protein. I intend to go on about this more in the final draft of the booklet. I hope I didnt leave anyone else with the impression that this booklet was for sale. Also, I am going experiment with using cake flour as it is lower in protein like soft winter wheat (grown in the South in warmer climate–told you its very scientific).

And yes Pat in TN you may copy it when I get it finished.

So now I apologize for being cross but I am exhausted and the comment stuck in my craw. Tommorrow is a new day. And a new mood, hopefully.


Hey, can a get a hand here?

I really, REALLY need you all to read over the text for my Biscuit Making 101 booklet I am handing out at my first cooking class.  Tell me honestly what you think and if it is enough information.  Just pretend you have never made a biscuit in your life.  What do I need to add?  Leave out?  Just tell me what you think. Thanks!!!

Here is what I have so far:

Biscuit Making 101

Very Important Announcement:
I am not even kidding you.
Here is a list of the flours I have tried and what I have found to be true about each of them.

  • Gold Medal Self Rising: Not good for biscuits AT ALL.  Very packy, dense biscuits.
  • Sunflower Self Rising: Again, packy, dense—better than Gold Medal but not what I wanted at all.
  • Martha White Self Rising: Same old, tired story.  Just not up to par.
  • Pillsbury Self Rising: Same song, different day.
  • Wondra: Blah, Blah, Blah
  • White Lily Self Rising: Folks, we have a winner!  Light, fluffy PERFECT texture   biscuits.  Hands down, THE BEST!

You may tell yourself that you don’t really care about WHY White Lily is the best, but you should! And even if you don’t, I am going to tell you anyway!  It is 100% soft winter wheat and it has a much lower protein content.  And the facts are: less protein = better for quick breads and more protein = better for yeast breads.  Also, handling your biscuit dough too much result in developing the gluten (all very scientific) and in quick cooking bread, muffins and biscuits~this is a no-no.
You have to trust me on this: ALL FLOURS ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL.  And quite honestly, they shouldn’t be.  Different flours~different uses.  Makes perfect sense.  It also makes perfect sense to use the right ingredients for the recipe.  What are we trying to teach in our children??? A job worth doing is worth doing right.  This certainly goes for cooking and baking as well.  Without a doubt, having the right tools and proper ingredients can make a good cook into a great cook!  Having the right    instruction and technique makes things even better.

There are so many little hints and helps in cooking and baking that can make all the difference in the world.  Take heed when you learn something new.  Write it down.  Keep a kitchen notebook.  And ask yourself why.  Asking why and getting the answer will make it memorable.  For example, not twisting the biscuit cutter when you cut  your biscuits makes a huge difference in how they rise when baking.  No joke ~ makes a HUGE difference.  That tiny little tidbit is essential information in my opinion.  So, therefore, I am passing it on to you.  Now don’t forget!

Now for the fat content of your biscuits~again VERY important. Unless you are vegan there is no reason NOT to introduce a tiny bit of animal fat in your diet from time to time.  None of us eat biscuits every day.  If you make yours from scratch then time constraints alone prevent it.  Maybe our grandmothers did but it just doesn’t fit into our already ridiculous schedules.  So here is where I drop the bomb shell.  The very best, most tender, flaky, perfectly textured    biscuits must be made with lard.  You read that correctly.  LARD.  Cheap, old animal by-product lard. You are welcome to render your own, but the bucket or box at the grocery store is more than sufficient.  If you just can’t bring yourself to use all lard, then use half shortening or even butter.  But don’t complain if your biscuits are not light and fluffy because they won’t be.  If you really want to get crazy make your biscuits using part duck fat.  OH MY!  I can’t describe them.  They are amazing.  But hey, I like just about anything cooked with a little duck fat.

Frankly, I think fat is a much misunderstood ingredient in fine cooking.  You cannot cut fat from your diet and if you think I am nuts, read Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions.  Not the gospel of healthy eating but raises some very good questions.  And I look at it like this: That lard biscuit I eat once or twice a month will not be what kills me.  So ENJOY!

The next important factor is the liquid you add.  Not just WHAT but the amount as well.  I personally, use only Bulgarian Style Buttermilk.  It is thick and tangy ~ two very important things to look for in buttermilk.  I much prefer the Foremost brand in the waxed paper carton. It is fresher and well, I hate for my food to be stored in plastic.    Anyway, there is a BIG difference in the types of buttermilk and how things will turn out using each one.  Oddly enough, buttermilk is relatively low in fat and considered yet another animal fat~since it comes from cows~duh! And what have we learned so far?  Animal fat = delicious!
Back in the day it was what was left after butter was churned.  Now, it is just whole or skim milk with lactic acid bacteria added for fermentation.  Let me just get this out of the way before we go any further: Adding lemon juice or vinegar to milk does NOT        Buttermilk make.  So stop right there if you are considering it.  Go ahead, splurge on the cultured buttermilk and don’t worry about the date and if you will use it before the date runs out.  IT IS SOUR MILK.  If it isn’t growing something green, then it is still fine to use past the date.  Using buttermilk gives your biscuits that tart, tiny bit salty taste that just makes you go mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

The amount of liquid added is very important.  If your recipe says 1/2—2/3 cup then start with the 1/2.  If it is a nice crisp dry Autumn morning, you might have to add a bit more.  If it is humid or rainy, the 1/2 might be enough.  You can add more, but you can’t take any back out! And if you have to start adding flour…well you are cooking up a recipe for disaster!

On to TEMPERATURE.  OH SO important.  Both in your raw ingredients and the baking temperature.  Chill your ingredients.  In fact, keep your flour in the freezer and your lard in the refrigerator.  Then you are always ready to whip up a batch of biscuits.  And preheat your oven to 500 degrees.  That’s right.  FIVE  HUNDRED DEGREES.  No more, no less. This insures a quick “shock” to the cold biscuit dough and whoop ~ a terrific, tall beautiful biscuit!

If making biscuits for breakfast I mix my flour and lard and put it back in the refrigerator, covered, until I am ready to mix in the buttermilk. They bake for 15-18 minutes so I try to time having my other food started and then getting my biscuits ready to bake.  Don’t let your ingredients come to room temp even after you mix the flour and lard.  Keep it chilled.

Here is where you can decide what biscuit is perfect for your taste.  Do you like soft sided biscuits?  If so, place them close together on your pan. Do you like them very crispy on top?  Brush them with milk or melted butter before baking. Do you like “layers” ? Then fold your dough over on itself a couple of times before cutting.

Always brush them with melted butter as soon as they come out of the oven. Oh please, you know you want to.  What’s a little more butter in the scheme of things?

That’s it – still have to add the recipe and a few more little hints.  Please be honest…is it easy to understand?  Enough info?  Too much info???


Thoughtful Thursday

In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on. ~Robert Frost

As the anniversary of my mom’s passing approaches, I wonder why I don’t feel more “grieved out”.  Why it seems so fresh and the wound still so raw?  I honestly thought I would be further along in the process.  I usually “get on with things” fairly well.  I took my father’s death better but I suppose it might have been because I still had my mom.  It sucks to be an orphan.  Even at 49.  Plus as “they” say, it’s just different to lose you mama.  “They” must be right.  I still feel a bit disoriented when I think about things I need to do or plans I need to make. I never have been terribly task oriented but this is getting ridiculous.  Someone wrote to  me months ago wanting lotion bars and another wanting a lotion bar tutorial.  I had all intentions of getting both done right away.  Now here it is weeks, maybe months past and still neither.  I have a cookbook almost finished.  ALMOST as in it needs proofing and printing and put on etsy.  Is it done?  Nope.  I have all intents and purposes to get my etsy shoppe up and running not only because I need to focus but who couldnt use a little butter and egg money jingling in their pocket?  Frankly I miss the soap business money…it was like a real paycheck! I have all these wonderful ideas in my head and some even written down, but I can’t seem to get up the gumption to get rolling.  Then again, maybe I am just blaming grief when it is actually laziness.  The cooking classes are a start.  Something with a little commitment involved might be just what I need.

Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal. ~ From a headstone in Ireland

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