Today, I’m working on the biscuit chapter of ‘The Feast of the Dove.’ It’s the first of the recipe chapters in the manuscript. A section on pantry management, with information on how to choose and store pantry staples, including flours, sweeteners, and herbs and spices, preceeds the recipe chapters.
In most cookbooks, biscuits show up in the breads section. I’m giving them their own chapter for several reasons. They are an integral part of eating well; they’re adaptable to sweet and savory uses; they’re inexpensive and easy to make, yet filling; and everyone loves a hot biscuit slathered with butter. Jelly, jam, marmalade or gravy are optional — but always welcome.
Over the years, I’ve learned four methods to make biscuits and I’ll share them all with you in ‘The Feast of the Dove.’ Each method has its merits, and I use all of them at various times. Some are easy and fast to make, great for times when I need to pay attention to something else on the stove, or when I quickly need to feed someone who’s hungry. Others are more leisurely; I choose those for more meditative times.
Years of living in the Deep South, where I watched dozens of gifted biscuit-bakers at their work, also taught me a number of valuable tips. Among them:
- How to calculate how many biscuits you’ll need, and how to scale the recipes up or down to fit your needs.
- How to choose the best flour for the biscuit you want to make.
- How to change fats to suit the flavor profile you desire, and how to decide whether to use butter, lard or vegetable shortening.
- When it’s wiser to roll and cut into circles, and when patting the dough out and cutting it into squares is a better idea.
- What to do with leftover biscuits (besides just eating them cold, which is a pleasure in its own right).
These, too, I’ll share with you.
Finally, I’ll teach you how to customize biscuits and adapt them to different uses. You won’t need dozens of separate recipes for each kind of biscuit, because I’ll empower you to use your know-how to bake exactly the biscuit you want to serve.
Serve cheese-and-herb biscuits alongside that soup or stew, or use these as a savory topping for pot pies or casseroles. Add a little sugar and warm spices such as cinnamon, and your biscuits turn into shortcakes to use as the base for peaches, berries or cherries, or fruit curds, or ganache. Turn them into scones with nuts and dried fruits to create a treat to serve with coffee or tea.
Almost infinitely adaptable, the amiable biscuit deserves a keystone role in your cooking repertoire.