Monday, August 30, 2010

Beaten Biscuits

I made these biscuits simply because I needed something to go with Summer Corn Soup, I've yet to be disappointed with a Good to the Grain recipe, and I already had everything I needed at home. These biscuits are wonderfully nutty and tender, and are delicious topped simply with butter or jam, or dipped into the delicate sweetness and freshness of Summer Corn Soup. These biscuits have a much more complex flavor and interesting texture than those made with white flour, although not everyone will prefer whole-grain biscuits. As with all biscuits, they're never as good as they are fresh out of the oven, but were still a treat the next day with leftover soup. I tried freezing a couple to see how they hold up, but obviously won't know for a while how well they survive in the freezer.

Beaten Biscuits
from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce

I first tasted beaten biscuits in Kentucky. In the era before baking powder and baking soda, biscuit dough was beaten for long periods of time to give the biscuits lift. Contrary to what I had always thought-that the dough required a light hand to yield a tired biscuit-these biscuits are beaten and folded repeatedly and yet the results are very tender. Here I kept the method, using a bit of chemical leavening with the multigrain flour mix-I didn't quite believe that I would get the lift without it.

These biscuits are small, with a fine, crumbly texture. The homemade multigrain flour mix gives them a pure, sweet, and nutty taste. They are particularly good slathered with Three-Citrus Marmalade (see Good to the Grain; p. 192). The rounds of biscuit dough also make a great topping for a fruit cobbler.

Butter for the pans

Dry Mix:
1 c. Multigrain Flour Mix (see recipe below)
1 c. whole-grain pastry flour
1 T. baking powder
1 T. sugar
3/4 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. baking soda

Wet Mix:
3 oz. (3/4 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 c. heavy cream

1. Place two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Rub two baking sheets with butter.

2. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl, pouring back into the bowl any bits of grain or other ingredients that may remain in the sifter. Add the butter to the dry mixture. Rub the butter between your fingers, breaking it into smaller and smaller bits until the pieces are the size of grains of rice. The more quickly you do this, the more the butter will stay solid, which is important for the success of the recipe.

3. Add the cream. Working from the outer edge of the flour, draw your hands around the bowl to mix the cream into the flour. Mix the dough until it just holds together.

4. Dust a work surface with flour. Use a pastry scraper or a spatula to transfer the dough to the work surface. With a rolling pin, give the dough three good whacks, then fold the dough over and give it three more good whacks. Fold and whack five more times. Flour as needed.

5. Gather the dough into a ball and roll it out to a 3/4-inch thickness. Using a 2-inch round cookie cutter, cut the dough into circles, punching the circles out as close as possible to one another. Gather the excess dough, roll it out again, and punch out more circles. Repeat until all the dough is used, keeping in mind that the more times you reroll the dough, the tougher the biscuits will be.

6. Transfer the biscuits to the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 3 inches between them.

7. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. The biscuit tops should be a matte mahogany-brown.

8. Enjoy warm, or even a few hours later. Like all biscuits, they're best eaten the day they're made but will keep in an airtight container for 2 days.

Multigrain Flour Mix:
1 c. whole-wheat flour
1 c. oat flour
1 c. barley flour
1/2 c. millet flour
1/2 c. rye flour

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