Biscuit numphing ~ Ham Pie Sandwiches

23 April 2008

Biscuit numphing

Or: how to make delicious biscuits even though you have no butter or acceptable solid substitute.

Use olive oil.
I've been using this baking powder biscuit formula ever since Clabber Girl decided to take their recipe off their cans. Apparently I'm still annoyed at that even after several years. Anyway. It works well. The biscuits are tasty. We can eat a whole double batch in one sitting.

So last saturday I was trying to figure out what to eat. I couldn't buy food, since we were flying out on monday. This is clearly the best time to bake something like biscuits: fresh, soft, delicious, small enough to eat in entirety before you get on the plane, and good for using up milk. It would also have been good for using butter, had we had any (or, uh, been at all concerned about spoilage, which is not generally true of butter).

For a minute I was put out. No biscuits!

Then it occurred to me that I did have a huge bottle of olive oil.

I didn't make any other changes to the recipe. Summary: Preheat the oven to 400F. Put a cup of white flour, a cup of wheat flour, 4 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt in a bowl. You could use any combination of flours you want, probably; I've definitely made these all wheat before. Make sure the baking powder is all actually powdery; break up clumps in the canister with the back of the measuring spoon. Mix all the dry business together gently. Then add 1/4 cup of olive oil and 3/4 cup milk. Stir it all roughly together for several strokes, until it looks like this:

Now is the time to knead. I just leave the dough in the bowl for kneading, since I am lazy and it's not like you have to make it fit a pie pan. Gather the dough chunks together and flatten with the heel of your hand, sticking the dough to whatever flour is left on the bottom of the bowl. Turn and do it again. Repeat two or three times more, until the dough sticks together and starts looking like this:

At this point you Could put the dough onto a floured board, roll it out, and cut it with biscuit cutters. I decided to tear off biscuit-sized pieces, flatten them a little, and bake them like that. I got 20 small biscuits from this amount of dough.

I was kind of concerned here about flake. All you ever hear about biscuit baking is that only cold cold butter will do!! for making flaky biscuits. However, you will notice that there is indeed a layered structure to the unbuttered dough. I don't have any pictures of this part, since I had dough all over my hands, but try it yourself. Each piece ripped in a definite grain. I tried not to shape the chunks of dough any more than I had to, in order to maintain it. Just make sure your biscuits will actually stick together, and no more.

Then put all the biscuits on a cookie sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes. Whip them out of the oven as soon as they are sufficiently golden brown.

Check out the successful layers!

Check out the tea and jam!

Eat biscuits with plenty of jam or honey or cheese. Eat them as hot as possible.

I made these totally plain for eating with anything at any time. You could make them flavored, though! Sage biscuits: add lots of chopped sage. Spicy cheesy biscuits: add grated cheese and cayenne. Spinach biscuits: add some blanched, dried, and chopped spinach. Pesto biscuits! Eat all the biscuits!

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