Monday, April 27, 2009

Spring picnic with biscuits and berries


Until several months ago, the only biscuits I ever made were the rolled (or patted) ones from the Vegetarian Epicure. These biscuits, along with the pie crusts that were ubiquitous in our kitchen on summer evenings, instilled in me an early awareness of a mysterious thing called "gluten." I didn't know what it was, but I quickly learned that it was a Bad Thing. I was always anxious that with my clumsy wee hands I would overwork the dough and develop the gluten. Horrors!

Even after years (can I already say decades?) of biscuit-making and the acquisition of adult-level fine motor skills, there are times when I don't quite get it right, so I love finding tips and tricks that can help me avoid the dreaded gluten-associated toughness. Imagine my delight in finding a recipe with a whole different technique that minimizes the potential for gluten development! The biscuits are light and tender, and the recipe is nearly foolproof. Cook's Illustrated calls them their "best drop biscuits," and I agree.


I would post the recipe, but it's behind a paid subscription wall at Cook's Illustrated, and I don't want to get into any hot water with their legal department. Fortunately the food folks at Serious Eats, bless their enterprising hearts, contacted Cook's Illustrated and obtained permission to reprint the recipe, so you can see it there. "Best drop biscuits" for everyone!

I won't deny that I miss the rolling, the satisfying feeling of pushing the biscuit cutter through the dough, the scraps of dough that just have to be eaten (because you wouldn't want them to go to waste, would you? Well, would you??), and the sight of neat little circular biscuits rising in the oven. And sometimes I return to that recipe for exactly those reasons. But if you try this recipe, I suspect you'll agree that the ease and speed with which they're made, combined with the brilliant taste and the effortless tenderness, make up for what you lose with the rolled version--even if it's a bit more difficult to make a stable shortcake tower with them.

Deconstructed shortcake

Anyway, leaning tower of shortcake or no, it was precisely this ease and speed that allowed us to whip up a batch this weekend on the spur of the moment. We took them in a pick-a-nick basket down to the lawn by the pool, tucked away above the shore in Big Sur. My CSA provided the strawberries, the dog provided the entertainment, and Mother Nature provided the scenery. A perfect day for a spring picnic.

Grey rock


Bee said...

Gorgeous pictures, Anne. I can't wait for the beginning of our strawberry season.

I have been really happy with HT's recipe for biscuits, but I've just copied out this one. I've never made dropped biscuits either.

Anne said...

I was amazed that you're already getting raspberries--ours don't start until late spring or early summer! But I just got word that my CSA's "extra fruit" option will be starting a week early because of all the strawberries. I was already going to get two or three baskets, but now I'm expecting even more. Might have to make some jam!

I'll check out HT's biscuit recipe. Thanks for the tip!