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Originally published Wednesday, February 11, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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How to bake a classic biscuit

Chef Scott Peacock, Better Homes and Gardens American Classics expert, offers tips on how to make a classic, airy golden biscuit. Plus, links to how-to videos.

Better Homes and Gardens

How-to videos

Learn more about making biscuits at better.tv.

For videos and more how-tos from Scott Peacock, Better Homes and Gardens American Classics expert, go to bhg.com/americanclassics/biscuits.

A hot oven and a confident hand are the key to perfect biscuits. To get the details down pat, we made a batch with cooking guru Scott Peacock.

Peacock, the executive chef at Watershed Restaurant in Decatur, Ga., shares these tips on how to make biscuits. For a recipe, see the link for "Scott Peacock's Classic Buttermilk Biscuits."

The perfect biscuit is crusty and golden, brown on the top, and lightly browned on the bottom, Peacock says. It has a soft, light center that is tender, but not too airy.

Other qualities that Peacock looks for in a perfect biscuit:

• It is not too dry, not too moist. When you add a pat of butter it will soak right in.

• It is delicious by itself, yet makes an excellent vehicle for other flavors.

• It should be well seasoned with salt, with a slight buttermilk tang.

• It is the right size — 3 inches across and 1 inch high — the "ratio of crusty exterior to soft interior is important."

"I never reroll the scraps. I like the odd bits and pieces of leftover dough baked right alongside the biscuits. They're a treat to eat," Peacock says.

TECHNIQUES

Choose your Flour and Sift, Sift, Sift: Use any good unbleached all-purpose flour — unbleached flour contains more protein than bleached flour and makes a slightly sturdier biscuit. Peacock prefer organic unbleached flour. Whichever flour you use, always sift the flour first and measure after sifting. Sifting the flour produces lighter biscuits.

Get Serious With Leavening: Making your own baking powder is easy and economical. Sift together three times the following: ¼ cup cream of tartar and 2 tablespoons baking soda. Store in a clean, dry, tight-sealing jar at room temperature, away from direct sunlight, up to 4 weeks. Use in any recipe calling for purchased baking powder.

First, work the lard: "Working the lard in properly is the secret to success. First, coat the lard in the flour mixture and rub between your fingertips until roughly half the lard is coarsely blended and the other half remains in large pieces, about ¾ inch in size."

Stir with a Purpose: When mixing the dough, stir just until the batter is well-moistened and begins to cling together. Overworking can lead to tough, dry, and heavy biscuits; underworking can result in biscuits that are crumbly and leaden.

Handle With Care: Go for a light touch when kneading. Knead gently but quickly and avoid pressing too firmly. Lift and fold the dough gently onto itself, giving it a quarter turn after each knead.

Go Easy on Rolling: Dust your rolling pin with flour and roll from center toward edges. Avoid pressing too firmly. If dough sticks to rolling pin, dust the pin, not the dough.

Let Steam Escape: Pierce the dough with a fork before baking allows steam to be released during baking and helps the biscuits rise more evenly.

Don't twist: Cut biscuits out as close together as possible to get the maximum yield. Press down firmly, but do not twist the cutter. Twisting seals the sides, preventing biscuits from rising as nicely.

Keep it gentle: Slightly shake the filled cutter to free the biscuit. Don't overhandle. Arrange biscuits as close together as you can so they barely touch.

Scott Peacock, Better Homes and Gardens American Classics expert, is executive chef at Watershed Restaurant in Decatur, Ga., and was named Best Chef in the Southeast by the James Beard Foundation in 2007.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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