Sunday, September 14, 2008

TUESDAYS WITH DORIE (In spirit, after church) -- Basic Biscuits

Four times I have made Dorie's Basic Biscuits.

Four times I have failed.

This really honks me off because biscuits -- especially ones whose first name is "basic" -- should not be that hard to make.

Dorie's recipe is very simple. It calls for flour, butter, sugar, salt, baking powder and milk. You put the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a bowl and then add the butter, which she instructs you to cut up into pieces and then toss to coat in the dry ingredients. You can then either use a pastry cutter or your fingers to form a sandy mixture with some pea-sized pieces and some tiny pieces, kind of like a dirt road, Dorie says.

You add the milk to make the dough, knead it a couple of times to make sure everything's hangin' together the way it should, and then turn it out on a lightly floured pastry board. She offers the choice of either patting it out or rolling it out, so I always choose patting, since I'm a lazy sod and don't like making more dirty dishes.

Four times I have done this.

Four times I have failed.

At first, I thought it was the buttermilk. Dorie offers a variation on the recipe that cuts down on the baking powder with the addtion of one cup of buttermilk. The biscuits looked spectacular as they went into the oven, but when they came out, they looked more like crackers. They were still the exact same thickness as the dough I'd cut them from. My family, somewhat puzzled at being urged to put butter, honey and strawberry preserves on crackers, ate them politely.

So the second time, I made them for breakfast for the girls and my nephews. I fixed scrambled eggs, sausage and the biscuits and I was very proud as I put the little sausages and the fluffy scrambled eggs onto my big platter and conveyed them to the table with a flourish. "I just need to get the biscuits out of the oven," I said, and whisked back through the swinging door. It fell behind me with an ominous thud; I should have taken it as a portent.

Inside the oven were ten more crackers.

Despite the fact that I'd used regular milk this time and made the recipe according to the letter, they still didn't raise.

The kids all thought they were very funny and giggled as I sulked.

I began to suspect that my baking powder was beyond its good-until date. So I bought a fresh new can, carrying on with my brilliant idea of cooking all my Whisk Wednesday and Tuesdays With Dorie food with as many generic or store brands as possible: I came home with the new can of Kroger baking powder and girded up to make the biscuits again.

I made them the third time last Thursday, when I was serving beef stew for dinner. Once again, I followed every direction vigorously. I added the new baking powder to the dry ingredients with triumph, feeling certain that I was going to pull a sheet of light, high biscuits out of the oven.

Imagine my vocabulary when the timer went off and I pulled out another tray of, you guessed it, crackers. Better yet, don't imagine. There's no need for you to soil your brain the way I soiled my tongue.

Four times I have made these biscuits.

Four times I have failed.

My fourth attempt was today, Sunday. I made a simple, down-homey chipped beef gravy with scrambled eggs for brunch and thought that I'd do biscuits instead of toast points because the girls and I had just arrived home from Mass and religious ed and my husband (who went to Mass yesterday afternoon) had just run six miles, and we were all ravenous.

This time, I brought out my secret weapon: a brand new can of Clabber Girl baking powder.

I know this recipe so well by now, I can practically make it in my sleep. In fact, I frequently do make it my sleep, waking up in a cold sweat from nightmares in which flat pieces of baked dough launch themselves out of my oven like those ninja throwing stars, burning red circles on my forehead and cheeks.

So I made the biscuits again, laughing maniacally like Vincent Price at the end of the Thriller video as I added the Clabber Girl -- "Muuuuaaaa ahahahahahaha haha haaaaaaa!!!!!" I put them onto she baking sheet lined with parchment paper and slid them into the oven, certain that I had Discovered the Impenetrable Secret of Biscuits. The Dalai Lama should be so lucky.

I stood impatiently in front of the oven door for fifteen minutes, tapping my fingers on the dishwasher and shifting back and forth from foot to foot. When the timer went off, the chipped beef gravy was ready and the scrambled eggs were steaming in their pan. It was going to be a beautiful brunch.

I put the oven mitt on my hand, reached into the oven, and pulled out a tray of crackers.

Four times I have made these biscuits.

Four times I have failed.


1 comment:

Kayte said...

LOL...there must be some misprint or something...FOUR TIMES????

I would email her and ask...send her your post. I would leave off the cursing her at the end, however...LOL.

Sometimes there are mistakes in cookbooks...this sounds like it might be one of them.

Let me know what you hear.