Tuesday Tip: Mile-High Biscuits

Biscuitsโ€”the wonderfully soft and flaky quick breads we all know and loveโ€”have become an American staple. Biscuits act as an alternative to dinner rolls or cornbread, soaking up gravy when paired with meat or potatoes, but they work equally well as a breakfast treat, covered with a thick layer of jam.

There are a few coveted qualities of all biscuits. They must be soft and flaky, unbelievably tender, and they must rise to towering heights (if for no reason but to entice us in). If you follow the few tips below, your biscuits can come out perfect every single time.

Mile-High Biscuit Tips:

  • Start with very cold butter or shortening. The cold ingredients, when incorporated into the flour, will give you flakier biscuits. We want flaky biscuits (FYI: this is also the trick for flaky pie crusts!).
  • Mix the butter into the flour just until it resembles coarse sand. This can be accomplished using a stand mixer, food processor, pastry blender, or with your hands (but make sure your hands are cold so you don't warm the butter!).
  • Add the liquid (again, make sure it is cold) and do not over-mix when incorporating it into the flour. Over-mixing will result in less tender biscuits. Why? Gluten forms when mixing dough, so the more you mix, the more gluten forms. When a lot of gluten forms, it results in a heavier, denser bread. This is the opposite of what we look for in a light, tall biscuit.
  • Move dough to a lightly floured surface and flatten with it with your hands (as opposed to a rolling pin) to 1/2-inch to 1-inch thick. If you need to knead the dough a few times to get it to come together, it is okay to do so but don't knead more than 10-12 times. The less you handle the dough, the softer the final result will be.
  • Cut out biscuits with a cutter lightly coated in flour. Do not twist cutter once you have pressed into the dough. Twisting will cause the sides of the dough to seal, meaning the dough will not rise as high as possible (or one side may seal and the other doesn't, resulting in a very crooked biscuit).
  • Place biscuits close to one another on the baking sheet for biscuits with soft edges or place 1-inch apart for crusty edges (depending on your preference).

To reheat leftover biscuits, wrap biscuits individually in foil and bake at 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) for 8-10 minutes. Alternatively, you can place biscuits in a microwave with a damp paper towel on high for 15-20 seconds, or until warm.

Can you guess what type of recipe is coming up next?

Tuesday Tip: Freezing Cookie Dough

How many times have you wanted a cookie fresh from the oven, but didn't actually want to go through the work of making them? How often do you find a recipe that makes three dozen more cookies than you actually need? How often do you make a batch of cookies and, after the few days it takes to eat them up, they taste a little... stale?

I've been there. You've been there, too.

Today, we're going to solve this problem. While freezing cookie dough isn't a new idea, I find it helpful to be reminded of this every so often. This is a surprisingly easy trick to forget. Here are few tips for freezing cookie dough with the best results.

Freezing Cookie Dough:

  • Scoop cookie dough onto a cookie sheet and place in the freezer until cookie dough gets hard and no longer sticky. This can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  • Remove cookie sheet from freezer and place the frozen cookie scoops into an insulated freezer bag or Tupperware container, making sure the seal is airtight.
  • Label bag or container with the date and type of cookie as well as the baking temperature and time (important information to remember!).
  • Freeze cookie dough for up to 4-6 weeks.

When baking frozen cookie dough, you do not have to thaw the cookie dough. Simply place the frozen, pre-scooped cookie dough onto a baking sheet and bake for 2-3 minutes longer than the original recipe recommends. That's it!

This method will work for freezing and baking all drop cookies (chocolate chip, oatmeal, peanut butter, etc).

Tuesday Tip: How to Make Cake Flour

Cake flour is an ingredient called for in nearly every recipe involving cake (it almost goes without saying, doesn't it?). However, from my own personal experience, cake flour can be expensive and an annoyance to buy. Not only do you have to find cupboard space for the all-purpose and whole wheat flour, but now you have to make space for the cake flour too?

I just don't think that's going to happen.

Luckily, cake flour is a snap to make.

For every 2 cups of cake flour the recipe calls for, add 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour and 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) cornstarch.

2 cups cake flour = 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour + 1/4 cup cornstarch

or

1 cup cake flour = 7/8 cups all-purpose flour + 2 tablespoons cornstarch

So, you may be wondering, why should I bother using cake flour instead of all purpose? There are scientific reasons for doing so, but it really boils down to two reasons: 1) Cake flour makes cakes much lighter and less dense. 2) Cake flour also lends a more velvety texture to baked goods than all-purpose (the crumb is smaller).

If you don't typically use cake flour, give it a try and you'll notice the difference it will make to your cakes and baked goods. You won't be able to turn back.

* I'm trying out a new mini-series, Tuesday Tips, to give you shortcuts and new tricks to use in the kitchen. Let me know if you're interested in hearing more!