Frankly, there hasn’t been much going on in my kitchen lately.
Since the holidays, we have been cleaning up bits and pieces of fruit and baked goods and using meats and soup from the freezer.
Although I always take a trip to the grocery store on the weekend, and usually hit the farmer’s market, I haven’t been buying much except the perishables – milk, eggs, bread and similar things.
There was so much shopping for groceries, as well as everything else, in December, that for our two-person household it’s time to use what we have for a while.
At times like this, I turn to dishes made with staples that we usually have on hand. Lentil soup is one of them, made with canned tomatoes, dried lentils, onions and garlic and spices. Others include potato cakes, homemade biscuits, chicken or vegetable fried rice, coleslaw, homemade macaroni and cheese and omelettes.
Making biscuits is a quick way to use what’s on hand to make a fresh hot accompaniment for soup, chili or salad or to serve with jam, honey or molasses for a snack. They are delicious split and toasted under the broiler as well.
There are many ways of making biscuits, drop-style or rolled, with shortening or butter or different types of flour and sometimes with the addition of cheese or herbs.
I’ve developed my own version of rolled biscuits made with butter. It is flexible, sometimes made with all-purpose flour, other times with a combination of all-purpose and whole wheat flours. If I have buttermilk on hand, I use it instead of regular milk and substitute baking soda for one quarter of the baking powder.
I usually brush the tops with either milk or egg white, and sprinkle on sesame seeds to make them a little more interesting. Other interesting toppings are za’atar (Middle Eastern mix of herbs, sesame seeds and salt) or poppy seeds.
There are notes about the variations, so read through the recipe completely before starting.
425 mL (1¾ C) all purpose flour
250 mL (1 C) all purpose flour + 175 mL (¾ cup) whole wheat flour
20 mL (4 tsp) baking powder (unless using buttermilk. See note* below.)
15 mL (1 tbsp) sugar
50 mL (¼ C) cold butter
175 mL (¾ C) milk (I usually use skim)
175 mL (¾ C) buttermilk * Note: If using buttermilk, use 15 mL (1
tbsp) baking powder and 1 mL (¼ tsp) baking soda instead of the 20 mL (4 tsp) baking powder.
Extra flour for rolling the dough
Milk or egg white to brush on tops
Sesame seeds to sprinkle on tops
Preheat oven to 200 C (400 F). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda (if using), and sugar.
Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in butter to size of small peas.
Stir in milk or buttermilk, and knead briefly, 5-10 turns.
Roll out on a floured surface to about 2 cm (¾ inch) and cut into rounds using a floured biscuit cutter, or squares using a sharp knife. If using a biscuit cutter, and reshaping/rerolling the scraps, handle the dough as little as possible to keep the biscuits layered and flaky.
Arrange biscuits on baking sheet. Sometimes my biscuits topple over while baking; to prevent that, I place them so close together that they are touching. The sides do not get browned, but the biscuits stay upright.
Brush the tops of the biscuits with milk or with egg white that has been thinned slightly with cold water. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Bake until lightly browned, 12-15 minutes for small biscuits.
This makes a relatively small batch, about 12 small biscuits. I have found that I usually need a little less than twice as much liquid if making a double batch.
The same biscuit dough can be used as a topping for chicken or beef stews, to make pot pies. Roll and cut to fit the pan, cutting a few vents for steam to escape, or cut the dough into biscuit shapes and lay over the prepared stew. Brush with an egg wash if desired. Bake at 200 C (400 F) until stew is bubbly and topping is browned.
Margaret Prouse, a home economist, can be reached by writing her at RR#2, North Wiltshire, P.E.I., C0A 1Y0, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.