2.05.2010

biscuits in the oven, gonna watch 'em rise


Well, not really. Our oven is an old commercial one, with no window through which to watch. But still, that Raffi song does a jig through my head each time I make biscuits.

And I made biscuits yesterday, for no reason other than the fact that I was looking for something for breakfast and it wasn't pancake day. Meaning, it wasn't Sunday. Biscuits are quick, the boys can help, and they (the biscuits) aren't too sweet. Which is good, since we invariably slather them with fruit preserves.


So breakfast was biscuits, which sounds simple enough. But that's the beautiful thing about food - it's always more complex if you take the time to look. My biscuits are based on my mother-in-law's recipe. Which, seeing as she's Southern, probably means it's an old family recipe. I've never tasted her version, since I was gluten-free long before I met her. But I have her recipe, and Josh's insistence that they are really, really good. Obviously, I had to try my hand in making them gluten-free. After a couple of attempts, we found a winner. They're tender, flaky, with a bit of crispiness in the crust (gotta love all that butter!), and just delicious. Most importantly, Josh and the kids love them. And when I'm making them, I'm not just sifting flours, cutting in butter. I'm creating traditions within my own family, while continuing traditions started by generations of Southern cooks before me. I'm forging connections that, while they may not be natural for most Northern girls, feel natural to me. At the same time, I'm staying tied to my Northern roots, by using my late grandmother's lovingly-worn biscuit cutter. These things are good.


And then there is all the wonderfulness that happens when we actually sit down to eat them. My heart melting when Kalen sweetly asks, "Can I have Italian plum butter on mine, please?" (I fantasize that he is the first 4-year old to ever have said that.) As he comes downstairs, Josh recounting the memory that the smell of biscuits always awakens in him: being very young, eating biscuits with fig preserves made by his grandmother (or great-grandmother - that part is fuzzy), and the dawning realization of how amazingly good those preserves were. He mentions that it is the only childhood food memory that he hasn't been able to re-create, and commits himself to making memory-worthy fig preserves this winter. This is also good.


And so I give you my biscuit recipe. Enjoy, and feel connected. Oh, and don't bake yours for as long as I did mine - we had a little butter incident, and by the time that was all sorted out, the biscuits had gone just past perfect. Still delicious, just crispier than usual.


Gluten-Free Buttermilk Biscuits
makes 8-12 biscuits, depending on the cutter size and dough thickness

1 1/2 cups Tara's all-purpose gluten-free mix (recipe follows)
1/4 cup buckwheat flour (I like this brand)
1/4 cup coconut flour
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
8 Tbsp unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
3/4+ cup lowfat buttermilk (I use Kate's)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Sift together dry ingredients. Cut in butter (I like to use my hands). Stop when the butter pieces are pea-sized - these will create steam pockets while baking that will give your biscuits their flake. Stir in buttermilk until the dough is moist enough to come together without being crumbly. Gather it into a ball and, on a gf-floured board, gently pat the dough into a 1-inch-thick round. Cut with a biscuit cutter (cut your scraps, too - they'll be tender and yummy, just not as flaky), prick tops with a fork, and bake on a parchment- or silpat-lined baking sheet for 12-18 minutes, or until golden brown. (The thickness of your biscuit really determines the baking time - roll them out 1/4-inch thick, and they'll only bake about 10 minutes. So keep an eye on them.) Eat them warm.

Tara's All-Purpose Gluten-Free Mix

3 1/2 cups (493 grams) brown rice flour
1 cup (128 grams) sorghum flour
1 1/2 cups (230 grams) potato starch
3/4 cups (85 grams) tapioca starch

Sift all flours together (I use a whisk). Store on the counter if you bake a lot, or in the fridge if you're an occasional baker. I keep this on-hand at all times, and in addition to the biscuits, use it for things like quick breads, cookies, and muffins.

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