Quick Drop Biscuits

Because I am so very lazy, I adore this particular recipe, which doesn’t involve kneading, rising, rolling, or cutting.  The biscuits it produces taste like butter, my favourite flavour.   It comes from The Joy of Cooking, 2006 edition (page 639).

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

In a bowl, mix together 1 3/4 cups flour, 1 tbsp baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Drop in 6 tbsp COLD butter (which is 3/8 of a cup, slightly more than a quarter cup and slightly less than a third, or 3/4 of a stick if you get butter in sticks).

Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut the butter into the mixture until the pieces are pea-sized.

Make a well in the centre of the mixture and pour in 1 cup milk.  Stir until the mixture is sticky and just combined.

Using a spoon, drop walnut-sized pieces of dough onto ungreased baking sheets and bake for 13 to 15 minutes, or until the tops are a light golden colour.  The don’t expand very much so you can put them pretty close together. 

Be careful not to overbake as the bottoms will burn easily.  Let cool on a rack or eat hot.  Once fully cooled you can store them in an airtight container for a day or two, but they’re best fresh.  This recipe makes about 24 1 1/2″ biscuits.

Easter (Eater) Dinner

On Sunday the Pie and I had KK, Il Principe, and D, J, and S over for an Easter feast.

I have a lot on my plate this week (and I’m not talking about food here) so I’m going to draw the recounting of this tale out as long as I possibly can.  I’ll try to give you a post a day about all the fun and fantastic things we ate.

I love to have dinner parties.  I think it’s my parents’ influence again.  I’m not really happy unless I can stuff someone else with food until he or she feels the need to lie down.  It really makes my day.

That said, entertaining, on a small or large scale, takes a lot of work and a lot of planning.  Timing is pretty much everything, and it takes practice to get it all to happen at the same time.  The Pie and I have it down to an exact science at this point.  We take a gander at what time things are supposed to be done, chuck them in the oven or on the stove at the various points in time we think they need to go in, then we shut our eyes tight and cross our fingers that everything will turn out properly.  Most of the time we’re right but it took years to get us to this stage.

I have also learned the art of making things ahead of time.  This saves a lot of panic in the kitchen when you’re trying to get everything finished at the same time.  If there are some dishes on your menu that can be popped in the microwave or in the oven for reheating at the last minute then all the better.  Another important thing to remember, and something that I only recently learned, is that you don’t have to make absolutely everything from scratch.  There is nothing wrong with adding store-bought chips to your dips, or purchasing bread as a side.  The more stuff you make the more complications you are going to have.  Besides, sometimes the store versions of things are actually better.  You don’t have to have absolute control over everything that goes on your menu, and so that is why, finally, it is also important to let other people give you a hand if they want to.  Kª wanted to bring a salad, and you know what?  I thought that was a great idea.  And it was a great salad.

Items to be posted this week:

Menu

Appetizers

White Bean and Roasted Red Pepper Dip (made the day before)

Pita Chips (store-bought — really, you don’t have to be a domestic maven all the time – I get the In Snax sea salt versions from In Foods Inc.  They are totally tasty.)

Mains

Ham with Cloves (pre-cooked for simplicity)

Red Curry Quinoa (made the day before)

Sides

Spinach Salad with Blueberries, Feta Cheese, and Balsamic Vinaigrette (made by Kª – I don’t have a link because I didn’t make it)

Carrot and Parsnip Butter Mash (made the day before)

Steamed Asparagus with Lemon, Tarragon, and Toasted Almonds

Roasted Red Fingerling Potatoes with Rosemary and Sea Salt

Quick Drop Biscuits

Dessert

Strawberry Glazed Angel Food Cake (strawberry component prepared the day before)

Waiting for the feast.

Mack Truck Bread

My magic recipe book.

This recipe comes from a book called No Need to Knead by Susanne Dunway.  You can get it on Amazon for about 35 bucks.   I don’t remember the actual name of the recipe itself, but in my family we’ve always called it Mack Truck Bread.  At the beginning of the recipe, there’s a little story about the baker making a pile of these breads and taking them across the street.  One of them fell to the asphalt and was run over by a Mack truck.  The incredulous onlookers watched as the flattened bread miraculously returned to its original shape.  It’s a very durable baked good.

This recipe makes one 9-12″ round focaccia loaf or two 13″ baguettes.  Best served hot, though it’s good for toasting the next day if wrapped carefully.  After that it gets a little too stale.

In a medium-sized bowl, pour two cups of lukewarm water (in my house, which is very cold, I usually have the water temperature at warm, and it cools from there).

Sprinkle the yeast over the lukewarm water.
Stir the yeast until it dissolves.

Sprinkle two teaspoons active dry yeast into the water and stir until dissolved.

In a measuring cup, mix four cups of all-purpose flour with two teaspoons of salt.  Add the flour mixture, a little at a time, to the bowl of yeast water.  Mix with a spoon until combined.  The dough will be extremely sticky, and you may find, depending on the weather, that you won’t use all the flour you have at hand.

Pour in the flour and salt a little at a time, stirring all the while.
The dough will be very sticky.
A quick knead will get all the bits sticking together.

The recipe says that you don’t need to knead this bread, but I find mixing it a bit with my hands inside the bowl gets all the sticky clumps together and gives my dough a little bit of cohesiveness.  A minute of work should suffice.

Place the dough in another, oiled or greased bowl, cover with a towel, and leave in a warm place to rise for an hour or so, until the dough is about twice its original size.  Putting it next to a heater works, but make sure the heat isn’t too strong in any one area, because that will actually begin to cook the dough.

Make sure to grease or spray the bowl before you put in the dough.

Once the dough has risen, you will want to put it in the baking pan and leave it for another thirty minutes or so to rise again.

Cover the dough with a clean towel and leave it to rise in a warm place.

Brush the top of the dough with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and some herbs and spices.  Play around with the toppings you put on the bread before baking.  We prefer the pre-mixed spices you can get in the grocery store, but anything that suits your fancy will work.  I have also tried incorporating extra ingredients into the bread, such as raisins or chopped olives.  Both work extremely well, and I bet you can make a half-decent garlic bread this way.

Allow the dough to rise to about twice its original size.

I cook this bread in one of two ways.  The first way is to plop the bowl of dough upside down in the centre of a large greased cast iron skillet.  The dough will expand to fill the shape of the skillet.  Bake this at 450°F for about 20-25 minutes.  Alternatively, cut the risen dough in half (not an easy or particularly scientific task) and stretch it along the lengths of two greased baguette pans.  Bake at 425°F for 20-25 minutes.  When the bread is done, it will be golden brown on top and the bottom will make a nice solid sound when you knock on it.  If you find the bottom is too soft after baking (for instance, the baguette pan I have doesn’t have little holes in the bottom of it), then put the loaf straight on the rack of the oven for another five or ten minutes to ‘crispen up’ as the Pie says.

Stretch the dough with your hands if you are making baguettes.
Sprinkle the bread with spices and let it rise some more.
The loaves should be crusty and golden when finished.