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Biscuits – Classic & Garam Masala-Cheddar Biscuits for DB Challenge (Jan 2012)

This is my first Daring Baker’s post. I have been forever in awe of the Daring bakers and their recipes! Finally I dared to join the group and this is my first DB post. I’m so excited!! This month’s DB challenge is an American classic! Baking powder biscuits (also called scones in Europe and Australia). These are yummy, fluffy, light treats that are super easy and inexpensive to make. You just need a few ingredients (that are always available in your pantry) and some tips. This is Audax’s recipe, who blogs at Audax Artifex. I loved reading his write up. Audax had paid such attention to details, even the minute things. After reading his recipe, I was very confident that my biscuits will turn out perfect, and they did turn out fabulous. This is my first attempt and I’m so glad I tried this recipe. This is a keeper and I’m going to make this very often :)

For those of you who do not know what biscuits are, these are leavened breads, which are also known as scones in some parts of the world. As Audax says, though the recipe is very simple, these biscuits have a very notorious reputations as being difficult for some people. Well, in a sense, they are difficult. There are a few things that you need to keep in mind or you will end up with heavy, dense biscuits that are not at all pleasant to eat. Once you know the tricks of the trade, they are a breeze to make. I tried making the basic biscuits and then tried a variation with some garam masala and cheddar cheese!! They turned out awesome, and I can’t wait to try many more variations!!

A few things to keep in mind before making biscuits: (All these instructions from Audax, which I found to be very very useful)


Triple sift the dry ingredients – sift your dry ingredients from a height this permits plenty
of air to be incorporated into the mixture which allows for maximum lightness in your
scones and ensures even distribution of all the raising agents and other ingredients.

Rubbing in the fat – this is the stage where you can control how tender or flaky your final
scone crumb will be. The more you coat your fat with flour and the smaller the particles
of the final mixture, the more tender the end product because you’re retarding gluten
formation in the flour. But one disadvantage of tender biscuits is that they may not rise very high. Conversely the larger you leave the pieces of fat, the flakier the biscuits will be, but the biscuits might not hold their shape very well. So it is very important to achieve a balanced dough, which will be flaky, rise tall and yet be tender. You can make a few test batches and decide which one you like best. Quickly rub in the butter into the flour using a pastry cutter or your finger tips. Rub and pinch the fat into the flour, lift it up high and let it fall back down into the bowl, this means that air is being incorporated all the time, and air is what makes scones light, continue this until you have the desired sized flour/fat particles in the mixture. Or use a pastry cutter, in rocking motion until you get the desired flour texture.

Handling the dough – as most people know it is important not to overwork the dough but what isn’t appreciated is that under-working is almost as common a mistake as overworking. Look at my first attempt (the first photo in this article) at making the challenge recipe it is crumbly and a bit leaden and the crumb isn’t flaky at all this is due to under-working the dough and making the flour/fat particles too small, it took me about six batches to understand this and not be afraid to handle the dough so the scone (biscuit) would raise correctly. Under-working causes as many problems as overworking. Overworking leads to tough, dry and heavy scones while under-working leads to crumbly leaden ones. If you are not happy with your baked goods look carefully at your final scones (biscuits) and decide if you have under- or over-worked your dough.

Kneading or folding/turning the dough – this is the stage where you can control whether or not your scone has distinct layers by a) only kneading the dough (for no layering effect) or b) only turning and folding the dough (for a layering effect).

Pat or roll out the dough – since most scone (biscuit) doughs are soft (and sticky) it is best to use your fingers to gently pat out the dough once it has been kneaded or folded and turned. Use a very light touch with little pressure while forming the dough rectangle to be cut into rounds for the scones.

Cutting out your scones – use a well-floured scone (biscuit) cutter for each round that you stamp out from the dough. That is dip your cleaned cutter into fresh plain flour before each separate cut. Do not twist the cutter while stamping out the scone, push down firmly until you can feel the board then lift the cutter the round should stay inside the cutter then gently remove it from the cutter  and place the round onto the baking dish. You can use a sharp knife to cut out other shapes if you wish from the dough, also the knife should be floured before each cut as well.

Resting the dough – Audax suggests to rest the just mixed dough in the refrigerator, it improves the quality of the biscuits and they do rise taller. Also, refrigeration helps you in handling the wet dough. I was OK with handling the wet dough, so what I did was cut out the scones, place them on a baking sheet and freeze them (on the tray) for 10 minutes before baking. I ended up with beautiful flaky biscuits! Follow either method, but resting does good to the biscuits.

Baking your biscuits – always preheat your oven when baking scones. Place each scone almost touching onto the baking dish this encourages the scones to raise and also keeps the sides soft and moist. If you want crisp sides widely space your scones on the baking dish.

Basic Biscuits

Ingredients:
Makes 7-8 2 inch biscuits

All purpose flour – 1 cup
Baking Powder – 2 tsp
Cold butter – 2 Tbsp
Salt – 1/4 tsp
Cold milk (whole) – 1/2 cup

Method:

  • Sift the all purpose flour, baking powder and salt, three times, to make sure that the baking powder is evenly mixed into the dough.
  • Grate the butter into the flour. Make sure that the butter is very cold. Freeze the butter for 30 minutes before preparing the dough. This will also make grating easier.
  • Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, rub the butter into the flour, mix until the flour resembles coarse bread crumbs with pea sized pieces if you want flaky biscuits or until it resembles coarse beach sand if you want tender scones.
  • Add all the milk at once and mix just until the dough comes together. The dough will be wet and sticky. The wetter the dough, the lighter the biscuits will be.
  • Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and lightly flour the top of the dough as well. To achieve an even homogeneous crumb to your scones knead very gently about 4 or 5 times (do not press too firmly) the dough until it is smooth. To achieve a layered effect in your scones knead very gently once (do not press too firmly) then fold and turn the kneaded dough about 3 or 4 times until the dough has formed a smooth texture. (Use a floured plastic scraper to help you knead and/or fold and turn the dough if you wish.) I folded my dough to get laminated biscuits.
  • Pat or roll out the dough into a 6 inch by 4 inch rectangle by about 3/4th inch thick. Using a well-floured 2-inch biscuit cutter, stamp out without twisting six 2-inch rounds, gently reform the scraps into another 3/4th inch layer and cut two more scones (these two scones will not raise as well as the others since the extra handling will slightly toughen the dough). Or use a well-floured sharp knife to form squares or wedges as you desire.
  • Place the rounds just touching on a baking dish if you wish to have soft-sided scones or place the rounds spaced widely apart on the baking dish if you wish to have crisp-sided scones. Glaze the tops with milk if you want a golden colour on your scones or lightly flour if you want a more traditional look to your scones.
  • Bake in the preheated very hot oven for about 10 minutes (check at 8 minutes since home ovens at these high temperatures are very unreliable) until the scones are well risen and are lightly coloured on the tops. The scones are ready when the sides are set.

Immediately place onto cooling rack to stop the cooking process, serve while still warm. Freeze the leftover biscuits in a ziploc bag and heat in a moderate oven for a few minutes before serving.

See how tender they are..

Garam Masala & Cheddar Biscuits

Ingredients:

Makes 7-8, 2 inch biscuits
All purpose flour – 1 cup
Baking Powder – 2 tsp
Baking soda – 1/4 tsp
Cold butter – 2 Tbsp
Salt – 1/4 tsp
Cold milk (whole) – 1/2 cup
Garlic (grated) – 1 large clove
Garam Masala – 1/2 tsp
Cayenne/Red chilli powder – 3/4 tsp
Scallions (Spring onion) or Chives (chopped) – 3-4 Tbsp OR Cilantro (chopped) – 3-4 Tbsp
Cheddar Cheese (grated) – 1/2 cup

Method:

The method is the same as above. Just a few additions.

  • Include the baking soda, garam masala ad red chilli powder while sifting the flour, baking powder and salt.
  • After sifting, along with the grated butter add the grated cheese, grated garlic and chopped scallions.

The rest of the process is the same. Follow all the steps as mentioned in the step above.

Enjoy the flaky biscuits with some butter!

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