Baking with Julia is one of the cookbooks I received from my optimistic relatives in the weeks leading up to my wedding. Good news, it's been much used and loved over the last ten years. By far the most used recipe is the one for Baking Powder Biscuits . In fact, if you pull the book from its shelf, it will fall open to the biscuit page, the result of hand-written notes in the margins and a dusting of flour across the text and down in the binding. I've got the recipe memorized, of course, but I like to have the book out anyway. Just in case. I'm no Julia Child, after all. It's just that I can make her biscuits. And now you can, too!
Baking Powder Biscuits
"Among bakers, one hears the expression "She has a good biscuit hand". Like pie crusts, biscuits are a measure of a bakers talents and a pastry in which bakers take particular pride.
"To have a good biscuit hand is to have a light touch and restraint-a biscuit dough is so soft that it invites poking and prodding, kneading and mashing, when it should be barely worked. The golden rule with biscuits is to stop doing whatever you're doing to them two beats before you have to. So when you're rubbing the shortening and flour together and there are still some chubby chunks of shortening-stop. When you're tossing the flour and shortening mixture with the milk and the dough looks only just moistened-stop. And when you turn the dough out onto the counter and knead it just to work it into a mass, count each knead, get to ten-and stop."
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup of solid vegetable shortening (68 g butter)
1 cup of milk
Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 425 F (218 C).
(Here I'll just say that Julia's recipe calls for you to grease a 9- by 12-inch baking pan and set it aside. I don't grease mine. There's enough butter in the biscuits to make this an irrelevant step, I think. That said, you might want to try it the "right" way, first!)
Mixing the Dough: Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl and whisk or stir with a fork to mix. Add the shortening/butter. If you're using shortening, follow Julia's direction to "roll it around in the flour mix to coat it, and break it into 4 or 5 pieces. Rub flour and shortening together with the tips of your fingers, making little crumbs and letting the crumbs fall back into the bowl." If you're using butter, you can cut it into the flour mixture with a hand-held pastry cutter tool. Either way, you'll end up with lots of small buttery crumbs and a few larger pieces. Add milk and stir with a fork to moisten the flour. Don't worry about mixing completely. If you've got "a sticky mass of dough," you're on the right track.
Kneading the Dough: Remember to use your aforementioned "biscuit hands!" Scatter flour across your clean work surface and scoop the dough out of the bowl onto the counter. "Knead the dough ten times--no more, even if its malleable texture tempts you." Listen to Julia; she's serious about this. Pat the dough into a large circle about 9-inches across. Then you can use a "2-inch round biscuit or cookie cutter" to cut out your biscuits. I use an overturned glass.
Baking the Biscuits: Move the biscuits to the pan. If you want softer biscuits, push them close together, even allowing them to touch. Placing them apart will make them crispy. If you're butter-happy like Julia (or my mom) you can brush the tops with melted butter before baking. I skip this. Because there is such a thing as too much butter, no matter what Paula Deen says.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until they are golden on top. Serve warm.
It's fall. That's why everyone I know has been baking, baking, baking. I do recommend Julia's whole cook book. Some of the recipes are a little ambitious for my taste/capability, but many of them are simple and straightforward. Plus, it's Julia. A brand we all can trust. Happy Biscuits to you all!
Want more of me baking? Who doesn't? The Best Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies (October 2013)