When I noticed that Nathalie Depree was going to be attending the UCF Book Festival at the end of March here in Orlando, I immediately perked up. Hey I met Nathalie at SIBA in Charleston! In fact, I had a glass of wine and some of her mouth-watering biscuits in her gorgeous historic home on our first night in town. AND I have this book and have cooked from it. I have no good excuse, then, for why I haven't reviewed it. Everyone loves biscuits after all.
Initially, one might wonder how in the world someone could write a cookbook about just biscuits. You only have to open the cover of this gorgeous little treasure to have that question answered. Recipes for easy biscuits, traditional biscuits, biscuits containing ingredients of coca-cola, pimento, sweet potatoes and ginger, biscuits used for desserts. They even branch out with biscuit spin-offs, like coffee cake, pancakes and dumplings. And no biscuit is complete without butter...herb butter, orange-honey butter, fig jam!
Even before you get flour all over the kitchen (an on the iPod in my case), Nathalie and Cynthia give you a little primer. In what situations do you use self-rising flour versus all-purpose flour? How do you properly store flour? What kind of fat should be used? They also discuss how to knead, how to shape the dough, and what type of pan to use. These things are important apparently...I had no idea.
My family has been laden with biscuits over the holidays. I've made Baking Powder Biscuits, Basic Southern Biscuits, Double Fluffy Buttermilk Biscuits and Food Processor Biscuits. But my absolute favorite ones, that deemed a repeat performance, were Senator Hollings' Flaky Appetizer Cream Cheese Biscuits. These little guys are SO decadent, and are so little that you are guaranteed to obsessively pop them in your mouth as you walk by the plate. (Hence my urgent need for a diet post-holiday.)
Here is the recipe, which was incredibly easy to make:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup butter, softened
1 1/3 cup commercial or homemade self-rising flour
Butter, softened or melted, for finishing
Pulse together the cream cheese, 2/3 cup butter, and 1 cup of flour two or three times in food processor fitted with the knife or dough blade until it comes together in a ball. Turn the dough out onto waxed paper and divide into two rounds. Flatten. Wrap in waxed paper, plastic wrap, or resealable plastic bag, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Lightly sprinkle a board or other clean surface using some of the 1/3 cup reserved flour. Sprinkle the top lightly with flour. With floured hands and a floured rolling pin, roll out one portion of the dough at a time to about 1/4 inch thick. Fold the dough over to make it 1/2 inch thick. For each biscuit, dip a 1 to 1 1/4 inch biscuit cutter into reserved flour and cut out the biscuits, starting at the outside edge and cutting very close together, being careful not to twist the cutter. The scraps may be combined to make additional biscuits, although these scraps make tougher biscuits. Roll out the second portion when ready to bake.
Using a metal spatula if necessary, move the biscuits to an ungreased baking sheet, placing the biscuits 1 inch apart. Refrigerate the biscuits for 10 to 20 minutes until cold. Bake the biscuits on the top rack of the oven for a total of 10 to 12 minutes until light golden brown. After 6 minutes, rotate the pan in the oven so that the front of the pan is now turned to the back, and check to see if the bottoms are browning too quickly. If so, slide another packing pan underneath to add insulation and retard the browning. Continue baking another 4 to 6 minutes until the biscuits are light golden brown. When the biscuits are done, lightly brush the tops with butter. Turn the biscuits out upside down on a plate to cool slightly. Serve hot, right side up.
These biscuits may be frozen, unbaked or baked, and reheated.
If you look closely you can see the butter glisten off the tops. Sweet Mother Mary, but they are good.
The book is hardcover with gorgeous pictures inside. It would make a wonderful gift for anyone that likes to get their hands in flour. Highly recommended!