Daring Bakers Make Biscuits

It is a new year and I am ready to take on what ever baking challenges are thrown my way!  The first challenge of the year is Biscuits (or scones) depending on what part of the world you are from.  Here, in my area of Canada, we refer to these as biscuits.  When I first saw the challenge, I have to admit, I was a little disappointed, more breads?!?!?! We had just made sour dough bread (I have not made it yet).  Where are the cakes, the cookies the elaborate desserts?   Even thought it was not quite what I was expecting, I dove right in.

Audax Artifex was our January 2012 Daring Bakers’ host. Aud worked tirelessly to master light and fluffy scones (a/k/a biscuits) to help us create delicious and perfect batches in our own kitchens!

We were given a basic biscuit recipe, which we were required to make and after that we had free range to make what ever flavours we wanted.  I knew right off the bat I wanted to try to make a “sweet biscuit”.  My first memory of a “biscuit” is at my Great Gramma Carlow’s.  She lived in a big old farm house.  Thinking back, I have not been there in 20 years, it was the kitchen of my dreams.  The eating area was huge, within that area there was an old fashioned stove, the thing was beautiful!  There was a very large table, many chairs and even a couch and chairs.  This is where everyone always gathered.  Just off the main eating room was a small room “the pantry” where everything was kept.  I can still remember sitting at the table, about 5 years old, smelling the biscuits cooking in the old oven.  They had the same texture and appearance of a tea biscuit, but they were sweet!  We always topped them with her homemade strawberry jam, just heavenly!  I have yet to have anything remotely similar.  I only wish I had the recipe, but I am sure it was not written down.  So I made it my mission to try to come up with something similar.

The following is the basic recipe we were given which was the requirement:

Basic Scones (a.k.a. Basic Biscuits)
Servings: about eight 2-inch (5 cm) scones or five 3-inch (7½ cm) scones
Recipe can be doubled

Ingredients:
1 cup (240 ml) (140 gm/5 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (10 gm) (⅓ oz) fresh baking powder
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1½ gm) salt
2 tablespoons (30 gm/1 oz) frozen grated butter (or a combination of lard and butter)
approximately ½ cup (120 ml) cold milk
optional 1 tablespoon milk, for glazing the tops of the scones

Variations on the Basic recipe
Buttermilk – follow the Basic recipe above but replace the milk with buttermilk, add ¼ teaspoon of baking soda, increase the fat to 4 tablespoons, in Step 3 aim of pea-sized pieces of fat coated in flour, in Step 5 fold and turn the dough, rounds are just touching in the baking dish, glaze with buttermilk.

Cream – follow the Basic recipe above but replace the milk with cream, add ¼ teaspoon of baking soda, in Step 3 aim of beach sand sized pieces of fat coated in flour, in Step 5 knead the dough, rounds are just touching in the baking dish, glaze with cream.

Sweet Fruit – follow the Basic recipe above but after Step 3 add ¼ cup (45 gm) dried fruit (e.g. sultanas, raisins, currents, cranberries, cherries etc) and 1 tablespoon (15 gm) sugar.

Batch #1 Buttermilk Biscuits

I decided to start with the buttermilk variation because I already had an open buttermilk in the fridge.

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to very hot 475°F/240°C/gas mark 9.
2. Triple sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl.


3. Rub the frozen grated butter (or combination of fats) into the dry ingredients until it resembles very coarse bread crumbs with some pea-sized pieces if you want flaky scones or until it resembles coarse beach sand if you want tender scones.

My butter was in the freezer, so I grated it frozen


4. Add nearly all of the liquid at once into the rubbed-in flour/fat mixture and mix until it just forms a sticky dough (add the remaining liquid if needed). The wetter the dough the lighter the scones (biscuits) will be!

**this is what mine looked like after adding the 1/2 cup milk as recipe stated

It was dry and very crumbly nothing like shown in the recipe.  Not really knowing what to do I added more buttermilk, another 1/2 cup.

It looked much more like it should, maybe a little wet.
5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, lightly flour the top of the dough. 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.)
6. Pat or roll out the dough into a 6 inch by 4 inch rectangle by about ¾ inch thick (15¼ cm by 10 cm by 2 cm thick). Using a well-floured 2-inch (5 cm) scone cutter (biscuit cutter), stamp out without twisting six 2-inch (5 cm) rounds, gently reform the scraps into another ¾ inch (2 cm) 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.


7. 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.


8. 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.


9. Immediately place onto cooling rack to stop the cooking process, serve while still warm.

The Verdict: They were ok. I would not make that kind again.  The texture was off, kind of chewy and tough.  I think the addition of the extra milk to get the consistency right may have done something as well.  A learning experience!

Batch #2 Basic Biscuits

For my second batch I made the basic recipe Audax provided us with.

Basic Scones (a.k.a. Basic Biscuits)

Ingredients:
1 cup  flour
2 teaspoons fresh baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons (or a combination of lard and butter)
approximately ½ cup cold milk
optional 1 tablespoon milk, for glazing the tops of the scones

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to very hot 475°F
2. Triple sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl.  (I only sifted ingredients once)


3. Rub the frozen grated butter (or combination of fats) into the dry ingredients until it resembles very coarse bread crumbs with some pea-sized pieces if you want flaky scones or until it resembles coarse beach sand if you want tender scones. (I did not freeze butter, it was just out of the fridge)


4. Add nearly all of the liquid at once into the rubbed-in flour/fat mixture and mix until it just forms a sticky dough (add the remaining liquid if needed). The wetter the dough the lighter the scones (biscuits) will be!


5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, lightly flour the top of the dough. 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.)

6. Pat or roll out the dough into a 6 inch by 4 inch rectangle by about ¾ inch thick (15¼ cm by 10 cm by 2 cm thick). Using a well-floured 2-inch (5 cm) scone cutter (biscuit cutter), stamp out without twisting six 2-inch (5 cm) rounds, gently reform the scraps into another ¾ inch (2 cm) 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.

7. 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.


8. 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.


9. Immediately place onto cooling rack to stop the cooking process, serve while still warm.

The verdict – These biscuits were lovely.  They had a wonderful texture and chew.  I think they turned  out almost perfect.  I am told I am crazy as I like mine plain, no butter, no jam just the old fashioned biscuit flavour.  They were also enjoyed with butter and honey.  This recipe will be a keeper.

Batch #3 Sweet Biscuits

These biscuits were the same as the basic recipe, but I added 2 tablespoons of sugar after I mixed the butter in Step 3

These biscuits were ok.  Not quite what I was looking for.  Don’t get me wrong they were good, just not like the ones my Great Gramma used to make….that is my goal! I will keep trying

Batch #4 biscuits with Cream

These ones were the original Basic Biscuits with the substitution of Cream for the milk and the addition of  1/4 teaspoon of baking soda.

These biscuits were amazing! This will be my go to biscuit from now on.  It was everything I think a biscuit should be. This one went right into the recipe book!

I had a request to make it into a breakfast sandwich…

Batch # 5 More sweet biscuits

These Sweet biscuits were almost perfect.  I think I am 95% in getting them to tastes like my Great Gramma Carlow’s homemade biscuits.

She always just had free formed ones.  I just stirred and scooped them onto the tray.  Sprinkled with sugar

Look beautiful, the sugar gave them a crunchy texture

The texture was bang on.  It was a little different from the other tea biscuits, I assume from the amounts of sugar and addition of baking soda.

The perfect bite! Not quite like Gramma’s homemade jam, but it did the job.  Just out of the oven, cooled enough to eat with a big dollop of jam.  I was very happy how these turned out.  Mom said they were amazing! She said 99% to getting them like Great Gramma.  I look forward to getting 100%

Thank you Audax for this wonderful challenge! It has turned out to be one of my favourites as it brought back many wonderful memories for me.  It also pushed me to do something I have wanted to do for a long time, perfect Great Gramma’s biscuits!

6 Responses to Daring Bakers Make Biscuits

  1. Food memories are the best – I have some memories of eating a lot of biscuits at my grandmothers. You really took the challenge on with five different versions – look great.

  2. What a great post! I loved reading about your experimentation and imagining your Gramma’s kitchen :) I hope you get your scones exactly the way you want them, just like your Gramma’s.

    (PS: I’m hoping for an elaborate cake, cookie, or dessert next month too! LOL)

  3. Shelley C says:

    Wow – you did some great work perfecting your biscuits! So those last ones, the ones you liked the best – did you use milk or cream? I’d love to re-create them, after your glowing review. Was it the basic recipe with cream (instead of the milk), sugar added, and the 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda? I know, I know… asking for your secret recipe.. but they just look SO good!! :)
    Great work!!

  4. EKR says:

    Wow!! I can’t believe you made five batches!! I love how nostalgic you are reminiscing about memories with your Grandma. My mom always used to make baking powder biscuits for my sister and i. When they were hot from the oven we would spread them with butter and drizzle them with rogers golden syrup. Ahhhhh memories! :) Great job on this month’s challenge.

  5. Crumbs of Love says:

    great dedication to finding your perfect version. Lovely post. Best, Sandie

  6. I loved reading about your biscuit making and I’m so glad that you are almost 100% to reproducing your perfect recipe I have to say the last two batches look spectacular. Bravo to you, Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

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