Week 67: Angel Biscuits

Angel biscuits are made with three leavening agents: baking powder, baking soda and yeast. The unusual addition of yeast creates a texture that is a cross between a biscuit and a soft dinner roll. A perfect foil for Chef David Bull’s Sawmill Gravy.

This dough is very forgiving, and can be stored in the fridge for up to five days, or you can cut the dough into rounds, place them on a cookie sheet to freeze, then pop them in a zip lock and freeze until ready to bake however many you like.

Most recipes use a combination of shortening and butter, but biscuits were originally made with lard, and because of the low water content (compared to butter) it does produce a superior biscuit: fluffy, flakey and airy.* Don’t want to use lard or shortening? These biscuits were made with ghee which makes a really tasty substitute (but not necessarily any healthier*) Here’s a great video showing you how to make it at home.

  • 2-1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp yeast (add 1/2 tsp more if you’re planning on freezing the batch to cook later)
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt

Parmesan Herb Biscuits: Mix in 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, (save 1 Tbsp to sprinkle on top just before baking), 1-1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme and 3/4 tsp chopped fresh rosemary.

Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, yeast, sugar and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large mixing bowl), and whisk to combine.

  • 1/2 c fat: all lard, shortening, butter (or a combination: 1/4 lard or shortening + 1/4c butter) OR 1/2c ghee
  • 1 cup buttermilk at room temperature (make your own: put 1 Tbsp vinegar into a Pyrex measuring cup, then add room temperature milk to the one cup line)
  • Optional: Cream to brush on tops before baking
  1. Add the ghee/lard/butter (whatever combo you’re using) into the flour mixture in pieces.
  2. With the paddle attachment, mix (on low speed) until crumbly. (Or, use your hands to incorporate the butter into small pebbles, until the mixture resembles coarse meal.)
  3. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk, and continue mixing until the liquid is incorporated and you’ve got a smooth dough. OR, gently fold the until ingredients are moistened. Don’t overmix!
  4. Cover bowl and let rest 1 hour.
    • At this point, you can store this dough in the fridge for up to five days, to shape and bake at a later time.
  5. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead 3 or 4 times.
  6. Gently press dough out into a circle, fold in half, then fold again. Push sides inward to shape into a circle.
  7. Gently roll to a 1/2″ thickness, then cut with a floured 2” cutter. Don’t twist the cutter when lifting it. Press the scraps together, pat then roll into a circle and continue to cut out biscuits until it’s all used up.
  8. Now you’ve got two options:
    • Bake now: Place rounds with sides touching in a 10-1/2′ cast-iron skillet lined with parchment paper,
    • OR Bake later: Place on a cookie sheet, spaced apart, and freeze. Remove to a zip-lock bag and freeze for up to two months.
  9. Remove biscuits from freezer and preheat the oven to 400.
  10. Brush tops with cream, then bake until golden, 16 to 20 minutes.
  11. Serve warm with Sawmill Gravy

*Why lard bakes a better biscuit:

  • Gluten strands in dough form strong bonds when baked, which makes a tougher crumb. When lard coats the gluten strands it weakens their structure and keeps them from bonding (fluffy),
  • Lard melts more slowly than butter, creating air and steam (flakey), and
  • The fat crystals in lard are larger than butter, so when it melts, tiny, airy holes develop (airy).

You shouldn’t be deterred from that ingredient (unless you’re vegetarian, of course). When Crisco shortening launched in 1911, it very quickly became the favorite with it’s netural taste and long shelf life — and it’s heavy marketing campaign that told consumers it’s healthier than lard. We now know that shortening’s partially hydrogenated fats (trans fats) are associated with higher health risks than the saturated fats (such as lard) they were designed to replace. In addition, lard has 20% less saturated fat than butter, and is higher in monounsaturated fats, which are good for cardiovascular health fat. Just make sure you find a brand that is 100% non-hydronated.

Week 54: Hot Cross Buns

(Since we’re still waiting on our starter, here’s a bread for Easter weekend!) ENGLAND: These yeasty, heavenly spiced buns are typically eaten on Good Friday, celebrating the end of Lent. There are a multitude of references to the cross representing the crucifixion of Christ, and suggestions that the spices signify those used to embalm, but as food historian Ivan Day says, “The trouble with any folk food, any traditional food, is that no-one tended to write about them in the very early period.” Which is to say, most of this is conjecture, and it is just as likely that the cross is a way to separate the bun into sections. Back in the day, folks would grate, then save the bread that was baked on Good Friday to use as a medicine in later years, and some believed that the buns would never go moldy, so they nailed up in the house as a good luck charm.

I found many versions of hot cross buns (12M results on Google!) and tested three. I am happy to report that Bake with Jack’s Hot Cross Buns is the clear winner — and he just today posted an accompanying video with tips and updates, since that recipe was originally posted on his blog in 2017.

Bake with Jack’s Hot Cross Buns Recipe

My tips:

  1. Sultanas are golden raisins
  2. Yeast measurement is 14g total (seems like a lot, I know)
  3. Caster sugar is very fine granualted sugar. Go ahead and use granualted sugar (not light brown sugar which would be too wet).
  4. I used 2 medium lemons and 1 large orange which equaled about 1 Tbsp zest for each.
  5. I got 3/4 cup juice from the lemons and orange, so added 3/4 cup granulated sugar to that for the syrup. I simmered it for 15 minutes. It gets thick as it cools.
  6. Mixed spice is very similar to our pumpkin pie spice, and that would make a fine substitute. But the mixed spice is a little more complex, so I’ve listed the ingredients below if you’d like to make your own.
    • 1 Tbsp ground allspice
    • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
    • 1 Tbsp ground nutmeg
    • 2 tsp ground mace
    • 1 tsp ground cloves
    • 1 tsp ground coriander
    • 1 tsp ground ginger
  7. I had a hard time piping the flour/water paste in even thickness/straight lines. I did one strand all the way around, and then ended up using a wet table knife to cut the individual strands before moving on to the next bun.
  8. Gas mark 180°C is 400°F

Video below has tips that would be useful in making this recipe.

Links to some of his videos that would be useful for this recipe

Video 150: Incorporating Dried Fruit in Real Time – https://youtu.be/TEa-D0yoHfc
Video 149: Do You NEED to Soak Dry Fruit for Bread? – https://youtu.be/j9_KuJ0voq0
Video 131: Kneading Bread Dough in REAL TIME – https://youtu.be/BBRmfxumyh0
Video 87: FIVE signs your Bread Dough is Fully Kneaded – https://youtu.be/rHgtvDMrffc
Video 148: Make it EASY for yourself – https://youtu.be/_FTA2maeqh8

P.S. I really wanted to like Dan Lepard’s Spiced Stout Buns recipe — link here — because they seemed like a grown-up version, and feature the no-knead method. But the special ingredients, the length of time with it’s overnight ferment, and tricky method if you’re a beginner, just didn’t seem worth it in the end. They are tasty though, and it’s a no-knead method, so have at if you’re interested!

Week 43: Gâteau des Rois (King’s Cake)

NEW ORLEANS: This is old school king cae — the one I grew up eating in New Orleans. Not too sweet, no cinnamon swirl, no cream cheese filling, and no icing. If you are younger than me, you probably enjoyed those versions, as they are what’s commonly made now. King Arthur Baking Company’s Mardi Gras King Cake is an excellent source for king cakes with fillings and icing.

The ingredients that go into a king cake dough are similar to a brioche, but the end result is more cake-like in texture. King cakes are baked, sold and shared throughout the city — and beyond, beginning on January 6th, and ending on Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras), the day before Lent. Whoever finds the little plastic baby in their serving is responsible for providing the next king cake for the group.

If you aren’t up for making one from scratch, Mam Papaul’s Box Mix will do the trick in a quarter of the time! Plus, it comes with the colored sugars and the little plastic baby, which can be difficult to find if you’re not down south.

STEP 1: Prepare dough

  • 1/2 cup milk, warmed to about 110 degrees
  • 2-1/4 teaspoons instant yeast (1 packet)
  1. Pour the warm milk into the bowl of a stand mixer. (If you don’t have one, just use a large bowl).
  2. Sitr/whisk in the yeast and let stand for 5 minutes. (This is to make sure your yeast is live.)
  • 2~3 tablespoons sugar (up to you: 2 is barely sweet; 3 is just sweet enough)
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened, and cut into rough pieces
  • 3 eggs: Use 2 eggs and 1 yolk for the bread: save the white to brush on top
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest, or 1/2 teaspoon orange extract (zest is better if you have it!)

Add the butter, 2 whole eggs, 1 egg yolk, and the orange extract. Sitr/whisk to combine. (The butter isn’t supposed to thoroughly mix in. It’ll look like loose scrambled eggs.)

  • 450 + 30 grams all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  1. Place bowl on scale, and set to 0 grams.
  2. Add 450 grams flour, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  3. If using a stand mixer, use the paddle on lowest speed to combine (or stir with the handle of a wooden spoon).
  4. Let dough rest about 10 minutes, to absorb the liquids properly.
  5. Switch to the dough hook and knead on speed 2 for 4-5 minutes , then on 1 for another 4-5 minutes (or knead by hand for about 15). If it seems too wet, and isn’t coming away from the sides, or sticking to the counter, add the extra 30 grams of flour. The dough should be soft and subtle and feel just a tiny bit damp. Not sticky and wet, but not at all dry. You should be able to pull a bit of dough away without it tearing off.

STEP 2: Proof, Shape and Bake

  • Parchment paper (easier)
  • Colored sugars * : purple (justice), green (faith), and yellow/gold (power)
  • Plastic baby, kidney bean, or pecan
  1. Cover, then set aside to proof until doubled, which can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour. Check often; the temperature of the room makes a big difference in how long it takes to double.
  2. Turn out the dough, press it down gently, and weigh it, so you can divide into 3 equal portions.
  3. Roll each piece into long ropes of equal length, and place them on parchment paper.
  4. Braid the ropes together, starting from the middle.
  5. Shape into an oval, or circle** then join the ends by flattening one end and making a cap/cover with it over the other end.
  6. Lift the parchment paper to transfer the crown to a baking sheet.
  7. Place a small ramekin in the center to keep the inside hole open.
  1. If you’re using a bean or pecan, push it up inside from the bottom. The baby goes in after it bakes.
  2. Preheat over to 350 degrees.
  3. Cover, and let rise until it doubles in size, about 20~40 minutes.
  4. Add a tablespoon of water and a pinch of salt (helps to mix it up) to the egg white and mix.
  5. Brush onto the top of the cake, and then sprinkle heavily with the coloured sugars. (This technique removes the necessity of using a white icing once it’s baked to make the sugars stick)
  6. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the inside temperature reaches 200 degrees. It’s a soft dough, so it might not feel/look thoroughly cooked, checking the temperature is the best way to be sure.
  7. After you remove it from the oven, add the baby through the bottom if you didn’t use a bean or nut.
  8. If your braid rose so much that it separated a bit during the bake, you can rub a stick of butter in those bare spots, and sprinkle sugar on them to cover them up.
  9. Place on a wire rack to cool.

* You can use blue and red liquid food colouring to make purple, (which is what I did), but honeslty, it’s worth just buying some purple sugar. So much prettier!

** I prefer a circular shape, because that’s more similar to a crown. The standard in bakeries is an oval, and I wonder if that’s because it’s easier to have a rectangular box rather than a large square box, like a pizza.

Week 8: Raisin Bread

This no-swirl version from King Arthur Flour, distributes the raisins and cinnamon evenly throughout, and avoids big gaps that can be created by the melted butter in the swirl. Plus, it’s much easier this way! I tested an artisan, free form version, but preferred this slightly squishy loaf. If you prefer a swirled version, check out KAF’s Multigrain Cinnamon-Raisin Bread, and let me know how it turns out!

Continue reading “Week 8: Raisin Bread”