(The Daring Bakers’ February 2012 host was – Lis! Lisa stepped in last minute and challenged us to create a quick bread we could call our own. She supplied us with a base recipe and shared some recipes she loves from various websites and encouraged us to build upon them and create new flavor profiles.)

Quick breads!  I used to make a lot of quick breads, but I haven’t done one in a while.  So I took the opportunity this month to make two – a Beer Cheese Bread and a Lemon Bread.

They were both simple – mix the dry ingredients, add the wet, pour in a pan, and bake.   I did the beer bread first.

When I used to skydive, the woman who ran the kitchen made amazing beer bread.  It was thick and crusty and always warm.  Every beer bread I’ve had since has been compared to it.

This one had two kinds of cheeses – a sharp cheddar and asiago, plus sautéed green onions.  I put too many onions in it – the recipe called for a cup, but I accidentally grabbed the two cup measure out of the cupboard, and didn’t realize it until I was putting dishes in the dishwasher.  But I like green onions, so we didn’t mind.

Beer Bread 

After baking for an hour:

 Beer Bread

It was really good.  It was even better toasted the next day.  And I expect it will be good again tonight.

Then I made a lemon bread.  This one had lemon zest and lemon juice.  It was supposed to make two loaves, but I only have one small loaf pan, so I made one loaf and baked the other half into muffins.

Lemon Bread

It was also really good, particularly with the Meyer Lemon jam we got on Saturday from Revival Market. I also picked up some smoked lard there, which is going to have to make it’s way into biscuits soon.

I’m going to make one more loaf this month – the America’s Test Kitchen Banana Bread.  It needs very ripe bananas, and they’re still not quite ready, so it’ll wait until later this week.

It was a fun, easy month.  Now I just have to find homes for more of this bread…

( see the recipes )

(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!)

After  months of really complicated, pretty desserts, it was nice to have a simple recipe. I really cooked and baked myself out over the holidays, and I was dreading the thought of making more sweet things.

So, scones.  I’m sure that’s the proper word for them, but I just call them biscuits.  And I have to admit that I already had a biscuit recipe that I love, so this was going to be a hard sell – but you can never have too many biscuits, so I gave it a shot.

I made them to go with a roasted chicken for dinner.  They took about 20 minutes, and half of that was getting my oven preheated.

The fat in them is grated butter, so I put two tablespoons of butter into the freezer early in the day. When it was time to start, I sifted the flour, baking powder, and salt together, then rubbed in the grated butter.  The texture I was going for was "Coarse beach sand", and it was easy to get there without melting the grated butter.   Then I added half a cup of milk to finish the dough.

After they were mixed, I patted them out on a cutting board, folded them over  a few times for layers, then cut them out.  The first few I patted too flat, and they didn’t rise much, but the later ones I did better on.

Then bake for 10 minutes.  I brushed the tops with more melted butter to brown them:

Scones

They were good – they’re certainly more biscuit-looking then my recipe.  I’d probably make them if I wanted to impress a dinner guest or something – but if I just want a quick biscuit to cover in butter and jelly for breakfast, I’ll stick with my old recipe.

( see the recipe )

Biscuits, like BBQ, can be a contentious issue, so let me be clear about where I stand:  I’m in the south, so they should use lots of buttermilk and baking powder – no yeast! 

The recipe in my database says “Touch-Of-Grace Biscuits”.  That’s actually the name of a Shirley Corriher biscuit recipe, from CookWise: The Hows & Whys of Successful Cooking.  It’s an amazing book, but when I looked up this recipe there, my version is different.  I suspect that years of internet modifications have changed it a bit at a time, and now it’s evolved to a higher level. 

A few remarks on ingredients:  You can make this with low-fat buttermilk, but you shouldn’t.  My local stores sell Borden Country-Style Buttermilk (I tried to link to the Borden website, but it’s infested with Flash and you can’t link directly to a product!), which is very good but also very often out of stock.  I’ve done it with low-fat buttermilk, and they come out okay but not great.  The recipe has 1/4 cup sugar in it – I almost always leave it out, unless I specifically want them to come out sweet (for shortcake or jam or such).  I use butter-flavored Crisco as the shortening, but I’ve also done them with Organic Spectrum shortening and there wasn’t any significant impact on the flavor either way.

Now, to the recipe:

Start with 2 cups of self-rising flour and add the salt.  If you want sugar, this is where it goes in.  Mix in the shortening with a fork or a pastry cutter, then dump in the buttermilk and cream.  You can mess with the proportions here if you want more or less buttermilk flavor, as long as you come up with a total of 1 and 2/3 cups.

It will be very, very wet:

Biscuit dough

You can scoop it out with your hands, but it will be messy. You can use a big cookie scoop or disher if you want to be neater.  However you do it, drop each biscuit into the bowl of all-purpose flour, and roll it around a bit until covered, then drop into a greased cake pan.  I’m a little short on cake pans at the moment, so I use this pie pan (which looks pretty, but it’s impossible to actually get a piece of pie out of it intact!).  Don’t worry if some of the flour ends up in the bottom.

Biscuits

Brush the tops with melted butter. I forget this step sometimes, which is why the tops of mine aren’t as brown as they could be. Then bake at 475 for 20 minutes.

Biscuits

Then eat. Covered in sausage gravy or smeared with butter and jelly. They’re best just out of the oven – but what baked good isn’t?

( see the recipe )

We eat a good bit of Mexican food – I have a CSA meat subscription, so every month I get pork shoulder for carnitas and ground beef for tacos or enchiladas. 

All the local Mexican restaurants make their own tortillas, and they’re always so much better then store-bought, so I figured I’d try my hand at making my own.  I’m not sure exactly where this recipe came from originally, but I’ve been using it for a while.

It’s very simple – mix flour, baking powder, and a bit of salt in a bowl.  Add lard.  I’ve done them with shortening, but they don’t come out nearly as good – I’d recommend getting the lard.  Here, I can buy it in buckets, but I’ve seen it in blocks next to the shortening, too.  I use it mostly in tortillas and tamales, so a big bucket lasts me a very long time.

After you’ve worked in the lard, add enough water to make a dough.  Knead it enough to work in all the flour, then split it into a dozen little balls.  Let them sit on the counter for 10 minutes.  If you don’t let them sit, the dough will be springy, and when you roll them out, they’ll just shrink right back to the size they were before and they’ll end up too thick.

Roll them out:

Tortillas

I usually roll them out one at a time, while the previous one is cooking, but that’s mostly because I’m usually in a hurry. You probably don’t want to do it that way until you’ve made enough batches to have a good feel for how long they take to cook – it’s easy to get distracted and burn one.  If I have plenty of time until dinner, I’ll roll out all 12, and just stack them on a plate until I’m ready to cook them all.

The recipe says to use a comel, but I just toss them in my heavy-cast iron skillet:

Tortillas

They’re done when they have nice brown spots on both sides – depending on how hot my pan is, anywhere from 30 seconds to 90 seconds a side:

Tortillas

They’re great wrapped around almost anything, or by themselves with just a bit of butter (or butter and cinnamon-sugar!).  I haven’t had much luck keeping them until the next day – they’re best eaten within half an hour or so.

Try them.  You’ll never buy another bag of tortillas at the store again!

( see the recipe )

Garlic Parmasean Fan Rolls

It’s getting to be too hot for stews, but I had a relatively tough roast in the fridge that needed eating, so I made Beef Ragu for dinner this weekend.

It smelled amazing.   It wasn’t quite as amazing to eat, but that’s okay – the rolls I made to go with it were.

These are based loosely on the Gourmet Buttermilk Fantails.  I saw the recipe, and immediately thought "Those would be so much better with garlic butter!".

So I made my own garlic butter – I put an entire head of garlic in the food processor, and minced it fine. Then I melted a stick of butter, and added it to the garlic, and pulsed it a few more times.  When it was as finely minced as it was going to get, I put the bowl in the fridge overnight to infuse.

The rolls themselves are just a simple yeast bread – bloom the yeast, add to the flour, add some buttermilk.  Knead (I cheated and used the stand mixer), let rise, punch down.

Then you roll them out.  I used my fingers to spread the butter on the dough before slicing it – I never have much luck spreading melted butter evenly any other way.  I was supposed to slice it into 6 pieces, stack them, then slice in the other direction  – but I misunderstood, and just folded them back and forth in the muffin cups.  Either way would work fine – their way did look nicer.

The garlic really made them work – they stood up well to the ragu.  And they had enough butter in them that they didn’t need any added at the table.

They’d be perfect for a dinner party – just a bit fancier then garlic bread, but without significantly more work!

( see the recipe )