I have to admit I did a little happy dance when Quirk Books contacted me to participate in their MakingDough challenge. It’s a two week celebration of dough in honor of the brand new cookbook Making Dough by Russell van Kraayenburg. I was sent a copy of the cookbook at no charge for my honest review.
You all know by now how much I love to bake.
I also love cookbooks.
And I REALLY love this cookbook.
Why you ask? Well, I’ll tell ya! It’s a cookbook that I think should be in any kitchen from beginners to bakers like me who have been at it for a while. I wish I had had a book like this when I first started playing with flour and butter. It is simply designed and it gives you the basics plus a few extension recipes to set you on your way. You will learn a simple ratio system for working with all of these wonderful doughs:
Pâte à Choux Dough
Puff Pastry Dough
Rough Puff Pastry Dough
Each one builds on the next until phyllo which if you ask me is a dough all unto itself. I’ve never tried making phyllo nor do I expect too – although who knows now. I’ve made all of the others at some point in my baking life.
But today I’m talking biscuits.
I don’t know about you but I love biscuits. I’ll often whip up a batch for dinner. They are simple to make but for some reason I had trouble making them. I finally figured out the secret to tall, flaky biscuits a few years ago. I could have used Making Dough! The secret is in not handling the dough any more than you have to, using ice cold butter and milk, and most important – don’t twist the cutter. Push straight down and pull straight up!
And now on to the biscuits. I used the recipe from the book which I’m sharing here today but I added my own little spin on them with some delicious additions just in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I hope you enjoy!
Flaky Biscuits with Dried Cranberries and Pumpkin Seeds
YIELD: 1 pound | PREP TIME: 20 minutes | BAKE TIME: 12 minutes
6 ounces cake flour
2 ounces bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cold
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
1/3 cup dried cranberries*
1/3 cup toasted pumpkin seeds*
2 TBS heavy cream
Mixing the Dough
There are two ways to mix biscuit dough: by hand or using a food processor.
- Mix flours, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl.
- Chop butter into 1/2-inch cubes. Add to flour mixture.
- Using your fingers or a pastry cutter, pinch or cut butter into flour, breaking it into pieces about the size of coarse cornmeal. If using your hands, work quickly to prevent butter from melting. *Add the cranberries and pumpkin seeds. Mix well.
- Add milk and stir 10 to 20 times with a wooden spoon, until dough just begins to come together.
- Place dough on a very lightly floured surface. Knead 4 to 5 times, until it just holds its shape. Take care not to knead the dough too much or add too much flour.
Food Processor Method
- Pulse flours, salt, and baking soda in the bowl of a food processor to combine.
- Chop butter into 1/2-inch cubes. Add to flour mixture. Pulse for 1 to 2 seconds 8 to 12 times, until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.
- Add milk and pulse 2 to 4 times, until dough begins to come together. It will form a few large chunks and many small ones.
- Transfer dough chunks to a very lightly floured surface and push together. Knead 3 to 5 times, until dough just holds its shape. Take care not to knead the dough too much or add too much flour, which can make the biscuits tough.
Check out this video for a quick demonstration on making biscuit dough:
Why Cake Flour?
The American South enjoys a growing season that is relatively long and free of harshly cold weather, so less hardy varieties of wheat can be grown there. The resulting flour has a lower protein content, which is responsible for the cakey biscuits associated with that region. The similarly low protein content in cake flour will consistently produce these classic soft biscuits.
How to Handle Leftover Dough
When using a cookie or biscuit cutter to cut out round biscuits, you’ll inevitably have leftover dough. Instead of kneading the leftover pieces together before rerolling the dough, stack them in layers and then roll the stack. Every time you knead or roll dough, it will become tougher. Stacking it helps delay the toughening.
This I never knew! I tried it and it worked so well.
Bake immediately, or store in an airtight container. Refrigerator: 2 days. Freezer: 1 month.
Qualities of Good Biscuit Dough
THE DOUGH: Biscuit dough should be dry but easy to manipulate. You should also see small dots of butter throughout the dough.
THE PASTRY: Once baked, biscuits should be tender. The outside crust should be firm and crumble easily, and the crumb inside should be soft.
Throwing in some mix-ins—such as herbs or spices, lemon zest, a small pile of cheese, or a big pile of bacon—is a snap. Biscuit dough can handle it! So long as your add-ins are dry, they won’t affect the dough ratio. *I added in dried cranberries and toasted pumpkin seeds and they worked very well.
Making Classic Butter Biscuits
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 425°F. On a lightly floured surface, roll prepared dough with a rolling pin until ¾ inch thick. Cut out 2½-inch disks with a cookie or biscuit cutter, or simply pull off small handfuls of dough for a more rustic look. Stack pieces of leftover dough, roll dough again, and cut out more disks. Repeat until all the dough is used. Place biscuits on a parchment paper–lined baking sheet (I used a silicone mat) spaced at least 1 inch apart. Brush tops with melted butter (I used heavy cream). Bake for 12 minutes, until tops are just golden. Let biscuits cool on the pan for 1 minute before transferring to a wire rack. Serve warm.
The changes I made to Mr. van Kraayenburg’s recipe I have put in bold so you can pick them right out. Biscuits are not complicated but they do take some care. Once you get the hang of them you will have what you need to have these delicious treats whenever you would like.
The hubby and I both really enjoyed the addition of the dried cranberries and the pumpkin seeds. The slightly sweet/tart dried fruit and the earthy seeds were a lovely surprise in what is usually a plain bread.
I’m really looking forward to using the tips and tricks in Making Dough for croissant and danish. I make them several times a year and I am hoping that I’ll be able to improve my results. I do love to bake. I just wish my health was better so I could spend more time in the kitchen.
If you enjoy baking as much as I do or you want to start Making Dough is a great book to add to your cookbook library. It will give you a strong set of basics, throw in a few variations to show you what is possible and then you can let loose with your own ideas. It’s well written and the directions are easy to follow.
So get started Making Dough!
To see what the other bakers in the challenge made head over to the Quirk Books Blog