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Natty bakes Chipotle Cheddar Biscuits

September 16, 2010
Cheesy Bakes!

Cheesy Bakes!

Alert the press! Alert the press! Natty bakes something savoury!

Yes folks, it’s true. This is my first post involving a non-dessert item. Don’t worry though, this recipe still includes butter! I am diving into the delicious world of biscuits… Now I don’t mean biscuits in the cookie sense. I’m talking about the Southern quick breads. You know, the ones closely related to the British scone.

The main difference between biscuits and scones are that scones have more sugar than biscuits do and are typically are made with cream and served at tea time with butter, jam and cream. Biscuits on the other hand are made with buttermilk or regular milk and are served with the main course or AS the main course. Biscuits and gravy for breakfast anyone?

Back in the first season of “Good Eats” Alton Brown devoted one full episode (watch here) to biscuits and in his usual style offers interesting scientific and historical tidbits on the subject. Incidentally I also discovered that there’s an entire documentary on the Southern biscuit and this article which is part of the NYTimes “United Tastes”- a series of interesting articles exploring the historical roots and ongoing evolution of US cuisine. But back to Alton Brown…

So, during this episode AB bakes with his (now late) grandma “Ma Mae” who barely cracks a smile during the entire episode. As always AB is extremely helpful to viewers and offers many tips. He explains that Ma Mae and his great grandmother used to bake biscuits with lard and while this may be great for texture, those who want to avoid the gamey taste should stick to using vegetable shortening, butter or a combo of both. He also tells viewers to keep the batter very loose and wet and warns not to overmix. Another good tip to follow is to use a combination of “soft flour” i.e. cake or pastry flour and all purpose flour instead of just the latter in order to avoid tough and heavy biscuits.

After studying the biscuit basics I felt a bit rebellious and wanted to bake a more flavourful variety. I checked out tons of great-looking stuff and settled on a tasty-sounding cheddar biscuit recipe. Besides the obvious perk that it has cheese in it, I also like that it has some heat and smoky flavour from the chipotle pepper. The recipe comes from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking and I can sum these biscuits up using a simple mathematical equation: Mmm cheese+mmm bread=Mmmmmm cheesy bread

I would also like to endorse another cheesy quick bread recipe: Cheddar Herb Muffins. You can find this recipe in The Stop’s Good Food For All cookbook and apparently they go well with the Seafood Chowder recipe which is also included in there. I really like this cookbook! All of the recipes are organized by season, for the most part include inexpensive, fresh ingredients and each recipe has a story behind why it was included.

Most of the recipes have been made and served by The Stop’s staff, volunteers and community members at the great programs and events that they host. These dishes have also been prepared for and by people who come out to participate in meetings, rallies and other community gatherings. I enjoy being involved when I can and always look forward to the delicious food whether I am teaching and making it with a class of children or eating it and enjoying it with my friends at events they host. What’s really awesome is that the Stop moves past the idea of charity (though of course they do provide essential services like a food bank and drop-in programs for those who need it) towards more of a social justice model of helping those in need- one which emphasizes dignity and empowerment.

Social justice. Sigh. Sadly, you may cringe at the word (maybe also empowerment) because it’s overused and often discussed in a purely intellectual context, many times in an act of self-aggrandizement. This makes the concept seem like all the other academic bandwagon buzzwords: annoyingly broad, abstract and elusive.

The thing is, places like the Stop actually do work to make certain ideals a reality, even if on a small scale. Actions speak much louder than words (did I mention overused words/phases?!) and there are so many instances here that promote equal access to resources. It’s done in a way that encourages active involvement and knowledge & skill-building and this applies to all community members who participate at the centre. This kind of model seems to actually build social connection and to reduce the usual power divide that exists between the givers and receivers of charity.

OK whoa, sorry about the mini-preach fest out of left field there but yeah, I guess I truly believe it and in the words of Martha Stewart: “It’s a good thing”.

On a more natty bakes related note, the cookbook is super awesome and one night I cooked a meal for a group of friends based only on recipes from the book. The menu included: buttery cornbread with jalapenos, jerk chicken, classic rice & peas, an easy coleslaw and mini sweet potato pies for dessert. Mmmm! Now I’m getting hungry again…better go get a biscuit!

Eatin one of dem biscuits whilst contemplating the importance of good food for all

Chipotle Cheddar Biscuits
Ingredients
  • Recipe yields about 20 good-sized biscuits
  • 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (I used some cake & pastry flour for a lighter texture)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle powder (use less if you don’t like things that spicy, also feel free to add bits of a chipotle pepper instead of the powder)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 cups grated and tightly packed sharp cheddar cheese (I used extra old cheddar)
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk add about 1 Tbs of vinegar to regular milk)
  • 1 large egg
  • Kosher salt for topping

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F
  • Line a baking sheep with parchment paper or grease it well
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, pepper, chipotle powder, sugar, baking powdy, cream of tartar and teaspoon of salt
  • Add the butter and, using your hands or the back of a wooden spoon, work the butter into the dough. The mixture should look like coarse sand. Add the cheese and stir to thoroughly incorporate it into the dough.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and egg. Add to the flour mixture and stir until just incorporated. Do not overmix.
  • Use a small ice cream scoop or a 1/4-cup measuring cup to scoop the dough and drop it in mounds onto the prepared baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Sprinkle with kosher salt and bake in the center of the oven for about 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through the baking time, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of a biscuit comes out clean.
  • Transfer the biscuits to a cooling rack. The biscuits can be served slightly warm or at room temperature
  • Store the biscuits in an airtight container for up to 2 days

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