Category Archives: Baking

Biscuits 101

courtesy LizMarie_AK on Flickr

To my way of thinking there’s not much that compares to the smell and taste of homemade biscuits hot from the oven. A simpler bread there never was, nor a more adaptable one. You can fill them or roll them up with sugar and cinnamon. You can serve them at any meal of the day, accompanied by butter, jam, honey or just bear naked; they never fail to please.

If you’ve got a big Kitchen Aid mixer or the like, it does the work for you, and if you’ve followed my advice and bought yourself a pastry mat, clean up is a breeze. So this is why it surprises me that those nasty baking mixes continue to line the supermarket shelves and can readily be found in homes across America. No one would make ’em if they didn’t sell.

And don’t even get me started on this abomination. He has creeped me out ever since I learned to spin the dial on the big Motorola floor model in Grammie Sue’s living room. That giggle, the fetal dough face, the neck scarf with no pants. Gives me a shudder just thinking about it. Always has. And if you’ve never taken a squint at the nutritional content (and I’m slinging the term nutritional around here with what can only be called reckless abandon) of Bisquick or the dough boy’s demon offspring, you really should. Nasty fats and sodium levels at least double what you find in scratch made biscuits.

Recipe follows

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Get your pie on!

Gorgeous Gruyère

Over at Phill’s blog, there’s a recipe for potato, cheese and onion pie that elevates my pedestrian potato gratin to an art form. Don’t be fooled by the straightforward name, it’s a gorgeous, glorious gourmet treat. (For those of you cooking on this side of the pond, 200 degrees C is equal to 392 F, but I think you could safely set your oven to 400.)  And if you need a little tech support on making pie crust, I’m happy to provide it.

Pumpkin Roll: Check it out!

Check out the Spatula Goddess’s recipe for pumpkin roll. I grew up on jelly roll, and this is a fabulous tweak on it. For those of you who aren’t entirely comfortable with baking, the directions are really clear and the photos will be a big help. What a great company dessert! Roll it up! Nicely done, Goddess.

Better pies are a snap, not that I’d know anything about THAT

So easy even a monkey could do it!

I’m visiting my sister, who does everything better than I do, not that I hold it against her or resent it in any way, even though our parents clearly loved her more and gave her better presents at every goddamned Christmas and birthday of our lives. So today she made a pie in the time it takes me to floss my teeth and even cleaned up after it on the same day, but again, no resentment here. I am big enough to share her triumphs, rather than being embittered by them, no matter how much I have suffered at her hands over the years.

So, pies. She uses one of these groovy plastic mats to roll out the dough. Not only does it tell you exactly how big the crust should be for every conceivable size pie plate, but it also saves you from cleaning up a big sticky, floury mess afterward. Or scraping the dried dough gobs and petrified flour remains off the counter with a butter knife once you emerge from the sugar coma eight hours after consuming the entire pie, a la mode, straight from the dish with a spoon. Not that Miss Perfect would ever do anything like that.

I’m going to get one. And I am NOT copying her!

Butter me up, Ina! I’ve got a yen for chocolate cake.

“Psst, your collar. Your collar is UP.” (courtesy Food Network)

People swear by the Barefoot Contessa, but I don’t agree. It’s not just that her bangs bug me, though they most certainly do, or even that I get so preoccupied with the desire to flip her collar back down where it belongs that I can’t focus on the food. What really gets up my nose is the not-so-subtle nagging quality to Ina’s recipes: use extra large eggs, finest quality chocolate, freshly brewed hot coffee. I mean really – once a cup of coffee has been baked into a cake, who could possibly tell the difference between a freshly brewed cup and one that’s been sitting around on the counter for an hour? I’ll tell you who. Nobody.

Then there are the oven temps where the Fahrenheit is always indicated, as in “350 degrees F.” Now there’s an important safety tip, Egon. You don’t want to take a chance that people will think they should set their ovens to 350 Celsius, which if memory serves is approximately the surface temperature of Mercury. But of course, our Contessa spends so much time on the Continent that one understands her need to clarify.

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