Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Biscuit Experiment

Update:  PICTURES!

My Berenstein Bear family (Did you notice?  Didja?  Didja?) loves cheese.  Pretty much any kind of cheese except cheese products marketed as cheese (I'm lookin' at you, American.  Yes, you.  Get out of the cheese crisper!) is fair game.  We love soft cheese, like brie or chevre, and will eat it on crackers.   I am also partial to a breakfast of multigrain toast with chevre and fig spread.  We love hard cheese, like jarlesberg or manchego, also eaten on crackers or as a sandwich addition.  And, we love semi-soft cheeses, like a sharp white cheddar or morbier.  What's morbier, you may be asking?  It's a wonderfully delicious cheese made of happy; one of my absolute favorites.  Check it out.  It's creamy but not buttery or slick, mild in flavor but not in smell, and has a lovely gentle twang at the end of each bite.

Oh yum!

Anyway, Papa Bear and I were browsing through our traditional Saturday morning cheese haunt in Chestnut Hill and we espied a newcomer!  A certain Espresso BellaVitano made by Sartori.  We pondered it for a little while, taking in the description (espresso rind?  Unusual...) and the overly excited label proclaiming it a "WINNER!!!".  I was a little suspicious.  But, the beauty of unfamiliar cheese is that is holds the promise of a new, wonderful experience or a new, eh experience.  Sometimes even a face-puckering, oh-holy-god-never-again experience, but those are much more rare.

So we took it home, broke out the crackers, and cut a few slices.

And were underwhelmed.

It's perfectly fine cheese.  A tad funky on the end, tastewise, but nothing offensive.  It was just a little odd. The texture was unusual, like a soft parmesan.  When broken it created faceted geography that glistened like it was wet, which is sometimes a sign of cheese gone bad, but it was dry to the touch and smelled like an aged cheese should.  It just didn't hold up to its promise, almost like it was waiting for another flavor to come along and help it be delicious.  It was 'eh'.  Ok.  It didn't draw me back in for another bite.  So, we wrapped it up and put it in the fridge, hoping that once we ran out of manchego we'd eat it out of desperation.

Chives from the garden.  Organic!  Local!  Free!

But then I mulled some cider.  Specifically, I took store-bought cider (that was downright mediocre compared to the local stuff we get that is blow-your-socks-off delicious) and simmered it with some mulling spices from Harry & David that had been given to me as a gift.  Suddenly, it was delicious.  Worth the time, definitely, because that cider will now be enjoyed instead of poured down the drain.

This, of course, got me thinking about other food I could re-purpose.  Like the Espresso BellaVitano.  Ooo, didn't I find a recipe for Brie and Chive Biscuits the other day?  Could I modify it a little?

Yes.  Ohhhhhh yes I could.  I had to increase the amount of buttermilk, since the BellaVitano is a hard cheese and Brie is soft with a much higher moisture content, but I've made biscuits before and I know how the dough should feel.

Floured wineglass biscuit-cutter, French rolling pin, and freshly cut biscuits, ready for the oven.

This also meant I got to use one of my favorite kitchen tools (besides the French rolling pin), the pastry cutter.
Taken shamelessly from
 Isn't it pretty?  The blades are exactly the most useful distance apart, so that when the butter is accurately incorporated into your batter it passes through the blades.  And, it means you don't heat up the butter by trying to mix it in with your fingers, so the final result is flakier and has a superior texture. I've heard you can also use it to mash potatoes, but we only use it for pastry dough and biscuit dough in this house.

Cheese and Chive Buttermilk Biscuits
Adapted from From Away

 2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
6 tbsp unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
6 ounces shredded or finely chopped cheese
2 tbsp chives, finely chopped
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375°.  In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.  Using a pastry cutter, combine dry ingredients and butter until butter pieces are about the size of peas.  Dough should look mealy.  Add cheese and chives and toss to combine.  Fold in buttermilk until dough comes together and is slightly sticky.  You may need to use slightly less or slightly more buttermilk, depending on weather conditions.

Turn out dough onto a floured board.  Knead gently for a scant two or three turns.  Next, roll out dough until it is 1/2" thick, flouring rolling pin as needed to prevent sticking.  Using a cookie cutter or wineglass, cut out rounds and arrange them on an oiled or parchment lined baking sheet.  Re-roll excess and continue cutting out rounds until all the dough is used.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until biscuits have risen, tops are golden, and bottom edges are lightly browned.

Eat with butter.  Makes approximately 15 biscuits.

Dude.  DUDE.  These were awesome.  The funkiness was GONE.  The biscuits were savory and cheesy with a little hint of greenness from the chives.  Like flaky cheese-its, minus the disgusting orange coloring and crunch.  Earthy, a little salty, and tasted warm even after they had fully cooled.  I kneaded the dough just a couple seconds too long, so they didn't rise as high as they should have, but who cares?!  We only had three of these left for breakfast, they were so good.  PLUS there's an entire 6 ounce hunk still in the fridge.  I'm making these again.

A tad flat, yes.  I'll treat them more gently next time.