Sunday, September 20, 2009

Irrigator's Breakfast: Biscuits, Jam and Cream

When the boys were young, we lived in a house that had irrigation rights.  In this part of of the country, much use is made of water from the Rio Grande.  That includes irrigating your lawn, if you live near the river.

So, once a month from March until September, slightly more during the really hot weeks, our neighborhood would have an irrigation day.  This meant making sure your ditch was clear and opened at the gate, that you didn't flood your neighbor and he didn't flood you.

Some neighborhoods were very organized, others weren't.  If somebody wasn't paying attention, there could be real fireworks.  Several fist-fights broke out among neighbors!  Nasty phone calls! A mess.  The yard was deep under water for a day, and a muddy muck for a week after.  Why, do you ask, would anyone do it that way?  Well, the river water was abundant and cheap, that's why.  Also, this got started before anyone had even thought about "sprinkler systems".

In order to make this event a little bit happier around our home, we would have Irrigator's Breakfast.  This meant that whatever manner the eggs were fixed, we also had homemade Biscuits with jam and cream.  And of course, honey and butter for my LB.

My mother, being from New Zealand, always served our biscuits at home with jam and whipped cream, in an attempt (a good one!) to recreate the scones and cream she had at home.  So here it is.  
Start with self-rising flour.  That's what I usually do, if you don't have SR flour, add a teaspoon of baking POWDER to about 2 cups of regular all purpose.
Then add a nice pinch of baking SODA.

Next, a nickel-size pile of salt gets added in. OK, maybe this is a little more than that.

 Whisk it up well.  Then add a chunk of Crisco about the size of a small orange.

Now, get your pasty blender and make it look like this.
When your pastry resembles the elusive Pea-size crumbs, or just whenever you can see that some of it is sticking together, stop. Get your buttermilk and pour a lake that looks like about 1/3 the total mass.  Stir that up.

If you don't have buttermilk, don't despair.  Add lemon juice or vinegar to your milk and let it curdle a bit.  You need the acid for the baking soda to do it's stuff and puff up in the biscuit.  You can do it without baking soda and just add regular milk, but it's not as good.  No tang, less flavor.
This didn't look quite wet enough to me, so I added a tech more buttermilk.  You need to have it enough to stick together, but just that much, not more.  If you do you'll end up with nice biscuits but not a hard outside crust.  Sniff.
Now!  That's right.

Go do something else for a minute while this rests.  I went and let the chickens out.  They were waiting for me.

Just pat it out, but yes, you can roll it a little if you must.  I always play a little game where I try to use all of it but there's usually a leeeetle bit left.

Okay, now into a very hot oven (450) for about 12 minutes.  Watch them closely after that.  Sometimes I fudge a little and turn on the broiler to brown the tops better at the end.

Everybody is waiting.   Did somebody say Biscuits?

Al-righty, then.  Now that's the way a biscuit should be.  Not soft and well,... weak,  but flakey, with a crisp crust.  A crusp, if you will.  And this is how they looked all dressed up.  Oh, my.  Almost worth irrigating for.

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