Whip Smart Kitchen

Recipes, methods & musings for the whip-smart home cook

Method

High-rise buttermilk biscuits supreme

Breakfast, Method, Baking, Recipe, Slow FoodLeannda CavalierComment

Flaky, buttery biscuits in a golden crust that rise like champs. They're perfect solo with some butter and jam, or with my personal favorite comfort food—creamed turkey.

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I'm just here for the biscuits and I've already scrolled through 106 photos. Jump to the recipe.

I'm not quite sure how we got to December, but here we are. It's probably a little tired to talk about how the years whir by faster the older you get, but it always seems to surprise me regardless. This is about the time my work starts to slow down and I get to relax and spend time doing the things I love.

JUST KIDDING. I'm panicking about how much baking I can get finished, trying to finish Christmas shopping (I'll start in September next year... is probably a lie), packing frantically and trying to get some recipes photographed last-minute. Oh, and telling everybody else in my life not to sweat the small stuff I'm sweating. 

Despite being hopelessly overcommitted (re: nutso), I have been trying to find ways to tie in reflection and gratefulness into my work here. Which is how we landed on biscuits. 

Biscuits supreme is a recipe I grew up on. It’s a favorite in my Ya-ya’s recipe box, given to her by her mother, my Nee-nee. If you search "biscuits supreme”, you’ll get a good number of similar biscuit recipes with slight variations. As far as I can tell, the original came from a midcentury Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, and like so many other recipes, was passed down through countless families like a delicious game of telephone. 

On a Christmas visit, shortly after I moved to Tennessee, my Ya-ya gave me the recipe printed on an index card in her angular handwriting—one of the few family recipes we have that's actually written down with measurements and full instructions.

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I wish my handwriting was half as interesting as hers, or my great aunt’s whimsical swooping letters. Both should be fonts. I've tried for years to copy them from sticky notes and birthday cards to make my own version, but it's never quite right.

I'm better at emulating their cooking skills, which brings us back to biscuits. To round out the connection, I do like to experiment with things to put my own spin on them. Millennials, amirite?

Why mess with a good thing? Because butter.

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I reaaaaally wanted to use butter. The original recipe calls for shortening, which I’m not opposed to using, but I do try to keep use of heavily processed ingredients to a minimum. It was a product of it's time and it makes total sense here, but butter brings the flakiness in a way shortening can't. 

 

The first time I tried to make biscuits (not my family’s recipe, a random one I found online), I ended up with a crunchy disc. Pretty tasty… but more like a cookie than a biscuit. English biscuit? Um, maybe (no). Definitely not making the cut in Tennessee or West Virginia. 

These biscuits on the other hand. These. Biscuits. Tall and tan and flaky and buttery. These are the biscuits from Ipanema.

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Butter makes a difference because as it cooks, it turns to steam and leaves pockets. That’s why the best biscuits have streaks around the middle like the dough is stacked in layers—it is! The thing is, using butter isn’t enough.

If you just mix the butter in any way you want, those pockets won’t form. If you want flaky, pull-apart layers, you need the right technique. Conventional advice I’ve always heard says to cut cold butter in, then mix it in with your fingers until you have pea-sized chunks.

The misshapen one with the arrowhead-shaped top is the last cut, made of scraps. If you're worried about presentation, just skip it (or make it and scarf it down directly out of the oven before anyone sees it). 

The misshapen one with the arrowhead-shaped top is the last cut, made of scraps. If you're worried about presentation, just skip it (or make it and scarf it down directly out of the oven before anyone sees it). 

It's a good start, but there’s a better way if you want a next-level biscuit. I looked to one of my favorite books, Cooks Illustrated's The Science of Good Cooking for some sage advice. 

I think the biggest help the book offers is the idea of fraisage and lamination—stay with me here, we’re not talking about covering it with plastic. We’re talking flattening the butter and folding it into the dough in layers in this form of lamination, meanwhile fraisage is a French technique where you smear butter into a dough with the heel of your hand. Think about the buttery strips when you tear into a croissant, or a pie crust falling apart and melting in your mouth. Mmmm. 

The book suggests flattening the butter rather than breaking it up into pea-sized chunks, keeping it nice and cold until baking time and folding the dough over onto itself several times. 

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We'll do a rustic version, because as much as I love learning about food science, most people probably don’t want cooking to feel like lab work. I’d personally love to work in a test kitchen, but I’m pretty short on time most days in real life. 

Besides, sometimes I just want to feel more artist than scientist, you know? We’ll riff on it. 

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My family’s recipe already used two of the book’s tips. First, a little shortening is actually a good thing. I’ve always seen shortening as a) one of those supposedly healthy fats that turned out to be worse than butter, and b) a foolproof way to make dough come together. Butter is difficult to work with, but shortening is hard to mess up. 

That is true, but it’s also a hasty generalization. I teach public speaking, so we can't have that. Turns out it serves a separate purpose too—it helps keep the biscuits tender by reducing the moisture content and forming a weaker gluten structure. Weak gluten = tender. Who knew?

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Our family recipe also features two leaveners, which the book recommends, in the form of baking powder and cream of tartar. I left the leaveners the same, but I changed the milk to buttermilk, which changes the acidity and reacts to them a little differently. I think it balanced out pretty well. 

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It's fun looking at how these recipes handed down through the years stand up to science-based techniques. Possibly one of the most fun things is that you don't have to care if you like it the way you already do it. There's rarely only one "right" way to do something. 

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I love my family's classic biscuit recipe, and I love that my Ya-ya makes them for me with creamed turkey when I come home. I love how simple the recipe is to put together. I love that it tastes like what her family sat down to eat during a time I can only imagine. I love reading it in her handwriting and hearing the instructions the way my Nee-nee must have taught her. 

It's also incredible that knowing the concepts of lamination and fraisage help me understand croissants, pie crust, puff pastry, certain breads, other biscuits, scones... and they get me thinking about how I can play with other recipes for a similar effect. Is it possible to make a biscuit or croissant cookie hybrid? Is that already a thing people are standing in line for in Brooklyn? What would you call it? I just googled what I thought it would be called, and that is a different thing. Don't worry about it.

Allow me to distract you with an action shot: 

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This week is super-fun because I'll be posting TWO recipes. I've been pretty inconsistent lately, I know. I doubt anyone is visiting daily to see if I've updated (though, please tell me if you do, because I will die), but I do want to at least follow my own content calendar. I have this anxiety that my strategic communications students will find my blog and berate me for not sticking to the standards I hold them to.

"Mrs. Cavalier, you're not posting consistently enough," they say, in my anxiety-fueled nightmares. "Did you even set objectives? No one is going to stick around if you don't give them content to come back for and serve them. That's what you said."

YES I SAID IT. And it's true. Class, if you're here, it takes SO long to grade your stuff. I love you all anyway. And to anyone who does come here regularly, I really am sorry. I'm working on it. Did I mention I'm also a football sideline reporter and caterer on the weekends? Because this has been a long, rough semester. 

Anyway, I submitted final grades at about 3 a.m. Saturday, and I'm ready to get back to work. That's why later this week I'm posting a recipe for one of my favorite recipes ever: creamed turkey.

Yuuuup Brooke County (West Virginia) people, get ready.  

If that sounds a little suspect to you, I get it. But I promise, creamed turkey is legendary. It is the comfort food of comfort foods. 

While you're here, I'd love to hear what your favorite family recipes are! Let me know in the comments at the end of this post what recipe is most treasured in your family, and whether you've tried it out for yourself. 

If you make this biscuit recipe, I'd love to hear about it! Just comment below, or post a photo to Instagram, Twitter or Facebook with the hashtag #whipsmartkitchen and tag me! You could also use the "tried it" feature on Pinterest. I'm always happy to answer questions as well. 

Let's make some biscuits!

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How to roast peppers in an oven

Method, Fundamentals, Recipe, VegetarianLeannda CavalierComment
Roasted Peppers

It is absolutely incredible how much you can change the flavor of peppers just by roasting them instead of sautéing or sweating them. Let me count the ways: 

1. Roasting adds a smoky touch from the charred skin. The waxy skin of peppers burns up quickly in the oven, acting as a smoky shell for the flesh. 

2. It enhances the sweetness. Ripened bell peppers (red, orange, yellow) are already sweet when they're raw, but other peppers like poblanos, jalapeños and habaneros are decidedly not. Cooking breaks down cell walls, making the sugars much more noticeable. Cooking for a long period of time breaks things down even more, allowing them to react and intensify into more complex flavors. 

3. Both the flavor and the texture get richer, which is great for hearty dishes. Bringing out the oils and juices in the flesh of peppers makes it easier for your mouth to detect all the flavors.

4. The flavor intensifies, but the piquancy softens. Piquancy is the sharpness that leaves you fanning your mouth and reaching for crackers after you take a bite of a raw hot pepper. Roasted peppers are still spicy, but in a more palatable way. 

5. All of this goes double for green peppers, which are unripe. Imagine eating a green bell pepper. It's crunchy, a little astringent and you taste a lot of... green? That's gonna be our chlorophyll. Some enjoy it in raw peppers. Great for photosynthesis. Not so great for chili. 

I'm sure I'm leaving something out, but I think those five enhancements make a pretty strong case. 

Some people like to roast peppers over an open flame on a stovetop. Some people like to grill peppers until they're charred. Great methods. Probably quicker. But who has two thumbs, no grill and an electric range?

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So what's a cook to do? Turn to the broiler. Yes, that button on the oven that's mysterious to people who don't cook, scary to beginners and a God-send to people who cook regularly. Fun fact: broiling is actually a form of grilling. Both are forms of dry heat that work through radiation. 

So now that we've got the why's out of the way, let's move on to the how. 

This method works best for large peppers like poblano and bell peppers. I've also tried it with jalapeños and habaneros, but they’re a little different. You have to watch them more carefully. The flesh is thin and will burn up easily, so reduce the time and watch more closely (noted in recipe). 

Stick around after the recipe for some suggestions for using roasted peppers. 

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So what can you actually do with these peppers? Here are some suggestions:

  • Use them for chili. I swear by this. I tried it once as an experiment and I will never go back!

  • Blend them into a sauce or even a salad dressing. Red pepper vinaigrette is one of my favorites.

  • Throw roasted red bell peppers on a salad or over eggs. Or over a salad with eggs. 

  • Add to a pan with sautéed onions and garlic, then toss with pasta. Alternatively, use cooled roasted peppers to spice up a pasta salad. 

  • Stuff chicken with strips of roasted pepper and cheese. 

  • Mix with melted queso chihuahua (quesadilla cheese) for a smoky dip. 

Those are just a few things I've made and ideas off the top of my head. What are you going to make with roasted peppers? Tell me in the comments!

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How to roast garlic

Method, Make-ahead, Fundamentals, RecipeLeannda CavalierComment
how_to_roast_garlic_pinnable

Sautéing garlic is one of the best ways to build a savory foundation for a dish, but I would argue the best trick up garlic's sleeve takes a little more coaxing.

That's right—roasted garlic is where it's at.  

True story: when I was little, I thought all garlic was like roasted garlic by default. My Ya-ya (grandmother) kept a little repurposed pimento jar full of roasted garlic cloves in the fridge at all times. Fast forward to today, I have a tiny pimento jar of roasted garlic in my fridge too. 

Roasted garlic is more like a bear hug than a punch. Though roasting softens the sharper qualities of garlic, it somehow intensifies the flavor. It's heavy and insistent, but not jarring. 

Roasting brings out its sweetness in garlic by breaking down long chains of fructose, garlic's choice of energy storage. As the garlic browns, those sugars provide a caramel flavor. meanwhile, you're softening the sulfurous zing garlic is known for. 

What you're left with is a pod packed with soft, rich, nutty, caramelly, slightly meaty flavor that leaves a totally different impression than the minced, sautéed iteration. 

Another perk of roasted garlic is the texture itself. First—and not to be minimized—roasted garlic is sooo easy to peel. Second, the cloves can be easily smashed into a paste that lends sauces and other mixtures a savory-sweet kick, without compromising texture. You can even use whole cloves as a garnish, as they are soft, smooth and much less offensive then their raw counterparts. 

Okay, now hear me out. Garlic is SO easy to roast. Read this through and I think you'll realize that. This post is a little long, but only because I want everything to be clear as possible. 

So what can you use this magical ingredient for? Here are some of my faves:

  • Use it to add extra layers of flavor to chili.
  • Rub meats with it before (or after!) cooking.
  • Mix with softened butter to make the best garlic bread of your life.
  • Use roasted garlic paste in sauces.
  • Toss pasta with garlic paste and cream.
  • Spread some on toast (it's different!)
  • Work a little roasted garlic paste into your hamburger or meatball mix.
  • Use it as a condiment on a sandwich. 

There are a million and one ways to use this, I'm positive. I'm finding new ones all the time. What will you do with your roasted garlic? Let me know in the comments!

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