One of my first big Sandra Lee-type triumphs in the kitchen was with biscuits. At the time, I was using Bisquick, and after a number of successful productions, I decided there was no reason I shouldn’t make the fluffy little drop biscuits more interesting by adding herbs, or green onions, or cheese, and then that my creations would probably be better with buttermilk rather than skim milk, and then at some point, with contributions from Mark Bittman and Michael Ruhlman, the Bisquick box disappeared altogether and the biscuits got fluffier, and higher, and packed densely with all kinds of interesting additions.
There are probably enough biscuit recipes on this site – adding another seems superfluous. But they are so tasty, and so comforting, and so simple, and they accept additions that drive them into the realms of sweet or savory so well, that they keep popping up on my list of food ideas. This time, with half a bag of dried apricots in my pantry and a partial log of goat cheese in my fridge, there were no excuses for a special weekend breakfast.
Biscuits are a comforting baked item because they are easy. No yeast, so no long rise times or careful shaping or temperature concerns. No special flours or long ingredient list, and you don’t even have to have actual buttermilk to make buttermilk biscuits; you can just add a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to regular milk, stir it up, and let it sit for two minutes, and you suddenly have perfectly serviceable “buttermilk” to work with. Mine are complicated just a tiny bit by a lazy-person’s adaptation of Michael Ruhlman’s method for lots of moist, fluffy layers, much like those beautifully sodden pillows from the can that you have to rap on the edge of the counter – you know what I mean – but this only entails a few extra folds and rolls of the dough before punching or cutting out your biscuit shapes.
Most magical of all, biscuits survive freezing spectacularly. Once mixed and rolled and cut, you can stow them in the freezer overnight, which means hot, fresh, flaky biscuits for breakfast can be yours in just over twenty labor-free minutes – time easily used to start the coffee, or find your slippers, or get some Lou Reed going to groove breakfast to.
Apricot and Goat Cheese Biscuits
Makes 10-12 biscuits (2-3 inch diameter)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon raw sugar (I use turbinado)
2 tablespoons baking powder
¾ cup chopped dried apricots (chop to your desired size – I like a mix of rough and fine)
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into chunks
½ cup crumbled goat cheese
6 ounces cold buttermilk (or faux buttermilk: stir one tablespoon white vinegar or lemon juice into the milk and let it sit for 2 minutes before using)
- Line a baking tray with parchment paper. If you are cooking the biscuits immediately, preheat the oven to 400F. If you are cooking the biscuits the next day, clear some space in your freezer.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, and dried apricots until well combined. Tumble in the butter and the goat cheese and, with a pastry blender, a fork, or two knives (I’ve never mastered this method, though), work in the chunks until well distributed in small pebbly bits throughout the mixture.
- Now, pour in the buttermilk and, using a fork, turn and mix and work until a clumpy, wet dough forms. Dump this out onto a well-floured board and, with lightly floured hands, work it into a ball.
- Use your hands or a floured rolling pin to flatten the dough ball you’ve formed into a rectangle or oval about 1 inch thick. Then, fold up the flattened shape into thirds, turn it 90 degrees, and flatten again. Repeat this process of folding, turning, and flattening twice more. When the biscuits bake, they will rise high with lots of fluffy layers.
- With your folded and flattened dough back at about 1 inch thick, punch out biscuit rounds by pushing a biscuit cutter or the lip of a glass straight down through the dough. Don’t twist! Twisting disrupts all the layers you’ve just made and the biscuits won’t rise as high or as evenly.
- When you have punched out all the biscuits you can, gather the dough back together into a ball, knead gently once or twice, and then flatten out again and punch remaining biscuits. You should be able to get 10-12 out of this amount, depending on the diameter of your cutting tool.
- Space your punched-out biscuits at least half an inch apart on your prepared baking sheet. If you are baking immediately, place the loaded tray into your preheated oven and bake for 12-14 minutes, until the biscuits are just golden on top. If you are waiting, shove the tray straight into your freezer. The next morning (or whenever you need freshly baked biscuits), remove the tray from the freezer, preheat the oven to 400F, and bake for 18-20 minutes. There’s no need to defrost first – the extra time in the oven will do the job.
- Either way, serve steaming. We like ours with butter and honey.