Thursday, March 17, 2011

Comfort.



Right now our world is in need of some comfort. That is probably a large understatement but knowing so many lovely people from a country experiencing an unimaginable amount of despair, I'm lost for words mostly about the heartbreaking situation in Japan.

So many bloggers have said it this week and I concur - how do we write about something like food, in the indulgent and luxurious way we go about it, without sounding like we have blinders on? I don't have the answer, so the best I can do is use my writing to offer some form of comfort, even if it comes in the trivial form of comfort food.

Comfort calls to mind breakfast, and I think it’s time for another lovely, simple Michael Ruhlman recipe post. Because in case you haven’t noticed, I love breakfast. And brunch. Really any meal that allows me to smear jam and salty butter onto a warm fresh baked good.

Along that line of thought…biscuits. Yes, its true that you can buy them in that notorious terrible tube, arrange them on a tray and pop them in the oven. Minutes later you’ll without fail be treated to little unreasonably delicious nuggets of awesomeness. But – it’s almost as easy to just make them yourself. Seriously. I would not delude you on something as critical as a savory breakfast treat.

If you can do simple things like stir, roll, fold, chill, cut, wait, and bake, you can make biscuits. The fanciest piece of equipment you need is a rolling pin - they require being rolled out and folded over and chilled and rolled out and folded over again to create all their gorgeous layers. You can even start them the day before and chill them overnight – that way you’re not left with much work in the morning and can proceed much more quickly to eating them.

Chicago Biscuits (3-1-2 Biscuits)
from Michael Ruhlman's Ratio, slightly adapted

9 ounces flour (a scant 2 cups)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 ounces chilled butter, diced (3/4 stick)
6 ounces milk

Measure flour (on a scale or in measuring cups) and add to a bowl along with baking powder and salt. Add butter (weigh out if you fancy). Rub and pinch the butter into the flour with your fingers so that it is well distributed and in fragments and small chunks, the largest of which are not bigger than peas. Pour in milk and combine just until a dough if formed (Ruhlman notes that you'll see whole chunks of butter, and that's good). Form dough into a 4x6 inch rectangle, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate at least one hour.

Unwrap the dough and dust with flour. Roll the dough out to about three times its size on a floured countertop, board, or plastic wrap, maintaining the rectangular shape. Fold it into thirds and roll it out again (it will be springier). Fold it in thirds again, press it down firmly, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or until thoroughly chilled.

*If you are going to do part of this recipe the night before, this is where you would stop and let the dough chill overnight.

Take the dough out of the refrigerator, unwrap and repeat the procedure again (meaning fold it into thirds, roll it out, then fold it into thirds one last time). Roll the dough out this final time until it's about 1/2 inch thick and cut however you wish - you can either stamp out circles or cut it into squares like I did. (Squares have a more rustic look and you don't waste any of the dough.)

Bake at 400˚ until done - 20 to 30 minutes. (Mine were done in 15, so watch them!) Serve warm slathered with butter and jam.

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