This months bakers challenge was hosted by Audax from Audax Artifex. In many ways he is the backbone among us; always the first to complete the challenge and always providing insightful tips on how to make the challenge more successful. There is never a challenge that he doesn’t seem to take to the limit, pushing flavor boundries to the edge. So it was somewhat of a surprise that when it was his turn to host he chose biscuits. In his native Australia, they are known as scones, but here in North America they are called baking powder biscuits, or biscuits. What I love about this challenge is that while it appears so simple and basic, it is so elusive in reality. How many times have you been to someone’s house and were served hockey pucks that were disguised as biscuits- or worse- how many times have you served them to guests??
With all this being said, you must go visit his site and read up all about his trial and errors. He has some wonderful and interesting things to say on the subject that are not to be missed.
For mine, I baked up the basic version and a cheddar cheese version. The latter I brushed with garlic butter and dried parsley as soon as they came out of the oven which made them taste just like the cheddar bay biscuits served at Red Lobster (mmmm). Many others in the Daring Bakers crew added raisins or fruit so you should check it out, but I like my biscuits without such things. I did try a gingerbread version but decided I like gingerbread cake, not gingerbread biscuits.
We go through spurts of baking biscuits, so they are no stranger to this house. I love this recipe, which is so good with breakfast, but Audix has provided a lovely version as well. There are a few things that will definitely take away with me from this challenge. 1) Grate frozen butter with a box grater (this virtually cuts out blending with your fingertips). 2) use half butter, half shortening 3) let the dough rest before and after cutting
Biscuits are one of those staples that everyone should know how to bake. So give it try and bake on!
1 cup (240 ml) (140 gm/5 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (10 gm) (⅓ oz) fresh baking powder
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1½ gm) salt
2 tablespoons (30 gm/1 oz) frozen grated butter (or a combination of shortening and butter)
approx. ½ cup (120 ml) cold milk
optional 1 tablespoon milk, for glazing the tops (which I don’t do)
Cheddar Cheese variation: Add 2 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese to the dry ingredients. When fresh out of the oven brush immediately with garlic butter and sprinkle lightly with dried parley.
Preheat oven to very hot 475°F/240°C/gas mark 9
Triple sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl.
Rub the frozen grated butter (or combination of fats) into the dry ingredients until it resembles very coarse bread crumbs with some pea-sized pieces if you want flaky scones or until it resembles coarse beach sand if you want tender scones.
Add nearly all of the liquid at once into the rubbed-in flour/fat mixture and mix until it just forms a sticky dough (add the remaining liquid if needed). The wetter the dough the lighter the scones (biscuits) will be! Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 10 minutes.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, lightly flour the top of the dough. To achieve an even homogeneous crumb to your scones knead very gently about 4 or 5 times (do not press too firmly) the dough until it is smooth. To achieve a layered effect in your scones knead very gently once (do not press too firmly) then fold and turn the kneaded dough about 3 or 4 times until the dough has formed a smooth texture. (Use a floured plastic scraper to help you knead and/or fold and turn the dough if you wish.)
Pat or roll out the dough into a 6 inch by 4 inch rectangle by about ¾ inch thick (15¼ cm by 10 cm by 2 cm thick). Using a well-floured 2-inch (5 cm) scone cutter (biscuit cutter), stamp out without twisting six 2-inch (5 cm) rounds, gently reform the scraps into another ¾ inch (2 cm) layer and cut two more scones (these two scones will not raise as well as the others since the extra handling will slightly toughen the dough). Or use a well-floured sharp knife to form squares or wedges as you desire.
Place the rounds just touching on a baking dish if you wish to have soft-sided scones or place the rounds spaced widely apart on the baking dish if you wish to have crisp-sided scones. Pop them back in the fridge for another 10 minutes.
Glaze the tops with milk if you want a golden colour on your scones or lightly flour if you want a more traditional look to your scones. (I never do either of these things)
Bake in the preheated very hot oven for about 10 minutes (check at 8 minutes since home ovens at these high temperatures are very unreliable) until the scones are well risen and are lightly coloured on the tops. The scones are ready when the sides are set.
Immediately place onto cooling rack to stop the cooking process, serve while still warm. Enjoy!