by Dianne Boate
There are many reasons for the kitchen to be called the heart of a home, for it can be used as a secret weapon if a balance of harmony gets upset. I cannot count the times that I’ve started a pot of rice to calm the atmosphere with great wafts of that superior aroma. I have also used pancakes, waffles, bread, cake, cookies, and biscuits. These tantalizing smells promise something good is on the way; bad vibrations then sneak out the back door. It works.
When it comes to hospitality, you can help set the mood by the surprise of hot buttery biscuits flying out of your oven. They will be a great hit for your wine tasting events, and are superb with summer’s tasty BBQs and casseroles, bounty of vegetables, and delicious fruits. The secret is the smell of the baking biscuits enticing your guests as they come through the door … timed exactly right, with just a little planning. Biscuits possess a quality that makes them wonderful for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, parties, and picnics.
I have many favorite recipes, but instead of more standard versions, I’m pulling out an unusual and easy-to-make recipe with mashed potatoes.
MASHED POTATO BISCUITS
This recipe is from a slim book called Old Timey Recipes , purchased years ago in North Carolina— one of those Church Lady cookbooks full of old-time goodness.
- 1 cup mashed potatoes (I use packaged mashed potato flakes)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ½ teaspoon soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 cups flour ( I used Gold Medal Bread Flour)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
Preheat to over 400 degrees. Dissolve soda and salt in buttermilk, add honey. In a large bowl, stir butter into mashed potatoes, add buttermilk mixture, flour, baking powder, brown sugar. Mix lightly, turn out on cutting board (or your countertop) covered with plastic wrap. Using the wrap, knead mixture until flour is incorporated (see picture) then roll out to ¾ inch, cut with biscuit cutters that have been dipped in flour. Place on baking sheet with about 2 inches space apart. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until top is well browned, remove to a wire rack to cool. Makes about 3 dozen medium sized biscuits.
- Biscuits, butter
- Dijon mustard
- Cooked pieces of crisp bacon
- Sliced tomatoes
- Thin pieces Gruyere cheese
- Italian parsley sprigs
Split biscuits, spread both sides with soft butter, then with Dijon mustard on one side. Build the rest of the sandwich with bacon, tomatoes, cheese, and parsley. Secure top piece with a long toothpick.
Place unbaked biscuits on top of a stew during last 15 minutes of oven baking.
Heat about ½ cup honey with 2 tablespoons bourbon. Let cool. Drizzle honey over blue cheese, serve with freshly made biscuits.
But if your baking inclinations are on the slim side there’s always packaged biscuits ready to bake, and packaged biscuit mix! Biscuits have come a long way in recipe making and in the goods you can buy at market. Do try some of those refrigerated biscuits called Grands.
When I was growing up out in the woods of Northern California, there were two family households — one where my great-grandmother made biscuits from scratch, and the other where my father cooked our meals on a wood burning stove. His spécialité was a pan of cinnamon rolls filled with apples, baked with a syrup that started out with a rolled dough made with Bisquick. When my mother’s biscuits did not turn out right, she called them “Dough-gods.” But! The term actually comes from WW1—check this out—when soldiers in the field had no bread, just flour and water, they would make a dough of it, place on end of a stick and roast over their open fire, and that was a “Dough-god.” I do believe that this was also the origin of the Australian “damper.” Somehow the phrase floated over the ocean from Europe and landed in my mother’s backyard, in Eureka, California.
If you cut your biscuits close, you will be left with some pieces which can be baked and used for a variety of dishes. I have a rule of rolling out biscuit dough scraps only once more after initial rolling, to be assured of the same light tender melt-in-your-mouth taste and texture.
Dianne Boate, a former staff member of the original Dating Game television show, and later, The Renaissance Pleasure Faire, is The Hat Lady, maker of custom millinery, and The Cake Lady, a special events baker for 30 years in the Bay Area. Between cake assignments, she has had several one-woman photography shows, and participated as a botanical illustrator in group shows benefiting the Conservatory of Flowers, National AIDS Memorial Grove, Marin Cancer Institute, and University of California Alumni Association. Her website can be found at www.boatecollection.com.