Vintage Breakfast Biscuits

by rivka on March 10, 2008 · 2 comments

in breakfast and brunch, comfort food, pies and tarts

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I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that everyone loves a good buttermilk biscuit. What’s not to love? buttery rich flavor and mouthfeel, flaky texture, piping hot innards, and now I have to stop because I’m salivating. Back in Israel, D used to get super excited at the prospect of biscuits for breakfast. Now that I’ve discovered my absolute favorite buttermilk pancake recipe, biscuits get less airtime in our house, but I haven’t totally forgotten about them.

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This weekend, I decided rather impulsively to throw a batch together. Mind you, this wasn’t an 8am inspiration I had — it was the middle of the afternoon. We don’t do biscuits for dinner in my house, and likely wouldn’t be eating the bulk of them until the next day (or even — eek! — the day after.) But I still couldn’t resist. I decided to compromise by making a more durable biscuit, one that could serve as a crumpet or scone equivalent for an afternoon snack with tea.

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Buried deep in my never-stack of must try recipes, many of which I print out four to a page and stack above my cookbooks (yep, D loves that little stack of papers that never disappears), was a lovely recipe for Vintage Jam Tarts from Heidi at 101 cookbooks. Heidi’s recipe was from her grandma — hence the “vintage” in the title — and her tarts looked appetizing and unfussy. The method behind vintage jam tarts was to make a simple biscuit dough, cut circles out of the dough, and remove a smaller circle from half of the biscuits. Heidi stuck some jam in between, baked them off, and voila! — easy tarts.

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As I wanted biscuits, I halved the recipe and skipped the sandwiching step, leaving me a rather generous batch of thin, flaky biscuits. As the taste and texture of these biscuits were more subtle and delicate than usual, I skipped my old standby of raspberry jam and opted instead for some fig spread and clotted cream. (Note: clotted cream is a delightfully thick cream, so dense it’s spreadable as butter. It’s available at Whole Foods and other specialty markets, or here, at Amazon. I should probably call them crumpets at this point, sounding as British as I do.

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Vintage Breakfast Biscuits

  • 1 cup finely-ground cornmeal
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely ground sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, chilled, and cut into 1/4-inch chunks
  • 1 1/2+ cups milk
  • 1 egg, just the egg white
  • 1/3 cup jam (any flavor(s) you like)

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Into a large bowl, or preferably, a food processor add the cornmeal, flours, salt, baking powder, sugar. To the dry ingredients add the butter. Using a pastry cutter or 30-35 quick pulses of the food processor, blend the mixture until it resembles tiny, sandy pebbles.

Dump the mixture into a medium bowl, add 1 1/2 cups of milk and with a fork stir just until everything is combined. You are going to roll out the dough, so if it is too wet, stir in a couple extra tablespoons of flour, if it is too dry stir in an extra tablespoon or two of milk. You don’t want to overwork the dough, or your tarts will be tough, so stir only as much as you have to.

Dump the dough out onto a well-floured surface, pull it together into one large mound, and roll out until it is about 1/3-inch thick. Pat with more flour if things get sticky – sticky dough is your enemy in this recipe. Cut the biscuit dough with a medium cutter (the one I used was about 2-inches across), then cut into half the rounds with a slightly smaller cutter if you’re making tarts.

Brush the large rounds with a bit of egg white – this will give the tarts that nice golden color. Place the outer rings on top, brush those with the egg white, and fill with a bit of jam.

Place the tarts on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 10-13 minutes – I found that 10 minutes was enough for the biscuits. The rimmed baking sheet is important to use if you’re making tarts because they tend to have a bit of runoff, and you want to prevent a mess in your oven.

Makes about 1 – 2 dozen tarts, depending on the size of your cutters.

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