Monday, 3 October 2011
I grew up in the land of biscuits . . . no they were not cookies (cookies are called biscuits over here in the UK) but beautiful, flakey, and savoury (only very rarely sweet) quick breads quite similar in texture and flavour to what is called a scone over here.
Some might question the difference between a scone and biscuit . . . and I would have to say as subtle as it is . . . it is there. A scone will use butter and either cream or soured/plain milk, whereas in North America biscuits use either shortening or lard and buttermilk or plain milk, are less sweet and more savoury, and can have things like cheese, bacon, onions/scallions and sometimes ham in them. Scones can have these things in them as well, although I would say that then they are more like biscuits than scones. Does that make sense?
Another difference is in the way the fat is added. Here in the UK the fat is most always rubbed into the flour with the fingertips, whereas in North America it is "cut" in . . . using a pair of forks, two double bladed knives or a pastry blender.
I say Vive la difference! Both are beautiful and scrummy and moreishly delicious and both have their uses!
Today I baked some beautiful Black Pepper Biscuits to serve with some cheese and some of my latest batch of homemade Spicy Plum Chutney. Oh my . . . they went down a real treat.
The biscuits were flakey, savoury and peppery, which went beautifully with the cheese and chutney. These would be great served with some smoked gammon or slices of crisp bacon as well . . . and cheese of course! I think they would make great little chicken salad sandwiches and would also be a lovely host to egg mayonnaise!
In short, I just can't think of anything that wouldn't taste better sitting on top of one of these, split, buttered and warm from the oven, or a bowl of soup that wouldn't be enhanced by their presence! Enjoy!!
*Black Pepper Biscuits (Scones)
Makes 16 to 18 (2 inch) biscuits
Beautifully fluffy and peppery. Perfect to serve with chutney's, cheeses, salty meats (bacon, ham, proscuitto) or with hot soups and stews.
8 ounces plain flour (2 1/4 cups) divided
1 TBS Baking Powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 to 1 TBS freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces chilled vegetable shortening,
divided into 2 ounce lots (1/4 cup and 1/4 cup)
250ml of cold buttermilk (1 cup)
softened butter for brushing
Preheat the oven to 230*C/450*F. Lightly butter a large baking sheet. Set aside.
Remove 8/10 of an ounce of flour (1/4 cup) and set aside. Whisk the remaining flour together in a large wide bowl with the baking powder, soda, salt and black pepper. Add half of the shortening in bits and then work it into the flour using a pastry blender, two forks or two round bladed knives. The mixture should look like well crumbled feta cheese. Scatter the remainder of the shortening over top in bits and continue to work in with your fingertips, until you have no pieces which are larger than a pea. Shake the bowl occasionally to move any bigger bits up from the bottom. Do not over work.
Make a deep hollow in the centre of this mixture and add about 3/4 of the buttermilk, reserving some for later if needed. Stir in with a fork, using broad strokes to quickly pull the flour into the milk. Mix just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Sprinkle the remaining flour onto a clean surface. Turn the dough out onto it and turn to lightly coat. Pat lightly into a round which is 1/2 inch in depth. Brush any visible flour off the top. Cut into 2 inch rounds with a round biscuit cutter, using a sharp tap up and down, remembering not to twist the cutter. (Twisting results in a lop-sided biscuit.) You can pull the scraps back together to cut out additional biscuits. They will not be quite as tender as the first ones, but good all the same. Place onto the baking sheet, leaving some space in between each.
Bake for 6 minutes in the upper third of the oven. Rotate the pan and bake for an additional 4 to 6 minutes, until they are a light golden brown. Remove from the oven and brush the tops with some softened butter. Serve hot.
Over in The Cottage this morning, a delicious Plum Streusel.