Tuesday, November 04, 2008

A Baker's Contrasts

Years ago, I got into making bread with sourdough starter in a big way. I had initially tried to make starter from just flour and water, and when that failed, Meg bought me a starter kit from King Arthur. That starter worked great for about 6 months, then I accidentally let it get moldy in the fridge. That was the end of round one of sourdough breadmaking.

Round two started a few weeks ago. For some reason I stumbled across Sourdough Home which renewed my interest, so I got a new starter going from scratch. This time, it worked beautifully. I turned out some of the best sourdough bread of my life on Sunday morning. (I wish I had pictures. When I reheat loaf #2 I will take a picture and put it here.)

Filled with baking confidence, I decided that our chicken stew dinner should be supplemented with flaky biscuits. The original recipe called for 16 biscuits, so I decided to halve the recipe. It all started out fine, except that I forgot to halve the baking powder. Fishing around in the flour / baking powder mixture with my fingers, I removed what I considered to be a good approximation of half of the baking powder. (Crude and against all of my meticulous instincts, but I really didn't want 16 biscuits on hand.)

Things were going along swimmingly, then I added what I thought was 3/8 cup of milk. For some reason in my head I calculated this to be "1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons," which is actually 5/8 cup. When the dough looked more like waffle batter than dough, I realized my fatal error. Meg calmly suggested that I could now just go ahead and double the recipe, except that this proved to be a challenge I had already cut in all of the fat and mixed up the dry ingredients. I then performed a random assortment of enhancements to the dough to try to "double" what I had. I started mashing the missing butter in with a fork, I rolled the goop around in some extra flour, and then finished it off by sprinkling a couple of handfuls of salt and baking powder.

While the texture ended up being good (surprisingly), the biscuits were completely flavorless. We left the remainder out for the squirrels, and even they won't go near it. (Actually, the raccoons won't, either, which is really saying something.)


anne marie in philly said...

if at first you don't succeed...

damn, sourdough bread...(slobbers like homer simpson eating a pink frosted doughnut)


organizer2003 said...

From a born and raised southerner--unfortunately, biscuits don't "SWAG" well, like other breads. You also must use a soft wheat flour, like White Lily or Martha White. Regular flour is hard wheat flour and does not make a good biscuit (it makes a very nice hockey puck, though). In a pinch, pastry flour will work.

Ideally, lard is the best fat to use in a biscuit, but that can cread other issues.

Now I'm craving a nice hot biscuit... *sigh*

Stephenson! said...

That's amusing, but I have you beat on cooking horrors... In a nutshell, regular rice isn't the same as converted rice, and I didn't know this. In a slightly bigger nutshell, I was eager to make chicken and rice for Matt for our first Thanksgiving together. I had a new Crock Pot, and I did everything right until I assumed I could leave rice cooking like I could noodles (I like my noodles way overdone) and when I used regular rice instead of converted rice. We had "chicken pudding", which could be spread like (very thick) peanut butter, that consisted of tiny shreds of chicken throughout a slow-cooker full of one giant grain of rice. Sorry. Chicken pudding FTW.

Anonymous said...

Awww, man, don't you hate that? You get a craving for something, and you go through the trouble of making it, and something messes it all up. I love me some good homemade biscuits. I'll stick with my mom's recipe though. Yum.