Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Attempted Homicide Biscuits

white death flourHave you heard people refer to white flour as White Death Flour? That’s how I’ve come to think of it…but, my family is still rather fond of that stuff.  They eat what’s in the house…and since I’m in charge of all things food, well, they don’t eat a lot of stuff made with that White Death Flour – at least not at home.  And, truth be told, every now and again I get a hankerin’ for some biscuits or tortillas or a nice, thick hunk of white bread fresh out of the oven and kissed with butter.

I made biscuits the other night. Killer biscuits, to be exact. When that descriptor went through my mind, I immediately thought of White Death Flour…BUT, I reasoned, since these biscuits were made from scratch and had raw milk, coconut oil and butter in them…well, they were at least healthier than biscuit mix or those refrigerated cans of dough.  They couldn’t really be classified as killers, could they? Wouldn’t it just be more like attempted murder?

Whatever helps me sleep at night, right?

Strict Real Foodies are probably cringing as they read this. The ones that have banished white flour and sugar completely from their diet…and honestly, I wish I could say that’s where I’m at! I have to emphasize here the Real part of Real Foodie, for me anyway, also includes “being real” about my budget, my time, and my family…and sometimes, well, sometimes we eat stuff I really don’t want to. My family eats what I cook because they’re hungry and their choices are eat that or make your own meal. Which they would, probably, if we had ramen noodles, frozen pizza and blue boxes of mac ‘n cheese in the house.

BUT…making a meal that no one but myself will eat defeats the purpose, too. I certainly don’t have room in my budget for throwing out food, nor do I want to – that is not good stewardship of God’s blessings.  So, I compromise on occasion…and make a loaf of white bread, or pizza dough, or tortillas, or biscuits. We’re still eating healthier versions of store-bought foods, and sometimes that’s just the best we can do. As long as the majority of the time we’re eating better (or the best!) foods, we’re still coming out ahead.

Check out the killer biscuits I made:

killer biscuit dough
Right before on the pic to see it bigger and you can see the layers
killer biscuit fall over
You know that nice looking chunk of dough up there in the first picture? Apparently, there was so much rise on  that biscuit it toppled over!  I think If I had cut them wider, say 6 biscuits instead of 9, they wouldn't have fallen over like they did. But the flaky layers are very evident!
killer biscuit flaky layers
When I was still at home, we loved "flakies" - those refrigerated biscuits with the flaky layers.  I won't buy them now, no matter how cheap they are. They just taste gross to me. Besides, I can make my own flakies  (:
killer biscuit flaky layers close up
It's all in the technique, the cut and the fat: Don't overwork it while mixing, then FOLD the dough over on itself 5-6 times, don't knead it like the recipes usually say. You can see evidence of the folding in this biscuit. For higher rise on biscuits, USE A SHARP KNIFE OR BISCUIT CUTTER. The right side of this biscuit was the edge of the dough, the left side was cut with a Cutco bread knife...ubersharp! I don't make round biscuits anymore but squares because a knife is sharper than a glass dipped in flour and I get much taller biscuits that way. Sometimes I trim off the edges of the dough and have darned near perfect biscuits. And the fat secret? Most recipes say cut in the fat until it resembles cornmeal, but you actually need small chunks of fat to improve rise and flakiness. You need to leave some pea-sized chunks of fat in the flour. Also make sure the fat is COLD. I also use a baking stone and preheat it in the oven while making the biscuits.
killer biscuits on platter
These biscuits not only looked beautiful (in spite of some oddly-shaped ones) but tasted  absolutely divine! If  I'm gonna die from eating white flour, this is the way to go...

killer biscuits and butter
No self-respecting biscuit would be caught dead dressed in anything but real, honest to goodness least not at MY house!

I debated on whether or not to include this recipe, since the "best" results (as far as rise goes, anyway) come from using White Death Flour. But, since I started out on this Real Food journey in baby steps, switching from canned biscuits or biscuit mix to making them from scratch, for example, I decided maybe someone else who is in that same place would like this recipe. I usually make these now with half whole wheat flour...and am journeying into the world of soaked grains...but I still fall back to this recipe when the urge for Death by Biscuit hits.


  • 2 c flour
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 4 tsp aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 c traditional fat (coconut oil, lard, butter or combination)
  • 2/3 c milk (raw, whole fat, or buttermilk will work wonderfully)

Preheat your oven to 450, throw in your baking stone to preheat if using one. Mix dry ingredients, cut in fat with a pastry blender until it resembles coarse crumbs, making sure to have some pea-sized chunks. Add milk and stir gently with a fork just until moistened and the dough will follow the fork around the bowl. Turn out onto lightly floured surface and gently pat into a ball, then press out and fold the dough over onto itself 5 or 6 times. I usually try to shape it into a square or rectangle during this process to eliminate handling it too much before cutting. Using a SHARP knife or biscuit cutter, cut out your biscuits. Place on stone or baking sheet and bake 10-12 minutes, until golden brown.


It takes practice to get good at doing anything, and baking and cooking are no exceptions. Especially when learning to cook from scratch or learning traditional methods of preparing give yourself some grace if they don't turn out perfectly the first time. Sometimes it's your flour, sometimes it's how you worked the dough, sometimes it's the weather (seriously...humidity will jack up a baking day, trust me!). I've been working on biscuits for over a year now and believe me, I've had some flops. But when they do turn out oh man, there's just nothing like a good homemade biscuit!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Perfectionist Kitchen...Grace Under Fire

I wish this was my kitchen, but it's from
Do you struggle with perfectionism? I always believed perfectionists live in those House Beautiful centerfolds, have perfectly behaved families, and never have a hair out of place. Then I discovered that I was one. And believe me, House Beautiful couldn't be paid enough to photograph my home, my family is not perfectly behaved, and I often have hairs out of fact, it's almost noon as I type this on a cloudy Saturday morning, I'm still in my PJ's, and my hair is stylishly coiffed in a frightful Why-Yes-I-DID-Just-Roll-Out-Of-Bed 'do.

And yet, I'm busy working in my kitchen...the room that currently looks like a scale model of a nuclear testing ground. I've made sourdough pancakes, fed my starter, mixed up some healthy('s not soaked) granola that is currently infusing my home with the most delightful aroma of oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, honey, butter and coconut ( you can find the recipe here, at Kitchen Stewardship!), and I just started some dough in my breadmaker to make the bratwurst buns we need for tomorrow's outing to a local park to hunt for mushrooms and just enjoy spending the day together. I'm very happy that my 16 year old stepson will be joining will help make for a wonderful Mother's Day!

I'm taking a coffee break...enjoying some freshly ground Starbucks House Blend, sweetened slightly with sucanat and lavishly lightened with some raw cream from local, happy, organically grass-fed cows. Mmmmm...

So, back to the perfectionist kitchen oxymoron...I've learned that "perfectionist" doesn't always mean one does things perfectly and always "has it together". In fact, it can mean just the opposite, because the inability to do something perfectly paralyzes the perfectionist, and nothing gets done. 

I had a long day yesterday...not enough sleep, I've started babysitting for a three year old girl so I toted two three year olds around with me on grocery/errand day (wow...that's a challenge!), came home, made homemade pizza (thank God for 5-Minute pizza crust...), tried to make some sourdough English muffins (emphasis on TRIED. I don't want to talk about that one.), had a daughter who chose to lose out on allowance rather than do her dishes...and I just didn't have the energy to do them, even though starting the day off with a clean kitchen is so much more inviting and efficient. So, I went to bed. And got some rest, which I really, really needed. I wasn't too worried about the dishes running off in the middle of the night, or someone breaking in and stealing them....or washing them for me (now that would be wonderful, though...)

I did neaten the mess up before bed...sounds kind of odd but you know what I mean...stack the dishes, wipe up some crumbs, little things that only took a few seconds and not much energy. 

So, I find myself facing the day, and the mess, early this morning after taking my daughter to a Girl Scout function for the day ("I'll do the dishes tomorrow, mom..."). I know that I want to get these things accomplished today:
  • make granola
  • make granola bars
  • make buns for our picnic lunch Sunday
  • move Little Mister's toys up into his new room
  • catch up on laundry
  • clean up the kitchen, including mopping the floor
A To-Do list is always a little like shopping for clothes for me...I take a big pile of garments into the dressing room, spend forever in there trying them on, then come out with one or two that I like. I know I will not, realistically, be able to get all that done today. So, I have to I clean the kitchen first? It's tempting, since it is usually easier to work on clean, uncluttered surfaces...but then I'll have to clean the kitchen twice. I don't like to do it once, why make myself do it twice? Do I do laundry first? Well, I could start some, but my stepson beat me to the washer and honestly, I feel a bit ADD today, I'm not sure I could remember to stay on top of it! 

My choices then, are, get the kitchen in Perfect Order and then start cooking....or do nothing. Yep, that's how my mind works...all or nothing, most of the time. If I can't do it perfectly, then I just don't do it. It's something I've struggled to overcome for years. So, today, I decided to do something completely different and allow myself to consider a third option: start cooking anyway, in spite of the less-than-perfect conditions. And to remember to give myself some grace...I'm a very real person, I don't have it all together, I can't actually be perfect.

It was a stretch...I had to keep stopping myself from switching over to Clean Up The Kitchen Perfectly First mode, but I was able to get some things my kitchen looks really bad! See, you won't find this in an issue of Better Homes and Gardens, I'm sure...

...kind of looks like squirrels were cooking in there. Highly distractable squirrels who have had one too many cups of coffee...

But, I can take some comfort in knowing I will only be cleaning it once today. And if I can get myself away from this computer, I just might be able to get more than I thought accomplished. 

Beating perfectionism, one baby step at a time...and making some darned good granola in the process...that's my day today...what habits or tendencies do you have that hinder you in the kitchen? How are you overcoming them?