Once upon a time I was a baker in a professional kitchen. I’m talking about the kind of kitchen with bins of flour so large they you could climb inside and take a nap…. the kind of kitchen where you had to yell (and I mean YELL) ‘behind’, so no one crashes into your pan of scones on their way to the oven…. the kind of kitchen that was noisy, full of chocolate, hot pans, sheet trays for days, savory scones… and smelled REALLY GREAT.
I spent so much time in the professional kitchen that my home kitchen was as modest as it was tiny. I had two mixing bowls, a spoon, and a spatula to my name. Why bother with more than one cake pan when I make ALL of the cakes in a rowdy kitchen with thundering ovens?
My working kitchen these days is very different. I have more than one cake pan. I have more than a single wooden spoon, yes… and while it’s still a humble kitchen, there are a few tools in the kitchen that feel like necessary extravagances.
I want to take some time to talk about what I keep in my Baker’s Kitchen. I think it’s important to know what’s over-the-top extravagant, and what’s a reasonable tool to stock. Kitchen real-estate is a precious commodity. Let’s only stock up with what we really need.
I’ve partnered with my very favorite kitchen brand KitchenAid in a 3-part series to show you some of my very favorite kitchen tools and baker’s tricks. It doesn’t take a lot to coax great flavors and flakey crusts out of the oven.
Today we’re talking about my favorite 11-cup Food Processor. It will have you making ALL of the biscuits, ALL of the pie crusts, and ALL of the pesto. It’s the best, and super versatile!
It’s not just the blades, mixers, and processors that make our kitchen lives easier and more delicious. It’s bakings unexpected ingredients that also make our cookies and cakes shine bright.
I cleared out my spice cabinet to show you some of my favorite and most unexpected baking flavors.
Let’s talk from top to bottom!
Joy the Baker’s Not So Secret Spices
Cocoa Nibs: These dark, almost coffee-like crunchy bites are cocoa beans that have been roasted, separated from their husks, and crushed. They’re bitter and crunchy and a perfect addition to granola and meringue. The bitterness is a wonderful compliment to the sweetness of most baked goods. See: Vanilla Bean and Cocoa Nib Meringues.
Sprinkles: Not a spice. Not really a flavor. Definitely an all-the-way-feel-good situation. Sprinkles added to just about anything is scientifically proven to alter moods for the better… says only me.
Furikake: Imagine the perfect balance of salty, sweet, seaweed, fish, and seaweed. Hello, Furikake! I love a savory bend to my sweet treats, and furikake is IT. Try it in Roy Choi’s Furikake Kettle Corn or sprinkled on Rice Krispie Treats! Zing!
Ground Corriander: Can you imagine putting ground cilantro seeds in my Dad’s Perfect Sweet Potato Pie? Seems so wrong, yet ground coriander (made from ground cilantro seeds) adds an intriguing slant to earthy desserts.
(Smoked) Sea Salt: Salt is perhaps my second favorite baking item.. second only to butter. Salt is the ultimate balance to our brown-sugar-laden brownies The Best Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies. Salt is so important that is should be fancy and smoked where possible. Treat yourself to good finishing salt and watch your baked goods soar. When paired with browned butter? Game over.
Espresso Powder: Deep, dark, bitter, earth espresso powder. Oooh we thank you for the depth and darkness you add to our chocolate desserts. You’re the perfect caffeinated compliment!
Black Pepper: All things, both sweet and savory, can benefit from just a hint of heat. I love the familiar base flavors of black pepper, especially in Autumn breads like Pumpkin Bread with Walnuts.
Dried Lavender: Herby, floral, and delicate! Dried lavender makes things lovely. Just be careful not to add too much. That leads to soapy tasting desserts. See: Lavender Blackberry Scones
Pistachios: Always. The salty, nutty, not-too-fatty crunch is everything! They’re also really pretty when coarsely chopped. Baked Brown Butter and Pistachio Doughnuts
Now let’s put this food processor and these special ingredients to work!
It’s time for a baking classic in my kitchen: Buttermilk Biscuits. If you can make a good biscuit, really… anything is possible.
First let’s talk about these fine combinations.
My favorite baked foods are a combination of sweet and salty and these two-way biscuits play perfectly in that theme.
Let’s combine salt with sweet and bitter dark chocolate!
Let’s combine salty sharp cheddar cheese with sweet figs and spicy black pepper.
All of the flavors in all of the biscuits.
I usually incorporate my biscuit ingredients by hand. This comes from years (blurry, sore-handed years) in a from-scratch bakery that took pride in making every muffin and scone BY HAND. No mixers. BY HAND.
So… biscuits by hand. Always, until now.
I threw flour, butter, sugar, salt, and leavening in my 11-qt KitchenAid Food Processor and pulsed. Pulsed. Pulsed. No dirty hands. I mean… too easy!
The food processor breaks the butter into the dry ingredients, keeping the butter properly cold (for extra flakey biscuits), and coating the flour in fat (for extra flakey biscuits).
Buttermilk and egg are whisked together.
The buttermilk adds a nice tang and lightness to the biscuits while the egg is an excellent binder for our dough.
I pulsed the beaten buttermilk and egg into the cold butter and flour mixture. The dough comes together shaggy and just right.
It’s time to incorporate our flavorful fillings!
I divided the shaggy dough into two loose disks.
Because the dough is moist and buttery, it won’t need a lot of kneading. Leave it shaggy. Let it be.
Add the savory sweet fillings to the shaggy dough.
Cheddar + fig + black pepper.
Dark chocolate + coarse smoked sea salt.
Gently knead and coax each disk of biscuit dough into a disk about 1-inch thick.
I used a small (about 1 1/4-inch) round biscuit cutter to make tiny but mighty biscuit bites.
The biscuits are brushed lightly with beaten egg. The dark chocolate biscuits are sprinkled with smoked sea salt and off to the oven!
Twenty minutes to golden biscuit heaven!
This post is in partnership with KitchenAid: adored and all up in my baker’s kitchen.