Just an old dog here with some new tricks, a handful of cheese, and a spicy peppers.
A few weeks ago I watched Carla Hall make biscuits here in New Orleans and a lovely new place for culinary people called Nochi. Carla is a biscuit queen – this coming from someone who thinks herself a bit of a biscuit queen… in the most modest way those thoughts can manifest.
Carla taught me a few new biscuit tricks. 1) Using a bit of vegetable shortening along with a good dose of butter. 2) Grating frozen butter which really does help you work the butter less, keeping it nice and cold. and 3) Folding the biscuit dough to help foster a really layered and flaky biscuit.
There are great biscuits and then there are… every other biscuit. I’m only accepting great biscuits these days, maybe topped with cheese.
These are are great biscuits, folded up to flaky. Let’s bake!
Here’s what you’ll need for this biscuit adventure:
• flour, salt, a bit of sugar, baking powder and baking soda, plus a dash of chili powder.
• cold butter, frozen actually, grated on the large side of a box grater.
• vegetable shortening, just a bit, for extra flakiness.
• cheddar cheese and sliced Fresno chilis (they’re spicy but not too too spicy). Feel free to substitute pickled jalapeños or skip them all together if you’d like.
Start with the dry ingredients. Give it all a good toss together starting with a tablespoon of baking powder, aided by a dash of baking soda, salt, and sugar.
A good dose of chili powder will add a nice, earthy depth to the biscuits.
I usually use only butter when making my biscuits but Carla taught me some new tricks. A bit, just a bit of vegetable shortening!
The mixture of fats in these biscuits is great! The butter brings the flavor and an incredible flakiness while the shortening adds a soft and almost cake-like texture between the layers.
Use fingers to work the shortening in the flour mixture.
Work the shortening in very well. We’re trying to coat much of the flour in fat, we don’t need flakes of shortening like we need flakes of butter. We want to coat the flour mixture in fat to foster that cake-like texture.
Once the vegetable shortening is worked into the flour, toss in the very cold butter.
The butter should start frozen which makes it easier to grate on a box grater and ensures that the butter stays cold as we’re working it into the flour mixture.
Work the butter into the flour.
The grater did a lot of the work for is so we’re fluffing the butter in the flour mixture, pressing between your finger and thumbs while working the fat into the flour.
Keep lots of butter shreds in the flour mixture. That will lend to the fluff we want from these biscuits!
Create a well in the center of the butter and flour mixture and add buttermilk.
Down in New Orleans, every day is different when it comes to moisture in the air, so I always leave a bit of cold buttermilk behind in case I have enough moisture in the air to work these biscuits.
Toss the wet and the dry together. Moisten every bit of flour.
Toss together. See about adding more buttermilk if you need it.
Toss the dough out onto a clean and floured work surface.
No roller necessary – just press the dough into a 1/2 inch thick rectangle.
Letter fold the biscuit dough, folding it in thirds. Rotate the dough 90 degrees and press into a 1/2 inch rectangle again.
This turn, sprinkle in a handful of shredded cheddar cheese.
Why not fold some cheese into these beauties?
Again, fold the dough into a letter – folding it in thirds.
Rotate the dough 90 degrees once again and this time, press the dough into a 3/4-inch thickness.
Use a 2-inch round biscuit cutter to create biscuit shapes.
Place them about 1-inch apart on a greased baking sheet.
We want to keep them cozy so they bake up close to one another. Almost like pull-apart babies.
You’ll want to stack and re-press the dough to create as many biscuits as you can. Not a scrap to waste!
No egg wash necessary.
Refrigerate the rolls while the oven preheats to hot hot hot.
Refrigerating the rolls will help the butter rechill so when it hits the oven the water in the butter evaporates in a burst creating those flaky layers!
Once baked to golden, remove from the oven and sprinkle each biscuit with more cheddar cheese and a few Fresno chili slices. Don’t be shy!
All topped and ready to pop back into the oven to melt the cheese and toast the chilis.
I love the super browned bits.
These biscuits are irresistible right out of the oven. Go for it as soon as you won’t burn your fingers.
The texture is soft and cak-like with layers of flaky dough. It’s a perfect balance!
Also… if you had a pot of Weeknight Chicken Chili going on the stove – no one would be mad at you!
Photos with my dear Jon Melendez.
Recipe adapted just slightly from Carla Hall’s latest book Carla Hall’s Soul Food.
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for shaping the dough
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 3/4 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening, plus more for the pan
- 8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, frozen
- 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 cups cold buttermilk
- 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 fresno chili, thinly sliced
- Lightly grease a half-sheet pan with shortening and set aside.
- To make the dough, in a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, chili powder, and baking soda.
- Add the vegetable shortening and with your fingers, work the shortening into the flour mixture. Work until all of the shortening has disappeared into little bits. The fat will coat the flour and the whole mixture will feel more crumbly. Great job!
- Remove the butter from the freezer and quickly grate it (being careful of your fingers!) on the largest side of a box grater. Quickly add the butter shreds to the flour mixture and again using your fingers, work the butter into the flour. This time you won't be working the fat as much, you want there to be visible butter shreds throughout the mixture.
- Create a well in the center of the butter and flour mixture and pour in 1 1/4 cups buttermilk. Use a wooden spoon or a spatula and toss to combine. You may find that you need to add the remaining 1/4 cup buttermilk. It just depends on the day. See that all bits of flour and butter are moistened and dump the mixture out onto a lightly floured work surface.
- (Carla uses a nonstick cooking spray to lightly spray the counter, before adding flour to the counter. She says that this help the counter flour stay in place. Cool trick, right?)
- Knead the dough twice or three times to incorporate it, but try not to over-work it. Pat the dough into a 1/2-inch rectangle. Fold the dough into thirds like a letter. Rotate the dough 90 degrees, pat out into a 1/2-inch thickness and this time sprinkle the dough with about 1/2 cup of grated cheese and repeat the letter fold.
- Press the dough out into a 3/4-inch thickness and lightly flour a 2-inch biscuit round. Press the biscuit cutter straight down into the dough and transfer the biscuit round to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with as many biscuits as you can, keeping them about 1-inch apart on the baking sheet so they bake up closely together.
- Stack and repress the scraps to create as many biscuits as you can and place the baking sheet in the refrigerator.
- Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Once oven is preheated, bake the biscuits until golden brown about 16 minutes. Remove from the oven and top with sliced chilis and a good sprinkle of cheese. Return to the oven for 3-4 minutes just to melt the cheese.
- Remove from the oven, allow to cool until for a few minutes but serve warm! Enjoy!