Friday, October 28

Cornmeal Drop Biscuits, the Souper Sidekick

Fern Glen Inn •

At this time of year, with the days getting shorter and cooler, a big pot of hot and hearty soup is the superhero of supper. And what does every superhero need? Why, a sidekick, of course! That's where biscuits come in.

Like every upstanding citizen knows, a good sidekick should support the superhero, with complementing -- not competing -- strengths. It should contribute essentially to the victory, but not take all the glory. It is content to be simple and steadfast, leaving the complexities and flashiness to the superhero. A sidekick can stand on it's own in a pinch, but it really shines when working as part of a team. Does this have you thinking of Robin, Tonto and Cornmeal Drop Biscuits? It should!

Biscuits have all the characteristics of a great sidekick. They're unassuming and rather plain-looking, but hot and fresh from the oven, they're the perfect partner just about any type of soup or stew you can conjure up. And drop biscuits are super-easy and quick to whip together. Unlike flaky biscuits, they don't have to be rolled or patted out. No cutting into neat pucks or squares. Just drop the dough by spoonfuls onto a baking sheet and pop them in the oven. They'll be golden and ready to eat by the time the soup comes to a simmer.

I like the cornmeal in these biscuits for the added crunch and interesting texture. You can also dress these up for more of a staring role by adding all sorts of extras. Try stirring any of these into the bowl after you've cut in the butter but before adding the wet ingredients:
  • sliced green onion
  • snipped chives
  • diced ham
  • diced or shredded sharp cheese (cheddar, gruyere, emmental are good)
  • crumbled feta or goat cheese
  • chopped sundried tomatoes
  • roasted red peppers or jalapenos
  • hardy herbs (thyme, rosemary, sage)
  • toasted walnuts
  • whatever super accessories will work well with the flavours in your soup

Partner these biscuits with a stellar soup and you'll have a victory at the supper table!

Cornmeal Drop Biscuits
Makes 10-12 biscuits.
These are best served hot or warm, fresh from the oven, but can be reheated in a microwave or crumbled into a bowl of soup the next day.
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) cold butter, cut into dice
  • 1 cup heavy cream, table cream or buttermilk*, plus more if needed
Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or two knives; or rub together with your fingers.
Mixture should look like coarse meal with some pea-sized pieces of butter. Add any extras (herbs, cheese, etc).
Make a well in the centre and pour in one cup of cream (or buttermilk, if using). Stir with a spoon until just combined and no dry flour remains. Add more cream, 1 tablespoon at a time, if needed to fully moisten the dough.

Drop by large spoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheet. Bake until golden brown and cooked through, about 20 minutes. Serve within half an hour.

* For the richest, most tender biscuits, use heavy cream and don't think about the fat content -- let a hearty, tomato-based bean-and-vegetable soup be the virtuous partner in this duo! 
But if you can't do that with a clear conscious, use a lighter cream (table cream or half'n'half).
Buttermilk is an excellent low-fat alternative. The biscuits won't be quite as tender but they'll have great flavour.

No comments: