How long have I known that when someone in the US refers to biscuits they are likely to mean what the UK and Australia refer to as scones? Well, not that long really, although I did wonder what those biscuits were that they ate so much of in Little House on the Prairie. Some mysterious savoury item you cooked in bacon fat and ate with your main meal or, even more mysteriously, for breakfast. This corresponded to no meal I had ever experienced at home in Australia. Why didn't they just have bread? Well, older and (slightly) wiser now, I can see the advantage of a filling staple which you can whip up in 10 minutes, particularly when you're a hard working pioneer.
My paternal grandmother (this blog's namesake) was a dab hand at whipping up a batch of scones when one of the family dropped in. And I've been happy to carry on that particular family tradition. Just to be clear, scones can mean sweet or savoury but are most likely to bring up delicious visions of scones, jam and cream when mentioned in conversation.
The Touch of Grace Biscuits for this month's Bread Bible recipe are savoury (as in, Rose suggests eating them with ham and hot pepper relish) but have quite a bit of sugar in the recipe. Based on Rose's recommendation, I was planning to serve these with a ham, ricotta and spicy ayvar paste filling, so I cut the sugar down to almost nothing. I obviously haven't moved so far from my younger self because I couldn't imagine savoury biscuits with the 3 tablespoons of sugar suggested by the recipe. Even scones eaten with jam and cream are unlikely, traditionally, to have any sugar in them. These turned out to be really delicious, soft, light and airy with a definite savouryness, to my taste, from the shortening.
Scones are always made with butter (in my experience) so I was slightly horrified by the suggestion that these biscuits were to be made with vegetable shortening. In the end I decided to be a good sport and took a leap of faith (in Rose) and bought the vegetable shortening. It was odd because Copha (is this a worldwide brand?) is mainly known as the key ingredient in chocolate crackles, a children's party staple.
I rubbed the Copha into the flour, just as you would with butter, to get a crumb-like texture.
This recipe calls for cream or buttermilk or a mixture of both. I decided to use the mix of both but couldn't find buttermilk at the last minute. So I made do and soured some milk with lemon juice. I felt almost like a pioneer... I would have looked good in a shirt waist (another mysterious item from prairie life).
It was a pretty wet mixture with all the liquid added.
Rose instructs us to dib out little balls of the dough with a scoop onto a pile of flour (or that's what I took the instructions to mean) and shape the ball into a disk with the aid of the flour. This was quite easy but I got a bit bored after a few of these. I was making quite small biscuits to serve as hors d'oeuvres but another time I might make them bigger.
I was pretty pleased with the way they looked in the tin.
The biscuits were meant to be baked at about 240C but my current little oven only goes to 220C. I'm not sure if they would have risen more with the extra heat but I was happy with them anyway.
Bottoms up! I actually put them back in the oven for 10 minutes after I took this photo because I thought they needed a bit more time.
These little gems were served for lunch as part of a (loosely) middle eastern themed spread. I thought the spicy turkish style relish helped them fit in. I also (re)made the strawberry shortcake from the Alpha Bakers Baking Bible adventure a few weeks ago. I simplified the steps a little bit but it was still delicious, with leftovers going home with my happy guests. I think it has become one of my favourites.
Next month the Bread Bible Alpha Bakers are trying out Ricotta Loaf.