Inspired by a catchy jingle….I think?
Not sure how many of you listen to A Prairie Home Companion? It’s on NPR each Sunday morning, right as I finish my yoga class. So when I get in the car and turn on the radio, invariably I hear this earworm —set to the bluegrass sounds of the fiddle and alike– and someone on the show is singing this ad for the fictitious brand of ‘powdermilk biscuits’.
“Has your family tried ’em? Powdermilk! ”
“Has your family tried ’em? Powdermilk! ”
“If your family’s tried ’em, then you know you’ve satisfied ’em ”
“They’re a real hot item, Powdermilk!”
So maybe that’s why I’ve been thinking about making these simple, yet, oh so satisfying Flaky Powder Milk Biscuits for months now? Hmm, the power of advertising. Okay if you’re thinking right now “I have no idea what the heck she’s talking about”, (no worries) and “yeah, she’s kind of weird too” (well, um, yes… but that doesn’t stop me from making some darn good biscuits! ). Trust me when I tell you these non-made-up, real life biscuits are light, flaky and perfect for bacon & egg breakfast sammies, lunch time sliders, strawberry shortcake or just noshing on throughout the day with a hefty helping of butter and jam. Warm from the oven (or micro, I won’t judge), the cool butter dripping down through each pillowy-layer of dough….c’mon, there’s nothing better, right?
I’ve actually been browsing a few recipes sites recently to see what the common denominator of ‘great’ biscuit is. I found a recipe in my own box too from decades ago. I can’t even remember who gave it to me. With that one as the base, I adapted it to include variations from all the other recipes I found. Some called for butter, others say use lard or vegetable shortening. Some say add heaps of baking powder (for the rise), others say use a smaller amount. Some (most) use buttermilk, which is a toughie for me. Okay, about buttermilk– can someone please explain why dairy producers always put it in such a large container? Do people really use an entire half gallon of it at a go? I mean regular cooks like us, at home…not talking about the kitchen guys down at IHOP here. Because whenever a recipe calls for it, I seem to wind up with so much left over. Then I can never think of another use for it before it spoils. You see my dilemma. So opting to go sans buttermilk, I used half & half (1 cup) and added two tablespoons of fresh lemon juice instead….hoping to mimic the acidic reaction from buttermilk. You also hear so much about powder milk (powdered(?), I see it spelled both ways) when it comes to biscuits. Sure, why not, let’s give that a go too. Have no idea exactly how that chemistry works, but the powder milk did yield a richness to the finished pastry without weighing it down. And the best part—you bake these in a cast iron pan. No need to grease or butter the pan as they won’t stick. The biscuit bottoms will turn out nice and golden. Just
chuck them in carefully place into a *preheated* cast iron pan (very hot & dry, that’s the trick to them not sticking!), and there you be!
So, at the end of this very long chat about biscuits (sorry, hope you’re still with me?), I believe I now have a one worthy of anyone’s homemade gravy!
Flaky Powder Milk Biscuits
yields 8 biscuits | Flaky Powder Milk Biscuits (PDF)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup powder milk
2 tablespoons sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and diced into small pieces
1 cup half & half
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 egg, slightly beaten
Preheat oven to 450F and put a well-seasoned cast iron pan in dry (no oil or butter). Allow the pan to get very hot. In a large bowl, sift together all the dry ingredients TWICE. With your fingers or a pastry blender, work the butter into the flour just until you have pea-sized pieces of dough. If you over-work the dough, you won’t get the rise. In a large measuring cup, combine the half & half and lemon juice, along with the beaten egg. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour liquid in. Work the dough gently with a fork just until it all combines. On a floured surface, knead the dough gently 1-2 minutes or until the dough comes together. Pat out (not roll) to about 3/4 of inch thick. If you roll the dough, you’ll lose some air and rise in the final biscuit. With a biscuit cutter, or small glass, cut out your desired shapes. Be sure to cut them straight down (no twisting) so that the sides of the dough don’t get ‘caught’ and impede the rise. Remove pan from oven and quickly & carefully place dough tightly together in the pan. As long as the pan is hot and dry, they won’t stick. Put pan back in the oven, reduce heat to 400F and bake for 16-18 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan and serve warm with butter, jam (or honey) or use at room temperature for sandwiches. Enjoy!