Sunday, December 26, 2010

Killer Biscuits for Christmas Brunch

A Handsome Crowd
Ah, Christmas. It's the time of year that brings out the best and worst in all of us. It's when people come together to bask in the glory of Christmas lights and rip each other's eyeballs out of their sockets. My family is your (mostly) typical dysfunctional American family. We love each other and enjoy spending time together, but after awhile we go bat crazy.This Christmas was no different.

It all started on Christmas Eve with a rushed photo session, even though we built extra time in this year to account for a certain two-year-old's lack of cooperation. You see, my family's Christmas Eve tradition is getting dressed up, taking pictures of the family in front of the tree, and then going out to eat. This year I was very excited about wearing my purple satin sheath, and I daresay I looked quite lovely. Everyone arrived on time for photos, but a certain family member felt it was necessary to yell and make everyone hurry through the photos. Because we only had more than a half hour before we needed to leave for the restaurant, but for some reason, said person felt that we had to rush and take off right away. Right. The most difficult part of the photo session was the two-year-old, my dear nephew, who just did not want to be held nor stand still. Then there was trouble with my dad's camera remote. Oh geez. So it's already a little stressful, but we head to the restaurant anticipating a wonderful dinner.

But wait, there's more! We had made reservations for 12 initially, then changed to 11 when the restaurant confirmed our reservation earlier in the day. When my big bro, Frakah, her husband, and I arrived at the restaurant, my big bro checked us in and notified them that there were 10 of us- 9 adults and one child. Simple and easy, right? Wrong. Because this was the year that will go down in infamy as the great seating fiasco of 2010. hen we got to our table, I headed for the far end because our family tends to be reluctant about making anything easy (hey, I got to the table first, so I took the closest seat and now you'll have to climb over my shoulders to get to your seat). I thought I was doing something right. I should have known better. My sister in law came from behind trying to take the end where there was no place setting, so I tried to explain that either everyone in my row needed to move don one place, or we needed to move a setting for my SIL. My always-right mother started going off about how there is an extra place setting because she told the person who called from the restaurant earlier that there would be eleven of us. I said, non, big bro checked us in as 10. Well, even when I'm right, I'm wrong apparently, and everyone eventually sat down, but by then my mom did her sassy arms thing she does when she's mad, my sister started crying, and I was so upset I just didn't want to be anywhere at that table. So, yeah, Christmas fiasco: check.

The strangest gift I've ever received

Luckily, our food was delicious, thanks to Mama Mia (PDX). I enjoyed a delicious butternut squash ravioli with a browned butter sage sauce and balsamic reduction. And, cannoli for dessert (gotta love cannoli)! When we got back to my parents' house we held our sibling exchange, wherein all the siblings exchange gifts. This year we did it white elephant style, which was rather tricky to plan for. We each bought one $30 gift and one $5 gift, gave them to my mom who wrapped the $5 gifts identically and the $30 gifts identically. When we came together, little nephew drew a name from a box and that person chose a gift. The big laugh of the night came when I opened my $30 gift. It was a creepy picture of all the siblings, but what I didn't know was that there was a gift card behind the picture. When I opened it, I thought someone had spent $30 on a frame. Instead, it was $30 of hilarity.

Christmas morning was another story. No fiascos here. Oh, no. Instead, we engaged in what is becoming a bit of a tradition in our house: brunch. We love brunch. Whenever there is an occasion, we usually decide to have brunch. Why not? Brunch contains all of the best foods anyway. Our brunch consisted of baked french toast, hash browns, smoked salmon hash, cinnamon bun bread, scrambled eggs (my way, mostly), sausage gravy, and biscuits. I know what you may be thinking- meh. No, you are wrong. These biscuits were little clouds sent down from Heaven, intended for my intestinal tract. Oh yes, these were some killer biscuits. And, they were incredibly easy to make! I was concerned because the recipe makes 18 biscuits, but as I write this, there is only one left (6pm the day after). I would seriously fight someone over the last biscuit. I'm considering holding it hostage in my room to be eaten tomorrow. But I probably just want the recipe, right? Okay, here you go. But if you're feeling generous, why don't you share with me one of your holiday traditions?


Mother's Biscuits
from Mother's Best by Lisa Schroeder

6 cups self-rising flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
2 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 1/3 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, for dredging
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted

1. Heat the oven t 450 degrees F. Spray a 13x9-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl, combine the self-rising flour, sugar, and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut the cold butter into the dry ingredients until the butter is the size of peas.

3. Combine the buttermilk and heavy cream in a measuring cup. Pour it into the butter-flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until mostly incorporated. Then, using your hands, mix until just incorporated- no more than 3 or 4 quick kneadings. (Don't overmix, and don't worry that the batter is wet, goopy, and nonuniform. It is OK to have some pockets of flour and chunks of butter. That's what will make the biscuits flaky and moist. The most important thing is not to overmix!)

4. Put the all-purpose flour in a shallow bowl. Using an ice cream scoop with 1/3 cup capacity, scoop out a heaping portion of the batter and drop it into the flour. Sprinkle some flour on top, pick up the dough, and cup it in the palm of your hand. Gently jiggle the dough in your palm so that the excess flour falls away, leaving just a light coating.

5. Starting in one corner, arrange the biscuits in a row down the long side of the pan so you have a row of six. (You must start the first one very close to the corner and place the next one nearly on top of the first in order for all six biscuits to fit.) After filling the row, place two more biscuits across the short side (you should now have 3 across and 6 down). Continue scooping and arranging the remaining dough in pieces directly next to each other (they should be touching and just slightly squished) in rows until you have used all the dough.

6. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the biscuits start to brown, and then reduce the heat to 375 degrees F and bake until the biscuits are light brown all over, being sure to rotate the pan now and then (so the biscuits bake evenly), another 20 to 25 minutes. You'll know they're done when the biscuits start to pull away from each other, they don't have any bounce left when poked, and a knife inserted between some of them in the middle of the pan comes out clean.

7. Remove the pan from the oven, brush the tops of the biscuits with the melted butter, and let cool for 10 minutes before cutting into individual biscuits and serving.


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