I started learning how to cook about 10 years ago, when, as a poor university student, I came to the stunning realization that good food is very expensive. One of the very first cook books I ever bought myself was a second hand copy of The Tassajara Bread Book. While it would be many years before I started experimenting with wild sourdough cultures or successfully made my first pain au levain, this eminently practical book helped me see feeding myself and others as less a physical act of necessity and more a spiritual act of love and devotion. And nothing says love like a big plate of hot, freshly-baked, flaky biscuits on a cold winter morning.
The following recipe is an adaption of the original Flaky Biscuits recipe from the Tassajara Cookbook, which I have made more times than I can count. They can be made without the cheese and herbs as well, where they make a wonderful cold breakfast with jam and nut butter.
Big, Thick, Flaky Blue Cheese and Rosemary Dinner Biscuits
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour*
3 tsp baking powder
pinch of coarse sea salt
½ cup of cold butter
2 large eggs
¼ cup of yogurt or sour cream cut with 2 Tbsp of cold water
1 tsp dried rosemary
¼ tsp cracked black pepper
¼-½ cup of blue cheese**
Preheat the oven to 450ºF.
Combine dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and mix. Measure the butter, making sure it’s as cold as possible, and the cut into small (about 1 inch) sized chunks. Add the butter like this to the dry ingredients, and then, using a pastry cutter (or your hands, which I find much more effective) work the butter into the dry ingredients, breaking it up and rubbing it in, until it has a soft, loose texture and the butter is fully incorporated.
Then, make a well in the centre of the mixture with your fingers.
In a separate bowl, break the eggs (the fresher the eggs, the better the biscuits) and whisk lightly. Then add the yogurt and water and mix into a thick liquid. Pour the liquid into the well you made in the butter/dry ingredient mixture and mix lightly with a spoon or spatula. Add the cheese in here, crumbling it up so it’s evenly distributed, and mix again. Knead this mixture lightly with your hands a few times to bring it together – if it’s sticking a lot to your fingers, add a little flour, but if it seems tough, it needs a bit more water.
On a floured counter-top or cutting board (I lay out wax paper, to help ease cleanup) roll out the dough once with a rolling pin, flattening it until it is about ¾ inch thick. Turn the dough, fold it like a sheet of paper, and then roll it flat again. Do this four times. On the final time, roll the dough flat again.
Taking a round cookie cutter or the mouth of a glass dipped in water, cut out the biscuits. It should make between 12-14 large sized biscuits, but you can make them smaller or larger as wish (although you will need to adjust the baking time accordingly).
Place the cut biscuits on parchment paper on a cookie sheet, giving them about a ½ inch between each, so that they have room to poof up. Lightly sprinkle with coarse salt and bake for 10-12 minutes. They should be golden brown on the bottom and pale on the top when they are done.
Eat them hot out of the oven with butter, served alongside a thick soup or stew.
*You can easily make these biscuits gluten-free by substituting the all-purpose flour for gluten-free all purpose and add 1.5 tsps of xanthan gum. If you do this, add an extra ¼ tsp of baking powder and give the dough a couple extra turns when you’re rolling it out to help it develop. You honestly won’t know the difference.
**You don’t have to add the blue cheese – feta is nice, too, or whatever is in the fridge that needs using up.