Cookbook Collector: American Flavor + World's Best Biscuits

April 17, 2012

James Beard award winning chef Andrew Carmellini is best known for his Italian food but in his new book American Flavor, he explores the myriad of cuisines that make-up the United States' culinary landscape.  Inspired by the food served in Chef Carmellini's restaurant, The Dutch, the recipes take the reader through the golden plains of the Midwest, the sunny cities on the West coast, and to the American South.  The home cook will be lured to this cookbook by promises of Julie's Texas-style chili with cheddar and beer, Midwest whitefish chowder, hoppin' John, beef short rib mole, Maine mussels with lemongrass and chiles, and rustic peach and cornmeal tart with lemon verbena cream.  The recipes reflect a spectrum of flavors from Irish to Japanese, Polish to Moroccan, Mexican to Thai.  American Flavor is an ode to the melting pot that is the United States.

 

The World’s Best Biscuits-End of Story

MAKES 8 TO 10 BISCUITS

FOR THE HONEY-BUTTER TOPPING

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon salt

FOR THE BISCUITS

4 1/2 cups all-purpose fl our, plus extra for flouring your work surface and rolling pin
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup solid vegetable shortening
2 1/2 cups buttermilk

TO MAKE THE HONEY BUTTER

Bring 2 tablespoons of water to a boil in a small pot.  Slowly whisk in the butter, piece by piece, letting each piece melt completely into the water before adding the next one. Add the honey and salt, and whisk everything together until you have a shiny, well-combined liquid. Let the honey butter sit in a warm area of the kitchen, or over the lowest possible flame on the stove, until you’re ready to use it. It’s important to keep it warm so it will spread easily—and the longer you let it sit, the better the honey butter will be.

TO MAKE THE BISCUITS

Preheat the oven to 425°F. 

In a large bowl, sift together the fl our, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar. (If you don’t have a sifter, you can use a whisk.) 

Add the vegetable shortening. Using a pastry cutter, or holding a butter knife in each hand, cut through the shortening and flour in an X-shaped motion until the shortening is mixed in. Be careful to break up any large pieces. You should end up with lots of little pebbles.

Add the buttermilk and use your hands to mix everything together, turning the mixture until it forms a dough. Then keep turning and kneading until you’ve got a roughly shaped ball of dough. If things get sticky, add a little bit of fl our.

Flour a board or countertop well, and turn the dough out on it.

Flour your rolling pin, and then roll the dough out until it forms a round about 1/2 inch thick. Fold the dough round into thirds, like you’re folding a business letter.  Slap the dough down hard with the palms of your hands to really bring it together, and then roll it out and fold it in again. Do this 7 times in all, skipping the folding step the seventh time. Reflour the work surface, the dough, and the rolling pin as you go. 

Flour a 31/2-inch round pastry cutter, and cut out as many rounds of dough as possible (you should have 8 to 10or so). Reflour the cutter as you go. (When we make these at the restaurant, we usually bake off the leftover pieces and eat them ourselves.) 

Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper, lay the biscuits on it, and put it on the middle oven rack. At about the 10-minute mark, turn the baking sheet so that all the biscuits bake evenly. 

When the biscuits are baked through and the tops are golden-brown (about 20 minutes), pull them out of the oven. Using a big pastry brush, coat the tops of the biscuits with the honey butter. The biscuits will be very soft and flaky inside, with just a little bit of crispness on the outside. Serve them while they’re hot.

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