Buttery Breakfast Biscuits 

One of my most favorite things to eat and make on a lazy Sunday morning is the humble biscuit. The simple process and few staple ingredients it requires just produces a beautiful fluffy, buttery, crumbly bread. You can make them the morning you want them with minimal effort and time, and serve them sweet or savory for breakfast, a side for dinner later on, or a snack in between.

I just love going through the motions of making them. My family here in California always request I make these when we get together and I’m always more than happy to help. Another neat thing about this recipe is that you don’t need a rolling pin, just your hands. You can easily make them with your kids and have some fun!

The occasion this time was Easter weekend. After driving a couple of hours north to San Luis, we got to my mother in law’s,  the house bustling was with family, the salty scent of the beautiful ham roasting in the oven filling everyone’s nostrils,  and kids and adults alike were salivating at the feast ahead. My job was the biscuits( best job I’ve ever had), and we enjoyed these with jam, and then others with mounds of roasted ham and silky butter.

You don’t need anything fancy for this recipe: its very simple. Just follow these few tips below to help those little buggers rise in the oven consistently.

Ingredients

  • A.P flour – 2 Cups plus a little for dusting
  • Baking powder – 2 tbsp
  • Sugar – 1 tbsp
  • Cold good butter –  5 tbsp
  • Salt –  1 tsp
  • Whole milk – 1 Cup

Pretty basic huh? The method even more so…

Method

Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl along with the sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut the butter into the flour and rub between fingers until the mix starts to resemble bread crumbs. The odd lump and large blobs of butter are great, this will create a flaky biscuit (we like this).

Add the milk bit by bit to bring it into a ball. Use a fork or a spatula, (this is the time to add anything if you like, cheese for example or any herbs). You may not need all of the milk, you just want it to come to a ball so you can turn it out without it being sticky.

Turn it out to a floured surface, pat it down with your hands to about an inch or so, gently fold it over a couple and repeat 3-4 times. See those little yellow smears of butter? This is a good sign. Don’t overwork the dough, you want the butter to stay cold and visible. Once done, cover it with a towel and let it rest for 30 mins or so. If I’m being honest, I got a little impatient and it only rested for 5 minutes or so and they still came out great, but if you can, always let any dough you make rest. While your dough takes a break, preheat your oven to 425f about 215-220c and prep a baking tray with some parchment and find the cooling rack in the back of the cupboard that you never use.

Once your dough has rested for 30 minutes (or a quick 5 minute cat nap like mine), you can start to create these fluffy yummy pillows. Flatten the dough so it is about 9 inches by 6 inches roughly. Take your cookie cutter (I used a tall water glass, just be careful) and push down through the dough. Be careful and do not twist or rock. If you do you end up crimping the sides you won’t get an impressive, even rise.

Is there anything more depressing than a deflated biscuit?

Once they are all cut out and placed on the tray with a bit of space around each one, bake for about 15 minutes, checking them at 10. They should be golden brown, risen a to a satisfying height and your tummy should be rumbling. Let them cool for a touch on the rack or slather in butter, load up your fillings, and enjoy!

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Kale chips

This isn’t a recipe exactly, or some major life changing snack idea. We’ve all seen kale chips/crisps (depending on which side of the pond you hail from) in gourmet coffee shops and on the supermarket shelves. Everywhere you go you see it. Healthier snacks are being rammed down our throats.The more aware we’re all becoming at choosing better options, the higher the price goes up! Have you seen the price for a feather light packet of crispy kale?!  You know the bag, the one where you wouldn’t be surprised to get home and open it, just to find air? Far too expensive for what they are, it’s no wonder people shy away and reach for something else.

These are so easy to do at home and so rewarding: a tasty, healthy alternative to the usual fatty bag of chips you would normally find. Kale is cheap, you can find it in any supermarket, and a big ol’ bag of cheap kale will give you exactly (if not better) results at home. 

Preheat your oven to about 350°f/150°c, the lower the better. You want to dry these out and slowly dehydrate them, rather than a quick harsh heat resulting in burnt and bitter kale. Preparation couldn’t be easier: simply tear off the leaves so you don’t have any of the woody, fibrous stalk attached. See picture below

img_0946
Prepping the kale

   Next, throw it all in a large bowl with a few tablespoons of good olive oil and a touch of seasoning, whatever you want to add is fine be it herbs, salt, pepper etc.. It doesn’t matter how much kale you use, just adjust the oil and massage it in to really get the flavour in there. Then lay it out on a sheet pan or two, leaving some gaps so the leaves don’t overlap too much, and put them in the middle shelf in the oven.

Kale
Ready to cook

After about 10-15 minutes, start checking it and move it around every 5 minutes after that. Keep doing this until completely dry and crisp! Throw a touch more salt on them, let them cool for a short while and eat straight from the tray. If you have any left, put some in a bowl and share.

Crispy Kale
Kale chips

 This really is stuff your face food, without the guilt. Try it, don’t buy it.

Should I clarify my butter?

I’m sure at one point or another you’ve seen a small jar of clarified butter in a high end supermarket… expensive, gourmet, pointless? I mean you’re not a chef, you don’t make hollandaise on a daily basis, is there any benefit to using it?

Ever wondered how your steak has that buttery taste, but isn’t burnt? Perhaps your fried egg is smooth and rich but every time you use butter at home to fry with, it goes a beautiful nut-brown, then too far and burns. When the milk proteins in butter become too hot, they burn and start to smoke, meaning it’s not appropriate to use for searing or high temperature cooking. Remove the milk proteins however, and you are left with pure butterfat, and the difference is unmistakable.

Allow me to clarify (#predadjokes)… butterfat makes up around 80 percent of most butters. This however depends on the type of butter. A more high-end European butter will have a higher amount of butterfat. Whereas a fresh, farm churned butter will typically have less butterfat (about 60-70 percent). So what makes up the rest of butter you ask? Water and proteins. Clarifying butter removes the water and milk proteins leaving you with pure butterfat.

Clarified butter
CLARIFIED BUTTER

This is a really a simple process to do at home and will have you searing at high temperatures and cooking like a chef in no time. When you heat butter in goes soft, then melts. When at its melting stage, you start to see foam bubbles dancing on the surface. This is water escaping in the form of steam. Once the foaming stops, you know that most of the water vapor is gone, and the next to go is the milk proteins. A white scum will float to the top, which as you melt the butter simply spoon off and discard.

At the bottom of the pan you will see a lot more of this white substance lingering at the base of this pot of liquid gold, more water and proteins. Once you have removed anything that has floated to the top, slowly and carefully pour the pure butterfat into whatever you plan to store it in. As you pour, be aware that you do not want any of the milk proteins or water in your final product. Keep on pouring until you reach the end of the butterfat and throw away the rest.

Milk Proteins and Water
MILK AND PROTEINS AFTER POURING 

 

Now all you have to do is store your butter in the fridge. If you don’t trust yourself to skim the top of the butter while it melts or pour it without making a mess, there is another way. A quick way is to simply melt the butter in the microwave in a safe container, just be careful to keep an eye on it. Once melted, place in the fridge and let it set, once it has set you can scoop off the top layer and dig down through, discarding the water and proteins from the bottom.

There is a difference between the two butters, see picture below. Using the microwave you will get a different result…you will lose a bit of volume. I used the exact same butter for this demonstration and the same method. Losing some amount is inevitable when removing a good 10-20 percent of it’s contents. Remember though, that is water and milk proteins. You are still left with pure butterfat and that is a trade-off I would make time after time.

clarified butter and non clarified butter
CLARIFIED BUTTER ON THE LEFT

A Valentine’s Gesture

It’s that time again… where men are searching for last minute gift ideas and desperately looking for that perfect present: flowers, candy, and perhaps a candle lit dinner in some fancy restaurant, with poncey meals and a what the duck price!

It’s difficult not to feel pressure around this Holiday, but what you do for your loved one doesn’t have to be a cliché (though there is nothing wrong with going out for dinner or buying an expensive gift). On the other hand, not everyone has the time, or knowledge to cook themselves. But a gesture of love, no matter how small, can not be overestimated. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made a cup of coffee for my wife as she is still in bed, or brought breakfast along with it, and it brings a huge smile to her face. It’s priceless.  It doesn’t have to be an elaborate meal, forget the perfect poached egg, or making hollandaise without it splitting. For example, a slice of toast and some avocado, coffee, and juice is enough… it’s about the gesture not the grandeur. 

I’ve always found that the smaller and more simple things in life are often much more appreciated than a huge complex idea. Whether it’s a cup of tea or a favourite snack, food plays such a huge part in our lives, we should aim to celebrate it as often as we can… Think of the joy you get from a cup of tomato soup and a gooey grilled cheese on a murky day!

All I’m trying to say is that with the role food plays in our lives, Valentines Day doesn’t have to be about a huge gesture, just take a moment and do something nice for your loved one to show them you care.