Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Sour Cream Pecan Biscuits

Light and fluffy these were not. Sometimes, a baker loses her edge, and that, my friends, has been my sad tale of woe over the past week or so. Yes, I know, I had a couple recent successes, but I've had more mishaps than I care to mention. This delicious little paperweight is one of them.

First, I must say, these biscuits/scones are good: dense, buttery, with a hint of caramel and a slight nutty taste. Did I say they were buttery? Mmm.

But everything went wrong in the baking process, pretty much from beginning to end. First, my new box of light brown sugar was so hard it could have been used as a deadly weapon. Luckily, I had dark brown sugar on hand, and Master Chow and I liked it so much that I plan to use it in the future. And I will make these again - you see, folks, Master Chow has asked me to put these on the "repeat list!" That's always a good sign.

Then I couldn't find my pecans, so I used walnuts.

My sour cream had frozen in the refrigerator. Yes, the refrigerator.

I discovered that my milk had soured, and had to use half-and-half.

I think the frozen sour cream and the half-and-half altered the water ratio in the final dough, because mine did not "pull together in a soft ball," to paraphrase Dorie. It was a crumbly mess, and I had to actively knead it (something you never want to do with biscuits or scones) to pull the dough together.

Then I rolled it too thin - 1/4 of an inch instead of the 1/2 inch in the recipe. By that point, I thought the dough might bite me, so I cut the "biscuits" out and threw them in the oven. Now I know why some people drink in the morning. And I hadn't even had my coffee yet! Note to self: do not attempt any baking at 7:00 a.m. without first having a cup of coffee.

I finally made myself a cup of Peet's Major Dickason's blend (thank you, Dowager Chow), and sniffed appreciatively as the scent of baking hockey pucks, . . . er, "tender biscuits" filled the air. And they did smell wonderful! They did not rise at all during the baking process, however, something that is supposed to happen with biscuits. When you haven't had to knead them. And you use the proper ingredients. My culinary shortcomings aside, I'm curious to see the results of other Tuesdays with Dorie bakers.

What I ended up with was more of a scone than a traditional American-style biscuit, but luckily I love both. Master Chow and I promptly devoured these tasty morsels (I only baked six - I froze the rest, unbaked, and then I did fifty minutes of cardio, I'll have you know!).

Eat Me, Delicious picked out this week's recipe. For the full roster of bakers, check out Tuesdays with Dorie. The recipe below reflects my adaptation of the original.

Pecan Sour Cream Biscuits

Adapted slightly from a recipe by Dorie Greenspan

(Makes about 16-20 biscuits if you use a 2 inch cutter)

2 cups all-purpose flour (or 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour and 1/3 cup cake flour)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces
1/2 cup cold sour cream
1/4 cold whole milk or buttermilk
1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts, preferably toasted

Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Get out a sharp 2-inch-diameter biscuit cutter and line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.

Whisk the flour(s), baking powder, salt, and baking soda together in a bow. Stir in the brown sugar, making certain there are no lumps. Drop in the butter and, using your fingers or a pastry cutter, toss to coat the pieces of butter with flour. Quickly cut and rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is pebbly. You'll have pea-size pieces, pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and pieces the size of everything in between.

Stir the sour cream and milk together and pour over the dry ingredients. Grab a fork and gently toss and turn the ingredients together until you've got a soft dough. Now reach into the bowl with your hands and give the dough a quick gentle kneading-- 3 or 4 turns should be just enough to bring everything together. Toss in the pecans and knead 2 to 3 times to incorporate them.

Lightly dust a work surface with flour and turn out the dough. Dust the top of the dough very lightly with flour, pat the dough out with your hands or toll it with a pin until it is about 1/2 inch high. Don't worry if the dough isn't completely even-- a quick, light touch is more important than accuracy.

Use the biscuit cutter to cut out as many biscuits as you can. When you cut the biscuit, cut straight down and do not "wiggle" the cutter - this compresses the dough and will keep it from rising. Try to cut the biscuits close to one another so you get the most you can out of the first round. By hand or with a small spatula, transfer the biscuits to the baking sheet. Gather together the scraps, working with them as little as possible, pat out to a 1/2-inch thickness and cut as many additional biscuits as you can; transfer these to the sheet. To firm up the butter a bit if you have worked the dough a bit too much, pop the tray in the freezer for about 10 minutes. (The biscuits can be made to this point and frozen on the baking sheet, then wrapped airtight and kept for up to 2 months. Bake without defrosting-- just add a couple more minutes to the oven time.)

Bake the biscuits for 14-18 minutes, or until they are tall, puffed and golden brown. Mine never got tall or puffed, but there's always a second chance!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry that these didn't turn out the way you had hoped; mine were a little lacking in moisture as well but they seem to have rose okay. You'll have to let us know how your second attempt turns out!

February 26, 2008 8:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a good sign they were tasty with all the changes! They have a very nice colour, and if it had been me I wouldn't have done nearly that well with all those problems!

February 26, 2008 8:59 AM  
Blogger Mary said...

funny post! glad they tasted good and way to prove you are a flexible baker who thinks on her toes!

February 26, 2008 9:24 AM  
Blogger slush said...

Sometimes you just have to roll with the punches. They look great, and you both liked them, thats success!

February 26, 2008 10:17 AM  
Blogger breadchick said...

Yup, all my recent kitchen disasters I've attributed to no coffee before baking! Sorry you are having a rash of bad luck in the kitchen. Here's to better times ahead.

February 26, 2008 10:52 AM  
Blogger Marie said...

Ohhh dear, sounds like you had a bad experience with these. Sorry but you had me giggling. Have you ever noticed that there are some days when you just need to hang up your apron and not bother, that everything you touch turns to blah! It happens to me sometimes as well. I think they turned out pretty good though and it's good that you both enjoyed them! Great post!

February 26, 2008 11:09 AM  
Blogger CB said...

so sorry for the complications but reading about it made me giggle! I think they turned out great! I know its better than what would have come out of my oven with your same mishaps. ;)

February 26, 2008 12:36 PM  
Blogger Madam Chow said...

I'm glad that I made so many of you laugh - it really gets funny after a while! Thank you so much for stopping by. It's encouraging.

February 26, 2008 12:56 PM  
Blogger Miss Michelle said...

I had the same problem. I kneaded WAY too much bit it wouldn't come together. It was too dry. Oh well, they were still delicious. =)

February 26, 2008 1:27 PM  
Blogger Sweet and Savory Eats said...

I'm sorry to admit that I am laughing at your expense. That is a really funny post. Mine turned out very similar to yours, and were still so tasty.

I hope you didn't throw out your hard brown sugar. You can soften it and use it for something else. I found this on the C&H Website:

* If you need to use hard brown sugar immediately, remove it from the package and heat it in a 250-degree oven. Watch it carefully. As soon as it’s soft, measure the amount you need right away because it will again harden as it cools. Please use caution. Oven heated sugar is very hot!

* To soften brown sugar in a microwave, place it in a microwave-safe container, cover loosely with a wet (but not dripping) white paper towel, set the microwave on high, and check the sugar every 30 seconds. Again, microwave-softened sugar hardens as it cools so microwave only the amount of sugar you need. And it’s very hot. Please use caution.

* Time permitting, place the hardened brown sugar in a rustproof container with a dampened – not dripping wet – white paper towel or napkin placed over a small piece of plastic wrap or foil on top of the sugar. Cover tightly. Remove the paper towel after the sugar absorbs the moisture and softens (about two days) and tightly reseal the container.

February 26, 2008 3:33 PM  
Blogger The Frosted Bake Shop said...

glad to see your biscuits, they look just like mine :). Biscuit/scone is a good description. Oh yeah - my refridgerator froze my sour cream too.

February 26, 2008 4:10 PM  
Blogger Judy said...

Oh, I can so relate to "losing your edge." Must be going around, like the flu. I'm sure they tasted fine, and maybe the frozen ones will bake up better. Maybe.

February 26, 2008 4:17 PM  
Anonymous Erin said...

Sorry to hear about your baking difficulties. You still did a great job and I hope next time everything goes soothly!

February 26, 2008 5:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've had a case of the kitchen bug too (I ruined a cake like nobody's business yesterday!) but it sort of makes me feel better to know it's going around. I had too much dry flour as well, so I just left a lot of it at the bottom of the bowl. I also used dark brown sugar in mine, and I thought the flavor was phenomenal!

February 26, 2008 7:47 PM  
Blogger Engineer Baker said...

I'm sorry so much went wrong, but glad that you enjoyed them! Better luck next time, right?

February 26, 2008 8:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very funny post. I can definitely relate to losing one's edge! I like the way you persevered in the face of difficulty though!

February 26, 2008 9:44 PM  
Blogger Jaime said...

well, every baker has her moments! glad you still enjoyed them though :)

February 26, 2008 10:27 PM  
Blogger Di said...

Finding frozen things in the fridge is always disturbing. I had that happen to a carton of eggs once. Egg slush is definitely hard to work with. =) I'm glad you persevered in spite of everything, and were willing to share your experience in such a humorous way.

February 26, 2008 10:45 PM  
Blogger Beth G. said...

They still look good!! My husband put these on the repeat list too, he was all about them. Great job making it work!

February 26, 2008 11:53 PM  
Blogger eatme_delicious said...

Aw sorry to hear the troubles you had with these biscuits but at least they still tasted good! I like dense baked goods.

February 27, 2008 1:02 AM  
Blogger Rachel said...

Well, I'm glad they turned out despite all the left turns. Keep us posted on how the second try turns out. :)

February 27, 2008 1:31 AM  
Blogger Madam Chow said...

All you gals are great - it's nice to know that other folks goof up, and that their refrigerators have a mind of their own! And Sweet and Savory Eats - thank you for the great tips!!!!

February 27, 2008 8:12 AM  
Blogger Jhianna said...

I love it when the mistakes are still tasty! I had a rough time with these as well, but I'm pretty sure I never had an edge or any mojo to begin with.

(They look great!)

February 28, 2008 7:09 PM  

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