The story goes that life is supposed to get a little less busy after the holiday season, doesn’t it? Well, not for me, not this year anyway. My baby turned 1, I am learning to sew, and, most overwhelming of all, we have started Airbnb-ing our upstairs apartment. When I signed up, I had no idea how popular it’d be. Turns out, people like to ski! Who knew!? Anyway, it’s been a lot of fun for me, but a bit like having a part-time job on top of parenting a new toddler. Phew!
One thing I’ve been determined to do is leave some baked goods for my guests. It’s been a popular feature of the listing. I’ve been trying to make the treats breakfast-related, so that people can carb-load before they head up to the slopes. This biscuit recipe in particular has been really popular with my guests, and I thought I’d share it with my readers. For Christmas, my wonderful husband took a perhaps-not-very-subtle hint and got me two much-desired cookbooks. One of them was “Smitten Kitchen Every Day,” by Deb Perelman, who writes the blog of the same name. I really encourage you to check out her blog if you aren’t familiar with it. It’s a wonderful resource for no-nonsense recipes (well, minimal nonsense, unless otherwise noted). This cookbook has served up a couple of absolute winners, particularly in terms of breakfasts so far.
I spoke to my beloved father via Skype today, and he mentioned that he thought my last column (which he diligently reads every time it comes out, isn’t he good?) was my least nostalgic column yet. Perhaps I’m truly assimilating at last, or perhaps I’m just too busy to reminisce. Nevertheless, I wanted to tell you that today’s topic is one about which I have mixed feelings.
Mixed feelings about biscuits? How? They’re so innocent! Not controversial at all! Beloved by all! Pretty sure they’re mentioned in the American anthem, right?! No? Okay, well, anyway, the reason I say I have mixed feelings about them is that in Australia, biscuits are cookies. If you have a biscuit, you have a sweet baked treat, often covered in chocolate. ANZAC biscuits (I recently saw these in a book labelled “Anzac biscuits” which is wrong, they were named for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and ANZAC is an acronym) are our oatmeal cookies. The closest thing to American-style biscuits where I’m from are scones, but those are generally sweet and served with jam and cream.
So, when I hear people in America talk about biscuits, I have to recalibrate my brain briefly to get on that wavelength. Anyway, enough talk, on with the recipe.
I LOVE everything bagels, but a full-size bagel with all of the fixings is a lot of food at breakfast, and as Deb mentions in the recipe blurb, it’s nice to just have something a bit smaller sometimes. Enter the “everything biscuit.” Cook up a batch of these, slice them lengthwise, and pop some cream cheese, lox and tomato atop each slice, and you’re laughing, as we say down under.
(adapted from “Smitten Kitchen Every Day” by Deb Perelman)
For topping mixture:
- 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
- 2 teaspoons dried minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt (kosher or sea salt is fine)
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt
- 4 tablespoons butter, cut into small cubes
- 4 ounces cream cheese, cut into small cubes
- 1 cup buttermilk (hint: add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to a 1 cup measurement and fill the rest with milk for a good substitute)
Preheat the oven to 450F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
To make the topping, combine the seeds with the dried onion, garlic and salt. Pour about half of this mixture onto a small plate.
Combine the flour, baking powder and remaining teaspoon of salt in a large bowl. Scatter the butter and cream cheese onto the flour mixture and rub together with fingertips, or use a pastry cutter; I’ve never tried one, but I’m told they are magical for this somewhat laborious task. When the mixture resembles clumpy sand, add the buttermilk or milk mixture and stir until just combined and clumping together.
This makes about 650g (23 ounces) of mixture and I think it is best divided into 10 biscuits. I tried 12 and they were really small. I used my kitchen scale to divide the mixture into 10 roughly equally sized clumps. Don’t handle them too much, just enough to form a cohesive piece of dough. Drop each piece into the seed mixture and do a little half roll through the mixture, then place evenly spaced on baking sheet. Add more seed mixture if you have to, but I had about ¾ of the mix left, which I saved for next time in a mason jar.
Bake for about 12 minutes and serve immediately with some cream cheese or whatever your favorite bagel topping might be.