Soliloquy on bb’s Biscuits

13 December 2003 at 14:03 Leave a comment

For the last few months since we moved into our new apartment, our world has pretty much turned upside down. Instead of being night owls, we go to bed early and are up well before the crack of dawn. Instead of watching a movie or two most weekends, we have yet to set our television up. And instead of getting a baguette everyday, my husband, bb, has started making breads.

Part of the reason for this is convenience. Where we used to live, as bb likes to say, in Arkansas, France (we’ve lived in Arkansas, too, so it’s an informed opinion), there were 5 bread stores within a five minute walk – now there’s only one, and it’s hours are completely unpredictable. Even a ten-minute walk brings the total number of bread stores to only three, which is odd, since we’re now living in a much more urban environment. The trouble is, we’ve really gotten used to eating fresh baked bread. It’s one of the real joys of living in France: fresh baked baguettes, boules, pain de compagne and a million other varieties available every day at very reasonable prices.

Because the bread store was so unreliable, we’d had to switch to bags of bread made in the grocery store bakery. Not so fresh, but they would also last a couple days. A day-old baguette is frightful, a two-day old baguette could be used as a murder weapon.

One day bb piped up, “how much trouble is it to make biscuits?”

“Not much. Want me to make some?”

“No, no. I’ll make them. Just show me how.”

So I did, using my “Baking Powder Biscuits” recipe that I got from Meta Given’s 2-volume Encyclopedia of Cooking. I love this cookbook, partially because my grandmother gave it to me, partially because it shows how to clean and cook squirrel (I mean, I can’t imagine eating squirrel, but it’s incredibly eye-opening to know that it was once very common) and partially because she says bossy things like, “Only piping hot biscuits are worth serving.”

When we had finished cutting them out and put them in the oven, he said, “That’s it?”

I nodded.

“Well, I can do that!”

I nodded.

Now, I am a very good cook. Extremely creative. My forte is the what’s-in-the-fridge-that-I-need-to-get-rid-of meal. The more unusual the bits, the better the final product. And I can cook just about anything.

But I admit fully, beyond pie dough and cookies, that baking has never been an art I excelled at.

Can I follow the instructions and make something not only edible but clearly the intended product? Yes.

Do I enjoy the process? No.

Is the end result shockingly good? No. Generally just adequate. My sister was always the baker in the family, and I just never really got into it. Well, unless you count cherry pie as ‘baking’. I make a mean cherry pie.

So far he makes, with shocking regularity, tortillas, biscuits and cornbread.

bb‘s tortillas are tasty and supple (mine were a bit dry and flavorless), his cornbread is actually cornbread that makes the meal taste even better and I love it (though I’m not a big cornbread fan) and his biscuits are transcendent. My biscuits, though yummy, were always best under a healthy dollop of sausage gravy. bb‘s are best with a little pooh-butter or jam, so you can really taste the biscuit. And, despite Meta’s warning, his are even good cold! The mildly distressing thing? These are all my recipes!! Well, except the cornbread. I always used Margaret Truman’s trick of using one box of Jiffy cornbread mix and one box of Jiffy yellow cake mix to make the whole thing a bit more moist. His are a lot more crumbly, but a lot more tasty. And not grainy, which I had rather expected.

And now he’s eager to try yeast breads…something I’ve always been afraid to do.

Bet he jumps in with both feet when his daughter gets here for Christmas. She’s been wanting to learn to bake too.

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Entry filed under: eating.

So, color Thinking stinks

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What I’ve been reading:

  • James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson, L.L.D. (London, 14 King William Street, Strand: William P. Nimmo, 1876). 4 years ago
  • Marsilio Ficino, Letters of Marsilio Ficino, v. 3, trans. Language Dept. School of Economic Science, London (New York: Gingko Press, 1985). 4 years ago
  • Italo Calvino, Six Memos for the Next Millennium (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988). 4 years ago
  • Stephanie Kallos, Broken for You (New York: Grove Press, 2004). 5 years ago
  • Marsilio Ficino, Letters of Marsilio Ficino, v. 2, trans. Language Dept. School of Economic Science, London (New York: Gingko Press, 1985) 5 years ago

T. Anderson Painter

I am a misanthrope. No one ever believes me, but this seems to prove my point.

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