“Colby Cove” Cheesy Buttermilk Biscuits

#RecipeUpTop (details below):

  • 350g all-purpose flour;
  • 1 cup shredded cheese;
  • 1 cup buttermilk;
  • 50g lard or vegetable shortening;
  • 25g butter;
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder;
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder;
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder;
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano;
  • 1 teaspoon salt;
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda;
  • Cracked black pepper (to taste)

Method: in a large mixing bowl combine all ingredients except the cheese and buttermilk, and combine with your hands until thoroughly integrated; then add cheese and toss. Lastly, add the buttermilk, and combine, manipulating the dough as little as possible until it just comes together. Turn out onto a floured surface and press into a square, then fold and repeat the process four (4) more times. Cut biscuits to desired size, and bake on a cookie sheet at 450F for twenty (20) minutes.

The Details

Growing up in rural Maine, going to the “big city” of Bangor was a rare treat. The crowning jewel of any trip was a visit to one of the several VERY EXOTIC restaurant options like Olive Garden or Sizzler. And yes, while this was the source of much teasing later in my life (particularly from Mrs. 10Chickens), I maintain that those establishments – during a very limited time and in a specific geographical place – were great.

The one outlier, however, was the Red Lobster. To this day, I still have no idea who thought an airport-quality chain seafood restaurant was a great fit for Lobster Town USA, but I digress.

Anyway, I don’t recall the series of events that led us there one snowy day, but I can only presume they were cruel and tragic. The food was bad. Like, really bad. As in, I still remember it a quarter century later bad.

BUT… those biscuits. You know the ones: cheesy, salty, oddly savory, fluffy, and crumbly. A food product in a category all its own.

Now, it’s come to my attention that you can actually buy an officially-licensed frozen version, but come on. These are super easy, and don’t have the sodium load of a modest salt mine. Plus, once you know the procedure, the world of biscuit-ery is yours, be your goals traditional buttermilk; maple bacon; blueberry ginger. The list goes on.

Anyway, step one: mix your dry ingredients:

I like to get the flour, the baking powder, and the baking soda together first, and give them a little mix. You’re basically making self-rising flour here.

Next, get in the fat. For this recipe, I’m using lard because… well, it’s awesome. It’s delicious, it produces a great, flaky biscuit, it’s shelf-stable, and I’m a big proponent of snout-to-tail animal usage. But, you certainly can use vegetable shortening if you want. Also, I’m cubing the butter down into little bits to make the next step easier:

Now, get in there with your fingers and break up that fat into pea-sized chunks (or smaller) and integrate with the flour. You want even distribution, but if the fat starts to melt at any point, take a break and stick the whole bowl in the freezer for a bit. It’s okay if it softens, but you don’t want the water content separating from the fat. If you work fast, it shouldn’t be an issue:

So, this is your basic biscuit dough. If you add a pinch of salt, and the buttermilk, you’ll have those classic little pillows of joy. Or you can go sweet; this is really the foundation of whatever you want to do. Us? We’ve got an appointment with Colby Cove.

Step two: add your seasoning and cheese. I like to add the seasonings and spices and mix, then toss with the cheese:

A word about the cheese. It’s almost always better to shred your own, mostly because the pre-shredded stuff has anti-caking agents that keep it from sticking together in the bag. In this case, however, I’m happy to report that it really doesn’t make a difference, so feel free to be lazy. Since this is Colby Cove, I’m using a blend of Colby and Monterrey Jack, but sharp cheddar would also work just fine.

At this point, make sure your oven is heated to 450F, and you have an un-greased cookie sheet standing by. This next part is going to go fast.

Step three: buttermilk mixdown. Add your buttermilk, and mix with your hands as little as possible, and just until it all comes together in a sticky dough.

Why the speed and kid gloves? Our enemy here is gluten, which is formed when water meets wheat flour. It develops either over time, or by over-working. It’s why bread and pizza doughs are kneaded so much. We want the opposite here, in order to have a tender, crumbly, flaky end product and not hockey pucks.

Turn this out onto a floured work surface. Grab your rolling pin and HURL IT INTO THE SEA. Use your hands instead to press the down down into a square:

I know it’s not exactly a square, and that’s fine. From here, fold it over and press it down again, then do that four more times. We’re making our layers that will give us that wicked oven spring. A lot of the same concepts are at work here as our puff pastry recipe.

Once you’ve built the layers, push the dough down to about half an inch thick, or whatever your desired preference.

Step four: cut and bake. Personally, I have a set of pastry rings and will cut these to different sizes depending on their intended use. I may go big if breakfast sandwiches are on the menu, or smaller if they’re a side for soup (these are). The important thing here is to press straight down so you don’t smear the layers together. Once you make cut your first set of biscuits, reform the dough for another pass.

Move to a cookie sheet and set them so they are just touching at the edges:

Ignore that big chonker on the left; it was the remnants of the dough after the real biscuits were cut. Anyway, you want them touching because they’ll support each other as they rise in the oven, which is exactly what we want.

Speaking of, into the oven for ten (10) minutes, then spin the pan and let cook for another ten (10).

That’s it. Enjoy beside a Maine potato and corn chowder; top with breakfast sausage and an egg; make the world’s best eggs benedict; the list goes on.

And the best part? You didn’t have to go… you know where.

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