Wednesday, 5 December 2012
Walnut and White Cheddar Biscuits
Shortly after Wolfgang Puck opened Spago, I read an article about his innovative cooking style. His wood fired white pizza made with bacon, walnuts and white cheddar was cited as an example. It's not an earth shaking dish by today's sophisticated standards, but back in the early 80's that pizza was really big doings: It was cooked in a wood fired oven! It had no tomato sauce on it! It combined cheese and walnuts and bacon all in one dish! My goodness!!
That cheddar-walnut-bacon flavour combination caught my imagination and stuck in my mind long after most of the article was forgotten. I wanted to give it a try but, when I ran the idea past my husband, he was less than enthusiastic. Who on earth ate cheese and walnuts together? Or walnuts and bacon?
I ran with it anyway. I made my own version of that pizza and, despite my guy's initial reservations, it was a big hit with both of us. We've been fans of that flavour profile ever since.
Why am I bringing it up now?
Well, to be honest, I get overwhelmed by all the sweets at Christmastime. I mean, I enjoy them too, and love to bake cookies and cakes and pies, but all that sugar can be cloying. I crave salty, savoury flavours to counterbalance the sweetness.
I wanted, too, to offer some recipes here that could be prepared ahead, frozen, and then used to throw together a quick meal on a rushed morning or busy December evening.
Biscuits are quick and easy and they freeze well, so why not share a biscuit recipe? And suggestions on how to use it to form the basis of a simple meal or two?
So here we are.
To make walnut and white cheddar biscuits, you'll need:
4 cups all purpose flour (or use half all purpose and half whole wheat)
2 Tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cold butter, cut into slices
1 cup shredded, extra old, white cheddar
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1-1/2 cups milk, plus a little more for brushing on the biscuit tops
Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl.
Add in the butter slices. Use your fingers to work the butter into the flour, rubbing the butter between your forefinger and thumb so that it flattens, picks up some of the butter, and forms corn flake sized pieces.
The butter should be well distributed through the flour mixture. If it's not, give the bowl a stir to mix it through.
Add in the cheddar and walnuts, gently tossing them through the flour with your fingers so that they are lightly coated with flour.
Make a well in the center of the bowl and add in the milk. Stir it in until most of the flour has been picked up. You should have a dry, stiff dough.
Turn the contents of the bowl out onto a board and knead the dough just until it holds together. There will be a few crumbs on the board but all of the flour should be absorbed.
Use a rolling pin or your hands to flatten the dough into a rough rectangle about an inch thick.
Divide the dough into portions. (I make six very large biscuits but do feel free to cut it into whatever portions work best for you.)
Place the biscuits onto a parchment lined baking sheet. (You can press the dough up against a flat edge to square the biscuits off if you want to, but I usually don't worry about it too much.)
Brush the top of each biscuit with a little milk.
Bake the biscuits on the middle rack of a 400F oven until cooked through and golden brown.
This takes 15 to 20 minutes in my oven. I'd start checking them at 15.
These biscuits are best served warm but can be kept for several days in an airtight container or frozen for up to six months.
To reheat them, wrap them in a damp kitchen towel and put them in a 350F oven for 5 to 7 minutes.
We love to use walnut and white cheddar biscuits to make bacon sandwiches. If you're feeding a crowd, you can cook the bacon all at once in the oven, making this a quick, fuss-free meal. It would be great for breakfast or, served with a salad on the side, as a quick supper.
Walnut and white cheddar biscuits also pair well with pepper jelly or with savoury cranberry relish. Add turkey and some fresh spinach to make a perfect day-after-Christmas sandwich lunch.
Related post: My blogging friend Canadian Budget Binder made crockpot pulled pork with homemade barbecue sauce and served it over these biscuits. Sounds mighty good to me!