Biscuit ビスケット

japanese cake

The word “Biscuit” is used differently in North America and the British commonwealth. In England, biscuit is either sweet or savory “cookie” or “cracker” and in North America, it is soft quick bread (made with leavening agents such as baking powder or soda or both).   In Japan, biscuit  ビスケット usually means a type of cookie like in England. When I was growing up “biscuit” meant  a round sweet cookie which was locally produced and called “saka-biscuit” 坂ビスケット. It was wrapped in a paper cylinder (such as the one in the picture to the left). This company is still making “biscuits” but they are not wrapped in a paper cylinder like the old days.

More recently, probably because of its popularity KFC in Japan has made, North American style “biscuits” (with some Japanese modifications) became popular.

When I first came and live in the US, I was quite impressed with an instant biscuit that comes in a cardboard cylinder from Pillsbury. (see first picture).  With a sharp whack, the cylinder pops open (something my wife liked to do when she was a kid). You get “freshly” baked biscuits simply by putting the dough from the cylinder on a cookie sheet and baking.

Digression alert: My wife told me that when she was little girl her mother sent her to the local corner grocery store to get somethings for dinner, one of which was a package of Pillsbury biscuits. She was holding a roll of the biscuits in her hand while waiting in line to check out. The line was fairly long and it was taking some time.  When she got to the cashier she accidentally dropped the cylinder onto the floor. To every one’s surprise there was a loud POP and the end of the tube flew off. The biscuits shot out of the tube like from a canon. Apparently the heat from her little hand activated the leavening agent and the whack when it hit the floor broke the seal causing the dough, which was by then under considerable pressure, to shoot out like little doughy canon balls.)

I haven’t had these biscuits for quite some time but when I was using them I thought they were quite good particularly just out of the oven. But once they got cold they became hard as a rock.

My wife used to make authentic North American biscuits from the scratch all the time but she has not made any for quite some time. So, when she saw this interesting recipe in the Washington Post, she had to try it.  We enjoyed them with scrambled eggs for breakfast.

The original recipe was “double ginger” flavor but she did not add any ginger.

Ingredients

For the biscuits (the recipe yielded a dozen rectangular biscuits):

– 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling

– 1 cup cake flour

– 1 tablespoon plus 3/4 teaspoon baking powder

– 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

– 1 teaspoon salt

– 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter

– 3/4 cup cold regular or low-fat buttermilk, or more as needed

(The original recipe provided weights for the ingredients and generally when given a choice for baking, my wife thinks using weights is more accurate. But she discovered that the weights provided were nowhere close to the weight of the ingredient if measured by the cup then weighed on the scale. I could hear her muttering, “Don’t they ever proof read their recipes or better yet try them out first?”) 

Directions

Whisk together the all-purpose and cake flours, baking powder, sugar, ground ginger, if using, and salt in a large bowl.

Use the widest opening on a box grater to grate the butter into the flour mixture, adding it a bit at a time and gently mixing it into the flour so it doesn’t clump up. Use your hands to make sure the butter is fully incorporated into the flour. Add the buttermilk; use a flexible spatula to mix until the dough holds together. If the mixture’s still too crumbly, add up to 2 more tablespoons of buttermilk.

Lightly flour a rolling pin and a clean work surface. Transfer the dough there; use a light touch to shape it into a rectangle, then pull the far end of the rectangle up toward you and fold the dough over in half. Press down on the dough and repeat this step 6 more times.

Roll out the folded dough to a 1-inch thickness. Use the biscuit cutter to form a total of 10 to 12 biscuits; you can re-roll the dough once, but you might notice less height on those re-rolled biscuits after baking. For this reason my wife made the biscuits into a rectangular instead of the traditional round shape. This is because, as suggested by the recipe above, the round shape results in dough between the circles being left over. In order to use up all the dough these leftover pieces have to be re-rolled and re-cut. The extra working of the dough causes the biscuits to be less tender and flaky. The rectangular shape results in using all the dough with only one cutting (pictures shown below). Place the biscuits on a baking sheet.

Cover the biscuits with plastic wrap; freeze for 1 hour or up to overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner.

Bake the biscuits (straight from the freezer, unwrapped; middle rack) for 12 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake for 8 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.

There were two reasons my wife wanted to try the recipe. First the idea of using a grater to flake the butter sounded like a good technique. Secondly, freezing the dough idea was new to us and we were interested in  how this came out. The biscuits were not as flaky or as fluffy as my wife’s usual buttermilk biscuits. They were good in there own right but nothing special. They did go well  with the scrambled eggs (I made mine into a small sandwich). Hopefully, my wife will make her original buttermilk biscuits again, soon.

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