Monday, May 14, 2007

Cheddar biscuits with ham & chives

I am going to tell you how to make these biscuits except I am going to tell you how to make them with MUCH LESS SALT! I made these for a Mother's Day party that a friend from the dog park hosted. She has a really gorgeous house and let a bunch of us childless dog park people come over with our grubby pets and mess it up on Sunday. I think it was a really cute idea to have a Mother's Day brunch for us dog mothers...even my mother who is an actual, real, human mother who doesn't normally go in for "whimsy" or "fun of any sort" thought it was funny. Anyway, I made these biscuits to take over which was actually a good idea but they were far too salty as I had underestimated the power of ham. So, learn from my mistake and don't bother putting any salt in the dough at all if you'll be using ham. If omitting the ham, you'll need a smidge of salt but not much because the cheese flavors it a bit as well.

I had the guy at the DeKalb Farmer's Market deli counter slice me two big pieces of (incredibly salty! learn from mistakes!) smoked ham. He adjusted the slicer to get them about 1/2" thick each. I only ended up using one of them--cut the 1/2" thick piece of ham into teeny tiny little cubes and fried them up to get a bit crispy in a pan, then set aside. Probably was not even a 1/4 cup of teeny ham cubes all total. Finely grated about 1/2 cup of sharp cheddar cheese and set that aside as well, along with about 1/3 cup of minced fresh chives. Began preheating the oven at 450 degrees and greased up a couple of baking sheets. In a big bowl, mixed very well 2 cups of flour with 3 teaspoons baking powder, and 1 teaspoon baking soda. Cut up about 4 tablespoons of cold butter (you can use less, but should use at least 2) into tiny, ham bit-size chunks and integrated them into the flour mixture. You can use a food processor if you have one. I don't, so I cut it in with my hands by picking up butter chunks and rubbing it into the flour. It's tedious, but whatever. Your biscuits will thank you. Get all the butter really well integrated--it turns the flour grainy and piecey, but there should not be any butter left visible. Then added 1 cup buttermilk, 1 teaspoon cayenne, and the cheese, chives and ham bits. Mixed until it just barely stuck together in a ball. As with the lemon pancakes we made at Easter time, this is the thing with foods in the quick bread family--you do not overmix them or push them around or harrass them or they become tough and don't rise up in the oven or go to college and make a decent living. So just stir the wet and dry ingredients until they are barely incorporated and starting to cling together, then turn out on a floured surface and knead super lightly a few times. I was making these in drop biscuit form, rather than cutting them out with a biscuit cutter, so maybe I didn't actually need to knead at all. Not sure about that. If you wanted to cut out these biscuits instead, you would add less liquid--maybe 3/4 cup. Anyway, I dropped the biscuits in little spoonfuls onto my greasy baking sheets--they made about 18 or 20 total. Popped them in the super hot oven for just shy of ten minutes, then hauled them out. They were puffed up nicely and looked really pretty. Then I stupidly put them into a container and walked them over to the dog mother's day brunch and they got all squished because they were still hot. But they tasted good, if unattractive. Oh, and salty. You may have noticed that I left that out--seriously, I was nibbling on a leftover one just now and I think I have instant hypertension.


Sara said...

Love the doggie Mother's Day party. Great idea. I'm stealing it when we adopt another furry-one.

Did you use unsalted butter? Another place to cut out the Na.

carla said...

Oh, how right you are! Now that you mention it, was my butter salted or unsalted? I think, maybe it was unsalted. I seem to recall Brian holding a chunk of it aloft at the DeKalb Market and saying "unsalted, right?" But if it wasn't...if I have False Memory Syndrome...then, yet another salty source has been identified! Now you're thinking like an epidemiologist!