Thursday, July 17, 2008

Favorite Things: Cornmeal Biscuits

This is one of my favorite recipes. I've been making it for less than a year or so, but every time I want a bread-y thing to go with soup or stew, this is what I crave the most. It gets annoying because I'd like to try other biscuits and breads, but I just like these so much! Consistency also comes into play-- they turn out perfectly every time I make them.

I have mentioned these cornmeal biscuits as an aside in other posts and sent you to the original recipe from Cooking Light magazine. I'm tired of looking for that link and mentally dividing the recipe in half whenever I make them, so I decided they deserved their own post at last. You may notice that the CL recipe should yield 24 biscuits. When I halve the recipe, I've never get more than 9, despite rolling the dough as indicated and using the same size biscuit cutter. By the way, the iris in my photo is apropos of nothing; but I happened to have some lovely flowers and wanted to jazz up the shot.

The original recipe calls for half all-purpose and half whole wheat flour. I use only my trusty whole wheat pastry flour instead. It provides a tender, small crumb and is easier than using two different flours. I think white whole wheat flour would work too, if that's what you have at home. Of course, simple all-purpose flour is acceptable, but then you would miss out on all the nutrients and fiber that make these biscuits healthy while satisfying even the most intense carb craving.

There aren't too many other ingredients to discuss here. The recipe is incredibly simple, but the results are outstanding. For the cornmeal, use 100% whole grain stone ground varieties, NOT a generic, "enriched" supermarket cornmeal product. It doesn't have to be an expensive, boutique brand; just an unprocessed, whole food. Well-stocked supermarkets will carry it, but you may need to visit a health food store. Three great brands are Bob's Red Mill (I'm currently using their medium grind), Hodgson Mill and Arrowhead Mills.

Sorry about being so bossy there, but without good ingredients, a simple recipe like this just won't fly. I almost forgot about butter. If you can eat these without a generous pat of good butter, you're a better person than I.

Cornmeal Biscuits
Adapted from this recipe in Cooking Light magazine
For the whole wheat pastry flour, you may substitute: white whole wheat, all-purpose, or half all-purpose and half whole wheat.

Makes 9

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (9 1/2 ounces)
1/2 cup stone ground cornmeal (2 1/2 ounces), medium or fine grind
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tablespoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Scant 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt or 1/4 teaspoon table salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and chilled
1 cup lowfat buttermilk
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
1 teaspoon sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 450 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small bowl, mix the poppy and sesame seeds and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking soda, baking powder and salt; whisk thoroughly. Add the chilled butter and work it into the flour mixture with your fingers for a minute or two until a few small chunks and plenty of shaggy bits remain.

Add the buttermilk to the bowl and stir just until the flour mixture is moistened; do not over mix. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface, knead once or twice with floured hands and shape into a ball. Flatten the ball of dough slightly, sprinkle with flour and use a rolling pin to roll dough into a 3/4- to 1-inch thick disk. With a 2 1/2-inch cutter, stamp out biscuits, dipping cutter into flour each time. Transfer biscuits to baking sheet. Quickly roll remaining dough into a new disk and stamp out more biscuits, flouring the cutter each time. Repeat until you've used up all the dough.

Lightly brush biscuits with egg white and sprinkle with seed mixture. Bake 9 to 11 minutes or until bottoms are deep golden brown. Cool on baking sheet 5 minutes, transfer to rack and cool at least 5 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. These freeze exceptionally well; defrost at room temperature.


zenana said...

I luuurv cornmeal biscuits. Can't wait to try these.

Peabody said...

Those would be great with split pea soup.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Would also be great split open, with some butter (yes, I know) and a slice of a ripe tomato on top. Yum.

Julie said...

Zenana: try them!
Peabody: Yup, I've eaten them with split pea.
Lydia: You're absolutely right, but that tomato would just get in the way of my butter enjoyment, so i can't do it:)

Cheryl said...

I'm thinking a slather of soft butter and a big squeeze of honey. My husband, a Texan, taught me about the corn biscuit/honey/butter trinity, and I've been a convert ever since.

Christine said...

I really like the sound of these, and I'm so glad they work well using whole wheat pastry flour. I can just taste them beside a fall soup or stew... a little honey in the dough, a pat of butter on the biscuit... oh, yum! Thanks for posting the recipe.

Count Ron said...

ouch. apropos of nothing ?
I think you need to run away to Mexico with me right now.

{_evil grin_}

Anna said...

I'll have to try this version. I made some tonight, but my recipe uses regular flour, a ton of butter and a ratio of 1/2 cup cornmeal to 1 cup all purpose. It will be fun to compare the two.