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Biscuit Help


Ekaterina
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Hello, everyone!

I am experiencing problems with a biscuit recipe from the US, that proved to be a bad choice in Russia.

I've had experiences like this before, where a recipe I've used in the US or Europe needs to be changed to achieve a proper result in another country.

I tried making some biscuits to make a strawberry shortcake. They came out very heavy and took forever to bake through.

Perhaps someone can help me with a recipe for light and airy biscuits. I would like to give it a try, since I've had no luck with modifying the amount of butter or flour with the one I was using.

Thanks in advance!

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What is the recipe that you are using? Perhaps your flour has a different gluten content than that in the US? What is the leavener that you use? I have some recipes that call for baking ammonia if that is more common in your area, let me know.

You might try this and see what the results are like:

2 cups regular all purpose flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

Heavy cream (must be cream, not milk as this is the only fat)

Stir together the dry ingredients and the add heavy cream until it is a thick batter you can pat out or add a little more and drop from a spoon. If you have only sour cream, add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda as well.

if they are for shortcakes, I like to brush the top with cream and sprinkle with sugar before baking.

Don't try to win over the haters. You're not the jackass whisperer."

Scott Stratten

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Hello, everyone!

I am experiencing problems with a biscuit recipe from the US, that proved to be a bad choice in Russia. 

I think it would help if you posted the recipe you used, and something about your ingredients--what kind of flour, leavening did you use, etc? It's difficult to diagnose a problem without knowing more details about your recipe and ingredients, and it's difficult to predict what recipe might be better, without knowing about the ingredients you have available to you.

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Here is the recipe I used:

110 g. flour

1 tsp. sugar

pinch of salt

1/4 tsp. baking powder

1/8 tsp. baking soda.

30 g. butter

60 g. buttermilk

2 Tbs. milk

Russians usually use beetroot based sugar, but I've used the fine caster sugar from sugarcane. The beetroot sugar has very large crystals, does not caramelize well, has many impurities and just weighs everything down.

Since the flour has not gluten content written on it, it's hard for me to say for sure. But I presume it is like regular all-purpose flour.

Other than that, I really don't know what could have been the problem. Perhaps I just used too little quantities? I was doing a degustation for a job and did not want to make a huge amount of dough, as I only had to present one plate of each dessert.

Thank you for the recipe. I will give it a try. This biscuit stuff is bothering me now. :)

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Here's what I've learned about biscuits from my two years in the South, where they know their biscuits: Put all your dry ingredients in a bowl and, using your hands, cut in the fat until the mixture is coarse and crumbly. Make a well in the center and pour in the liquid. As if you're folding a fragile cake batter, pull the dry from the bottom over the top of the liquid and continue to do so, moving the bowl around to get all edges. When the liquid is incorporated into the dry, but not mixed completely together, dump it out onto a very well floured table. Spread it gently into a rectangle and slather it with soft butter. Fold the sides in, as if you were making puff pastry. Turn the dough 90 degrees, flouring your table again as necessary, and fold the sides in again. How many times you need to repeat the process depends on the dough. It should stay soft and pliable, not resist your efforts. Three times should be enough. Then, roll it very gently, using more flour, if necessary and cut the biscuits out with a flour-dipped cutter. Put them on a papered or buttered sheet pan, edges just touching. Brush them with melted butter (get the pattern here? butter is your friend! and your biscuits' friend, too) and bake them in a medium-hot oven (375-400F) until the tops are well-browned and the biscuits are firm. How long depends on how thick you rolled them and how large you cut them. When they come out of the oven, brush them with more--guess what!--butter.

We use White Lily flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt, with shortening as the fat in the dough, but cream of tartar and baking soda are just baking powder unmixed. We also use buttermilk, a very high fat one. Good luck! Let us know how they come out in your future efforts!

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110 grams of flour is one American cup of flour right?

So this is the formula I would use, and I think all you have to do in your formula is increase your leavening. You need one and a half teaspoons of whatever leavening for one cup of flour.

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/3 cup cold butter

3/4 cup milk

Mix as Maggie describes--except I only fold the dough over once if at all--I work the dough as little as possible--I leave as much flour on the board as possible--I don't want to work additional flour in but biscuits should not be real sticky either--so in other words you have to get it right the first time like a muffin-- I leave the dough like at least an inch high before I start cutting out biscuits--I spray the cutter with pan release and I dip it in flour so it cuts nice & releases well. I bake in at least a 425 or 450 degree oven. We ordinarily would not put sugar in biscuits. For shortcakes I would put them an inch apart on the baking sheets so they bake with a a nice crust all the way around.

I most always will sour my milk with vinegar or use buttermilk.

So for a small amount half that. You would still be using one and a half teaspoons of leavening.

You want these to erupt in the oven--which is why my dough is an inch thick before I cut them out--cutting them out squishes them down considerably because it is so soft--leaving your dough real thick in the first place and getting a nice clean cut helps make a nice high fluffy biscuit.

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I don't know if this is germane but in France, and other parts of the world as well I imagine, they mark the type of flour on the package. For example, a fine grind flour for pastry would be 'Type 45' and for breads they might use the coarser milled 'Type 55.' I think that the equivalent for American all-purpose flour would be 'Type 65.' Expats in France feel free to correct me if I've erred.

Does this apply to your situation? Hope this helps.

John DePaula
formerly of DePaula Confections
Hand-crafted artisanal chocolates & gourmet confections - …Because Pleasure Matters…
--------------------
When asked “What are the secrets of good cooking? Escoffier replied, “There are three: butter, butter and butter.”

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I dont bake enough to analize the recipe but,.....the only time I have been happy with a biscuit that I baked in New Jersey was when I got some soft wheat flour packaged in the Southern US. So you may want to try using Cake flour for some of the flour in the recipe.

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A rough guide to the amount of gluten in your flour will be the amount of protein. If the nutritional information is printed as protein per 100g, then a soft flour will have 8g or so of protein, American all-purpose will have something like 10g and a strong bread flour 12 or 13g. Look for low protein (soft) for biscuits, or you can try substituting cornflour for some of the flour.

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Yep, and when a southern cat kneads its claws into you, it's called "making biscuits."

The recipe is:

5 lbs. White Lily flour

2 Tablespoons Cream of Tartar

2 Tablespoons Baking Soda

2 Tablespoons Salt

1 lb. Shortening

8 cups Buttermilk

1 lb. butter

The Lead a.m. Baker in my kitchen uses less butter than I, but I think she turns them less as well. Definitely handle the dough as little as possible, always. The dough we're dumping out on the table and turning hardly qualifies as dough. It's a very loose mixture until the turning starts, which is what brings it together as dough. My understanding is that the recipe is our Chef's, John Fleer at Blackberry Farm. He's very particular about them! My first time making them, I had to redo them three times. But when they're right, they're great!

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Here's what I've learned about biscuits from my two years in the South, where they know their biscuits:  Good luck!  Let us know how they come out in your future efforts!

Maggie,

thank you so much for your pointers! You gave such a detailed description, that it would be hard for the biscuits to come out heavy again!

I never realized that you have to almost "turn" the biscuit dough like puff pastry. First time I hear about this, actually. But it makes sense to get a light and fluffy biscuit as a result. Thanks again! I will lelt you know how it turns out.

And with buttermilk in Russia there are no problems. It's sold in every store here. My favourite is the kind that is still made in glass bottles, like the ones that milk used to come in. It wonderfully delicious, thick and so rich, that it even has a thin layer of cream at the top!

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Regarding the gluten-content of flour:

I lived in Paris (actually in Fontainebleau) for a year, and worked at a great restaurant Chez Catherine. My husband and I moved from France in July for his work, and I really miss it!

The French system of marking the flour by type is really wonderful. And the regulations require that all flours be marked. I know that some EU regulations are trying to force farmers to use pausterized milk for cheese (a horrible thought!) and standardize certain food-making procedures. But some regulating is good, actually.

The problem with Russian flour is that the markings on it are not regulated. Some makers mark the g. of protein on the flour (it usually hovers at 11 or 12, which is on the strong side), but it is not a requirement. And even the the flour is marked, there is no guarantee that that is how much protein it actually contains.

Eric Kayser has recently opened a bread bakery in Moscow. When I consulted on a menu for a very posh Moscow restaurant, I also arranged for them to change their bread to the Kayser bread. It took the Kayser bakers three tries to produce a result that resembled the fine crust and chewy texture of their bread in Paris. The first iteration was aweful - very heavy and chewy. The same exact symptom as I've had with my biscuits.

I've run into small issues with many of my US and European recipes, but I've never had as much trouble as with bread doughs or a biscuit recipe. :) So that is why I posted on Egullet. I've recieved a lot of great advice, that hopefully will help me decipher the root of the problem.

I honestly am not sure what the cause is. My Harold McGee book has offered no distinct help. Whether it's the flour, or the butter, or the water. Or a combination of the three. I've already mentioned that I am using cane caster sugar, instead of the normal beetroot sugar. Otherwise, even petit four-sized finianciers turn out heavy, like tiny bricks.

Edited by Ekaterina (log)
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