Any entertaining season down South is bound to feature trays of tiny biscuits, filled with anything from Smithfield to Co-cola baked ham to fried quail eggs and any other local delicacy. They’re split and buttered and filled and eaten like popcorn---for Derby Day or Mardi Gras parties or the most elegant wedding receptions. They, too, have suffered the appellation “Snuffcan” because of the perfect size and sharpness of a little silver Garrett can for cutting out the dough, though I wonder if you can even FIND the cans anymore. Perhaps they’ll be family heirlooms, passed down with the repousse silver and the Hope Chest linens.
For two dozen or more cocktail biscuits:
2 c. Martha White SR flour
¼ c Crisco
1 c. buttermilk
Oven 450. Pam-spray cookie sheet or use Silpat.
Measure 1 c. buttermilk, then take out 2 T. and put in small bowl with a dash of salt.
Sift flour into large bowl, cut in Crisco until like coarse cracker crumbs.
Stir in buttermilk just until dough holds together, then dump from bowl onto floured cloth.
Lift each side of cloth, corners, too, one at a time, and let the dough sorta fold back onto itself a few times, then pat it out to about 1/2 inch. Cut with 1” cutter---should make two dozen or more. Reassemble scraps and pat together only once to cut a few more.
Place on Silpat and gently brush tops only with the buttermilk. Bake 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on rack before slicing horizontally with serrated knife for filling.
One of my husband’s brothers is a huntin', fishin', boot-wearin’ Good Ole Boy who calls himself my “Redneck Brother-in-Law.” His wife is a wonderful Southern cook, who unfailingly brings a bowl of butterbeans and another of Kraft Mac ‘n’ Cheese to every family gathering because that’s all her children will eat.
But their Daddy, now---he’s an adventurous eater, and tucks into anything I set down on the table---he’s enjoyed quite a few “fancy” dishes, and none quite so much as the small pate a choux puffs filled with chicken salad, which he can eat by the dozen. He’s been known to call ahead of a gathering to say, “Be sure and make them lil biskits.” And I usually do.
THEM LIL BISKITS:
Pate a choux puffs---makes 40/50 depending on drop size
1 cup water
1 stick butter
1 cup flour
Preheat oven to 425. Sprinkle a little water on cookie sheets, then line sheets with parchment. The water helps the parchment stay down when you raise the piping tip to release.
Most recipes call for A/P flour; I hardly ever kept anything but S/R, so that’s what my ten-thousands of little puffs were made with.
Put water and butter in saucepan and bring to a boil. When butter is completely melted, lower the heat a bit and dump in flour. Stir briskly with wooden spoon. The dough will clump a bit, then clean the sides of the pan, like a ball spinning on the spoon. It's one of those magical moments in cooking, like when the pudding starts to blup and thicken, or the fudge gets that silky shine.
Take off heat and set pan on a potholder or damp towel on the counter. Stir in eggs one at a time. The dough will start to turn golden from the eggs, and after the first one, stir after each egg until the dough looks pretty much like it did after the last.
If the weather is REALLY damp that day, beat the last egg in a bowl, then dribble it in til it reaches the right consistency---you may not need all the fourth egg.
Pipe the puffs onto parchment, smaller than an inch, or drop from teaspoons. Wet your finger and gently tap any little points from the piping or dropping.
Bake 425 for 10 minutes, middle rack, then 350 for 20, or until they’re golden and a little bit crisp. You can reach into the oven with a long knife and give them a little tap---you'll hear a little crisp click when they're just right. Hold edge of parchment and gently slide spatula beneath puffs to remove. Cool on racks.
You can make eight éclair shells with this recipe---just pipe them out into what looks like half-size hotdog buns. Or make twelve large creampuffs---the larger items will take longer with the 350 bake, probably 25 minutes.
Also on the large ones, stick a knifetip into the side of each one as you put it on the rack, so the steam can escape. You may need to remove any still-soft dough from the inside when you cut them.
When cool, fill with pastry cream or chocolate cream or cheesecake filling and drizzle with ganache for éclairs, or sprinkle creampuffs with powdered sugar.
Them Lil Biskits, on the other hand, shine brightly as a signature dish, filled with chicken salad, crab salad or shrimp salad, on a doilied silver tray with maybe a posy alongside. The filling should be cut fairly small, about like sandwich fillings.
MY RBIL would run you a race for a plate of those “biscuits.” And to keep the whole thing truly Southern, a tray of cornbread mini-muffins, filled with a slice of Chris’ smoked turkey warm from the grill, with a little spread of cranberry mayo---those disappear like magic.
There’s just something about the homey old standards, straight from Mammaw’s table and gussied up a bit in size and filling, but still the familiar, wonderful old tastes---biscuits and cornbread come to town.
Tomorrow: Pink Salad