Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Apple Cheddar Biscuits

I've been working on a series that had me (very very happily) traveling to vineyards around the country, and between travel and recipe testing these posts slipped through the cracks. But I've been cooking like crazy for the past few months, and I hope to update the blog with lots of new recipes.

This past weekend, after returning from the last leg of our travels, I embarked on opening my first pop-up restaurant with two other chefs. In planning our autumn-themed dinner we had many conversations about what flavors make us think the change in seasons and dropping temperatures (even in LA, although very slightly). Apple cheddar combos are classic and available year-round, but I always get the hankering to make apple cheddar dishes when apples are fresh and at their best. As in: right now.

This biscuit recipe is solid, and it works without either the apple or cheddar. You can use any kind of apple; I like to bake with something tart and firm. You could also swap apple for pear, or cheddar for another hard cheese. You could add some fresh herbs (thyme) to the batter for another level of flavor.

These biscuits are best served warm with butter and a good jam on the side. Once out of the oven, they go fast!

Apple Cheddar Biscuits
Makes 24 small biscuits, or about 12-14 standard sized biscuits 

1/2 an apple, cubed small
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4  teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
9 tablespoons butter, cubed - very cold
1 cup buttermilk (or regular milk if buttermilk is unavailable) - very cold
1 cup freshly shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese, plus more for garnish
freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Start by cutting your apple into small cubes. Lay the apple cubes out on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake the apple for 15 minutes, or until tender and cooked. The idea behind this step is to release some of the moisture so that the apple doesn't make the biscuit too wet, and also so that it gets cooked and is a pleasing texture. You will need about 1/2 a cup of cooked apple cubes for your biscuit mixture. Extra apple can be used as a topping for oatmeal or yogurt.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisking the dry ingredients together will help with the ultimate fluffy texture you want.

Add the cold cubed butter to the flour. Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour until the mixture becomes a coarse meal (no bigger than pea sized pieces). Alternatively, you can use a food processor to cut your butter into the flour. Pulse the flour and butter together until a coarse meal forms.

Make a well in the center of your butter and flour mixture. Add the buttermilk, cheddar, and apples to the dough. Using a spatula, gently combine the dough with the buttermilk. Be careful not to over mix. Once the mixture just starts to hold together, transfer it onto your board. Knead the dough a few times until it fully incorporates. At this point, you can chill it until you're ready to use. You can also use it immediately.

On a lightly dusted surface, either roll or pat down your dough to about 1/2-inch-3/4-inch thick. Using biscuit cutters, cut out your biscuits and place them onto a parchment-lined sheet pan. Top each biscuit with a tiny bit of shredded cheese and freshly ground pepper. For a glossier top, you can brush the tops of the biscuits with buttermilk. You can use the scraps of dough to make more biscuits, but their texture won't be quite as good as the one's that are cute from less worked on dough.

Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes until the biscuits have risen and are a golden brown.

Serve warm.

At the pop-up we brought them out alongside some quince jam, and some homemade pickles.
Photo by Mark Hanauer

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