When my dear friend Karen Deborah visited over the New Year, we feasted on scones, biscuits, and lots more as we downed pots and pots of tea. She asked me to write down my favorite recipes for her as she desired to trim the budget without reducing the quality of their mealtimes. I agreed to share some of my very favorite "scratch" recipes for basics like biscuits and pie crust.
Time flew and this promise went unfulfilled.
Recently, she put out an SOS on her blog and I remembered that I had a debt to pay (and paying this kind of debt is pure pleasure). With the crash in the economy and many hearts turning toward home-cooking to save some dough (*snicker*), I thought I would just pop these easy-as-pie recipes onto my blog so all of you friends could take a look at some of my favorites (which may become favorites of yours, too).
As I've mentioned in a previous post, one of my all-time favorite cookbook/lifestyle manuals is Hearth and Home by Karey Swan.
I discovered this excellent book through some homeschooling avenue that I fail to recall. It emphasizes a whole-wheat healthy diet and lifestyle reflecting a love of homemaking and the celebration of a simpler life. Reading Karey's book is like sitting across the table from that dear friend who has so much to share and such a heart for sharing it. Her story will delight you, her recipes will inspire you, and your whole family will benefit (not to mention the budget savings).
Recently, while wandering around google looking for some reference to something (which I also fail to recall at this moment . . . hmmmmm, should I be worried?), I happened upon Karey's blog. I have always wished for a sequel to Home and Hearth and with this newly discovered blog and the opportunity to connect more personally through email, I have found that joyful sequel and it continues to grow as Karey shares so many wonderful thoughts, life lessons, celebrations, and yummy recipes. Her book refers to a whole wheat velvet spice cake with caramel frosting but fails to include the recipe; through prompting from me, she has listed that recipe on her blog. (Sorry I couldn't create a link to the recipes posted on January 30th and 31st, so you'll have to check her recipes file -- trust me, it's worth the extra effort).
Well, this all leads to my family's favorite biscuit recipe, Sky High Biscuits, which lends itself to adaptation in so many delightful ways. I think I should state right now that I am a recipe tinkerer and generally do not follow the exact instruction after the first attempt -- and sometimes not even then. In the case of these excellent biscuits, I did make them per the recipe, and then I adapted the use of my food processor, then I went 100% whole wheat, then I experimented with herbs and spices (Italian seasonings make a delicious variation), and finally I added a bit more sweetener, substituted flavored kefir for the milk (or buttermilk, as I often use) and came up with a moist and delicious whole wheat scone. Have fun with these basic recipes and you will discover your inner cook and artist.
But, getting back to the basics, this Sky High Biscuit recipe (pictured at the post beginning) should delight all. (Just click on the pic for a larger, easier-to-read version.)
The following basic bread recipe makes a wonderfully light and fluffy loaf suitable for sandwiches, pizza bread, toast, and produces excellent breadcrumbs from the dried out pieces (if you are lucky enough to have anything leftover). I use 100% whole wheat with a bit of pure gluten added. I also halve the recipe (hence the 2-1/4 notation next to the salt quantity) because my kitchen aid can't quite handle a full batch. (I'm eyeing a more powerful model. Anyone have any comments or suggestions?) This bread is SO EASY! It has only one rise time because it begins with a 15-minute "Sponge" step. I encourage you all to give it a try and sit back and bask in the warm reception from your family.
Now as for those light and flaky pie crusts we all admire through an intimidated veil, I have two fabulously easy recipes. The first comes from The Amish Cook by Elizabeth Coblentz with Kevin Williams; a fascinating read even if you never cook any of the recipes. I highly recommend strolling through this back-to-basics lifestyle of devotion, frugality, and healthy eating.
This Never Fail Pie Crust has never failed me! I have used it for pies, tarts, turnovers, and more. You can sculpt the dough into leaves and work it a bit more than usual without fear of ending up with cement (or worse, a crumbly mess). This dough works well for the beginner or children who eagerly wish to roll out the dough. I like thick flaky crusts and this one never fails to please for fruit pies, meat pies/pasties, and more.
For a little more advanced baker who desires an all butter crust, I highly recommend the basic pate brisee in Susan Herrmann Loomis' book French Farm House. I herald this as another "must read" for the experience, if not for the recipes. ALL of Loomis' books entertain and make you yearn to know more and more about how people eat and celebrate life across the nation and across the globe. I have several of her books and they provide staple recipes and inspiration to try something new.
This simple recipe yields a most delectable crust. Give yourself time to experiment with the dough, keeping in mind this desires a lighter touch than the Amish crust above. Go on . . . give this one a try, too. My first attempt was SO UGLY that I ended up flinging it onto a cookie sheet, covering the hideous dough with rose petal jam, and then folding the sides in to make a crude looking pocketbook of dough. The results? The MOST DELICIOUS and attractively rustic tart that wowed my family. So, failure became success in another's eyes (and tastebuds). Take the time to get acquainted with this all-butter beauty. You'll be glad you did.
Now on a final note: I cook with whole wheat whenever possible (you'd be amazed how seldom I need unbleached flour) and avoid transfats. I use butter, olive oil, and Spectrum Naturals Organic All-Vegetable Shortening (made with 100% non-hydrogenated palm oil) for those recipes calling for shortening -- like Earl Scrugg's Famous Buttermilk Biscuits (but I'll save that one for another post).
What's next on my list of homemaking challenges? Hmmmmm . . . in my quest for new avenues to higher health value and beneficial budget savings, I have recently purchased a grain mill.
I have had it less than a week and enjoyed every day of grinding, testing, baking, and grinding again. My recipes need a bit of modification as the flour quality varies from commercially ground flours, but that is all part of the fun. So, if you miss me here at the blog you can probably find me in the kitchen with a whirring machine and a well-floured smile.
Next on the list? Refried Beans with ground pintos BEFORE cooking. I'll let you know how that goes. : D