Sometimes, on your luckiest days, you stumble upon something that changes your life in a small way. Maybe it's a new song, or a faster way to get to work, or a chocolate mousse that only requires two ingredients.
For me, this week, it was discovering a sweet little gem of a recipe for cornmeal biscuits. This recipe almost evaded me at first. For starters, it was called "Corn Mealies," which is not the most promising name. Also, it was buried in the Rumford Baking Powder recipe archives, obscured by complicated-sounding yeast breads and overshadowed by alluring desserts like "hot fudge brownie pudding cakes" (more on that soon).
But I gave the recipe a once-over. It's a fairly straightforward biscuit recipe—quick and easy, rich with shortening and gritty with cornmeal—until you get to the shaping step.
Instead of rolling and cutting out rounds of biscuits, you slice and stack strips of the dough in the manner of a butter fan roll. You end up with little piles of buttery biscuit dough squares, which you then bake in muffin tins.
The rolls expand as they bake, puffing into gorgeous tiered biscuits. They pull apart easily and stay soft and tender in the center. I like to brush the tops generously with melted butter, letting it soak into the nooks and crannies of the dough. A sprinkle of flaky sea salt doesn't hurt either.
You can easily adapt this recipe: Dried or fresh herbs would be an excellent addition to the dough. You could add garlic powder, or a shower of grated Parmesan. I'd like to try sesame seeds in a batch, and serve them with a tahini butter. Endlessly versatile, they're such a simple and quick way to make a very sophisticated-looking baked good. And for anyone reluctant to dive into yeast baking, or short on time, this is the perfect (yeast-less) recipe to keep on deck.
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cornmeal
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons shortening
- 2/3 cup cold milk
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
Sweet biscuits? Savory biscuits? Yeasted biscuits? Buttermilk? Flaky? Tender? Claim your allegiances in the comments.