Friday, August 26, 2011

Angel Biscuits

Like any good carb-loving, Midwestern girl, I have a particular fondness for biscuits. I love 'em. Many years ago, my dad used to make them out of the can for breakfast on the weekends. That was the biscuit as we knew it: little hockey puck-shaped bits of bread full of white flour, hydrogenated oil, and high fructose corn syrup. I loved them though, and they made a tasty diversion from my usual cold cereal.

Although I don't remember all the details too clearly (I think I was in high school and branching out my cooking a little more), I remember noticing a biscuit recipe in my Mom's favorite cookbook. It had only five or six ingredients and didn't have to rise, so I decided to try my hand at baking something bread-like. They were surprisingly easy to make and only baked in 10 minutes. They came out of the oven perfect the first time and they tasted so different from the canned ones... so much BETTER, that I never ate a canned biscuit again. I even got Mom in on the biscuit-making action!

Oh, and I got a camera. Now I can start buying decorative plates!

I've had a baking powder biscuit recipe that I've used for years and any time I've wanted some biscuits in a snap, I just pulled out my recipe card and got to work (my old roommates thought I was crazy baking something from scratch in the early hours of the morning!). However, I've always seen another recipe that had me intrigued. They're always called Angel Biscuits because they're so "light and flaky" and they're just like your standard baking powder recipe, only yeasted, and well, without much baking powder! Baking powder is tricky and if you get too much of it in a recipe (even though it's a vital ingredient), you can taste it... And it doesn't taste good. Since the angel biscuits are yeasted, you don't have to rely on the baking powder to help it rise (although a little is still needed) and you don't have to worry about any lingering taste.

They do have to rise, but it's so easy! You just mix them up and let them hang out in the fridge for an hour before you roll them out. The result was seriously the lightest, flakiest, and tastiest biscuit I've ever made to date. They also have this amazing crispy bottom crust that I haven't had on a biscuit in ages. I now know why this recipe is mentioned in cookbooks and magazines again and again. It's really that much better (especially now that it's vegan)!

Whole-Wheat Angel Biscuits:
1 pkg. active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)
1/2 c. warm water (should feel like a hot bath)
3 c. unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 c. raw sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 c. non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening
2 c. original unsweetened almond milk

1. Dissolve the sugar in the warm water in a small bowl and add the yeast. Let stand for 5 minutes or until completely foamy. If it's not foamy and the end of 5 minutes, dump it out and try again.

2. Combine the all-purpose flour, whole wheat pastry flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt in a large bowl with a whisk. Cut in the shortening with a pastry blender or 2 knives until the mixture makes coarse crumbs. Add the yeast mixture (make sure you get all the sugar if there's some still left in the bowl) and the almond milk to the flour mixture and stir just until all the flour is mixed and moistened. Cover and chill 1 hour.

3. After one hour, preheat the oven to 450F.

4. Turn the dough out onto a HEAVILY floured surface; knead lightly 5 times. Roll dough to a 1/2-inch thickness; cut with a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter (I used a drinking glass that was slightly larger than that). Do not twist when cutting out the dough and if the drinking glass/cutter sticks, dip it into a little flour.

5. Place the biscuits on a baking sheet coated with some nonstick (make sure that the sides of the biscuit don't touch). Bake at 450F for 12 minutes or until golden.

If using a drinking glass slightly larger than 2 1/2-inches, you'll get around 20 biscuits exactly at 161 calories each. If you make more than 20 the calories will be less and if you make less biscuits, the calories will be more.

Serve these anywhere a biscuit or dinner roll is needed!

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