Since July, I’ve fallen in love with New York City. I feel at home here – I love the hustle and bustle of the city; I like exploring new neighborhoods; and I’ve discovered some amazing restaurants. (We are going to ignore any mention of New Jersey here… I am pretending I don’t officially live there).
I’ve been lucky to call a few places home – Bethesda, MD/Washington, DC, Paris, Boston and now NYC. But I do get homesick and lately it’s been for Boston. It’s hard leaving friends and a place I knew so well. I grew up in a lot of ways in Boston, spending four years there for college. But interestingly, recently I’ve been missing one thing above all the rest – biscuits from Sweet Cheeks (and their awesome BBQ, but mainly the biscuits).
A few months before I moved, Sweet Cheeks opened a few blocks from my apartment in Fenway. It’s an amazing barbecue place that I day-dream about sometimes. These biscuits… words cannot describe them (if you don’t believe me, check out this article). Now, while I have tried to coax various friends to send me these biscuits in the mail, I decided I could make them at home… or at least I thought!
How hard would it be to make such gorgeous biscuits like these?
Having never made biscuits at home, I researched a few recipes and thought I found a good one! Now biscuits, for the most part, are simple – flour, butter/shortening/lard, and milk. Easy! Not going to lie…. this was not easy!
I chose a recipe that used cake flour, shortening, butter and milk (with some baking powder and a little sugar of course). Just a note – cake flour has a low protein content than other flours and forms less gluten — I figured 1. the author of the recipe must know what they were doing using cake flour and 2. maybe it would make kick-ass biscuits.
Now, I should note I think there are various factors that go into making a good biscuit and maybe this recipe does yield good biscuits BUT this was not the case for me. They turned out more than scones or crackers. They did taste good, but not biscuits like I wanted.
I would not let this recipe defeat me though! Back to the drawing board. This time I chose another recipe that used all-purpose flour and shortening (plus milk, baking powder, sugar etc). Now… these “biscuits” looked more like biscuits, but they tasted awful! (Maybe because shortening doesn’t taste as good as butter).
Finally, I decided to really figure this biscuit business out. I realized there was some science to this biscuit making that I wasn’t understanding. When in doubt, I usually consult Michael Ruhlman and knew his book Ratio, which I own, would have a section on biscuits. As he explains, the ratio for biscuits is 3-1-2 (3 parts flour, 1 part fat, 2 parts liquid). The trick to biscuits (and flakiness in pastries) is layers of butter, created by folding the dough onto itself while rolling it out. This is how one makes puff pastry (which after folded into thirds and rolled many, many times has 729 (microscopically thin) layers of butter between 730 (microscopically thin) layers of dough. For biscuits, these layers of irregular though and rolling this dough develops gluten so the sheets become chewy and elastic.
This time around I used Ruhlman’s recipe for the biscuits (not much different from the others) BUT folded the dough into thirds and rolled it out various times. Fun fact – we don’t have a rolling pin in my house so I had to use a bottle of wine. It did the trick though.
This attempt looked and tasted like a biscuit though it was still not perfect. At least I am on the right track… I plan to look into biscuit making more. At least I can experiment with this Ruhlman recipe (since I trust his better than the rest).
One day, I will make the perfect Sweet Cheeks biscuit. In the meantime, seriously if you live in Boston, send me biscuits from Sweet Cheeks! It’s all I ask.