Southern Biscuits by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart
This book helped me finally understand the difference between baking powder and baking soda. As someone who bakes regularly, this should be something I already get. But the thing is, I mostly just bake recipes other people share; I’m not good enough to be able to sort out my own. I don’t know the best ratios of liquid to dry ingredients, so I can’t just sub things in and out.
I really appreciated that the book has a generous introduction before diving into recipes. The authors talk about the history of biscuits and how different flours in different parts of the U.S. yield different feels to the biscuits. They offer advice for storing and measuring flour and, as mentioned above, the different purposes baking powder and baking soda fulfill in a recipe. They also dive into different types of fat to use (butter is yummy, but you’ll get a lighter biscuit if you use shortening or lard), and different options for liquid (I’m looking forward to using yogurt in one of the recipes).
Finally, and most importantly, the authors take you through the actual preparation of the dough, and include two types of kneading and eight (!) different ways to shape biscuits, depending on the consistency of the dough and the look you are going for. They also discuss some common ways the home baker can totally screw the pooch. It’s helpful.
They then dive into the recipes, broken out into easy biscuits, traditional biscuits, embellished biscuits (I’m so excited to try the black pepper ones), biscuit relatives (cheese straws!), tomorrow’s biscuits (i.e. what to do with leftovers), and desserts. They also include some recipes for things you want to eat WITH biscuits, like compound butter or chocolate gravy. And they include a recipe for refrigerator biscuits so you can make dough ahead of time and just add liquid and bake up as you have time. There are many I want to try out, which I think is a sign of a pretty good cookbook.