The “cooking through ratio” series continues with “Chicago Biscuits”, so named by Michael Ruhlman because of their ratio of 3 parts flour, 1 part fat and 2 parts liquid (312, the Chicago area code). Biscuits are almost identical to pie dough with respect to their ingredients and flakiness resulting from multiple layers of dough separated by butter. They key difference is that biscuits contain less fat and more liquid. When baked, the extra liquid heats up and turns to steam, acting like a leavener and separating the layers to achieve the flakiness biscuits are known for.
I have made biscuits before, but as with many recipes I have followed in the past, I didn’t pay much attention to the ratio of ingredients. 9 ounces of flour, 2 ounces of cold butter diced, 6 ounces of milk, a teaspon of salt and 2 teaspoons of baking powder was an easy dough to make.
The instructions called for the combination of the ingredients in a mixing bowl while rubbing the diced butter into the flour. I opted to use my mixer since I had great success with it for the pie crust previously. After everything was combined I was a bit concerned because the dough was a gooey mass, and I couldn’t see how it could be rolled and folded to create layers of butter. The dough was formed into a disc and placed into the refrigerator for an hour to cool.
I decided that a silicone mat would be a good non-stick surface for it, and after flouring the mat and dough, rolled it out a first time. I folded it into thirds on top of itself and after flouring the dough lightly it began to roll easier. I rolled it out again and folded it one more time before putting it back in the refrigerator for another hour as instructed. Again the dough was taken out, floured and rolled and folded two more times. I repeated this process a total of three ties for a total of 6 folds.
The dough was then divided into 6 squares. This was a suggestion of Ruhlman so as not to have to worry about wasted trim. This made things really easy. The layers were also visible after the cuts.
The biscuits were baked for 20 minutes at 400 degrees F, just after some pork ribs that I had baked for dinner and made for a great accompaniment to my dinner.
The layers were well defined and biscuits were really puffed up after baking. The folded edge compared to the cut edge made for an interestingly shaped final product that split right open in the center.
Having baked a total of six biscuits and looking for a way to use more, I ended up making a strawberry shortcake/biscuit for dessert. These biscuits are neutral in taste and make for a great vehicle for taste going well with sweet and savory.
All the folding and cooling of the dough made me lose my enthusiasm at first as I read the instructions in the book, but the final product again proved to be worth all the effort. You’ll have to get up early in the morning if you plan on eating these for breakfast due to all the folding and cooling. Folding is a step that can’t be skipped I imagine or the rise and flakiness simply wouldn’t be there in the final product. Variations in the number of folds as well as the types of fats and liquids used such as lard and buttermilk respectively will make for interesting and hopefully delightful eating experiences in the future.