Bringing It Back

I’ve never really been a big breakfast person. I love breakfast foods and, hell, brunch is my most favoritest meal of all, but I really just have absolutely no appetite within the first two or three hours of waking up. Coffee does the trick just fine until lunch (which I usually eat a bit late, as well). Additionally, in the breakfast department, ninety nine point nine percent of the time I will opt for savory over sweet. For example, I much prefer eggs, potatoes and bacon to pancakes or waffles.

About a year or so ago I stumbled across an article in Gourmet (RIP) about a cookbook by Marion Cunningham entitled, The Breakfast Book. At the time of the book’s publication, in 1987, there were almost no other cookbooks concentrating on breakfast. In the midst of an era applauding frozen waffles, microwaves and "Nouvelle cuisine" (think Dorsia), Cunningham wanted to get the home cook back in the kitchen.

I was already familiar with Cunningham as she edited The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, authored The Fannie Farmer Baking Book, and roamed across the country cooking with James Beard. But this cookbook was a new one for me.

So although breakfast is not my favorite meal of the day, nor have I ever relied on a recipe to prepare any breakfast dishes, upon hearing Cunningham say her Bridge Creek Heavenly Hots are the lightest of hot cakes, and seeing this quote, “Cooking is one of the legacies we can leave to the future, and I would like to be remembered for my baking. We all know we’re not immortal, but after I’m gone, I would like my son and daughter to be able to say, ‘Our mother made real yeast bread for breakfast.” – I was sold.

I believe I have mentioned a fond memory of my grandfather, Paw, back in Roanoke, Virgina, making sausage biscuits. He would make a whole baking sheet full of biscuits, cook up a ton of sausage, assemble the biscuits, and leave them on the tray on the counter in the kitchen. As friends and family ambled in and out of the house everyone would, at some point, wander into the deliciously sausage-y smelling kitchen and help themselves.

So, as very much a non-baker, when I discovered Cunningham’s recipe for Cream Biscuits, described as “superior and no student ever failed to make good ones in James Beard’s cooking classes”, I gave them a go. She was right. They are delicate and buttery with a light crumb, and they are delicious. And yes, simple enough that even I didn’t mess them up.

Recently, I remembered that it’s just about the time of year when I order piles of my favorite sausage from Broadbent’s – which I know I’ve mentioned before.

Then it all came together: sausage biscuits!

So last weekend, once my sausage order arrived, I tore into the kitchen to make this marriage happen. And I did it just like Paw. For two days everyone that came in and out of the house enjoyed those incredible and home-made sausage biscuits that sat on the baking sheet on the counter in the kitchen. It made them happy but it made me happier.

Funny thing: Maggie, who also has ties to Roanoke, mentioned that the whole thing reminded her of her grandfather. Sausage biscuits, on the baking sheet, on the counter in the kitchen, always. Sniff.

So I decided that this will be a theme this Fall and Winter. Yesterday I made another dozen biscuits and cooked up a bunch of sausage. They were all gone by Noon today.

Thank you, Marion Cunningham, for bringing my friends and family back to the kitchen. 

Cream Biscuits
(Recipe from Marion Cunningham's The Breakfast Book)

Makes one dozen biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar 
1 to 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup (5 1/3 tablespoons) butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Use an un-greased baking sheet.

Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar in a mixing bowl. Stir the dry ingredients with a fork to blend and lighten. Slowly add 1 cup of the cream to the mixture, stirring constantly. Gather the dough together; when it holds together and feels tender, it is ready to knead. If the dough seems shaggy and pieces are dry and falling away, then slowly add enough additional cream to make the dough hold together.

Place the dough on a lightly floured board and knead for 1 minute. Pat the dough into a square that is about 1/2 inch thick. Cut into 12 squares and dip each into the melted butter so all sides are coated. Place the biscuits 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the biscuits are lightly browned. Serve hot.

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