Hunker down: Biscuits

Stevie Wonder, Love’s In Need Of Love Today

I’m not much of a baker—takes more discipline that I am usually able to muster. That said, when I wanted to make Irish soda bread to eat with corned beef and cabbage but had only a cup of flour, a trip to the store was the next step. Although paper product shelves in Washington State have been bare for a few weeks now and without my son-in-law’s emergency response, the Sweetie and I would have no hand sanitizer, we still weren’t prepared for an empty flour shelf. At the local Thriftway, there was only one five-pound bag of expensive, organic, hand-milled, niche-brand, all purpose flour. Are all those sheltering in place planning on community bake-offs (following social distancing, of course)? We snapped up the flour and added a bag of sugar—just in case…

Funny how grocery carts are the new way of gauging priorities: recently at Costco (in addition to countless carts overfilled with toilet paper), I saw a seventy-something man with eight jumbo boxes of Cheerios, a middle-aged woman with at least twenty pounds of grapefruit, and a young mother whose cart was full with two toddlers, eight jugs of apple juice, and innumerable boxes of Maalox. The Sweetie and I filled our cart with three bags of coffee beans, a bag of Doritos that would provide snacks for a football team, an extra container of Miracle Gro (in case that promised miracle appears), a backup wedge of Parmesan cheese, a case of beer, and two emergency boxes of Starbuck’s Via—just in case…

Spam is making a comeback, there’s a run on Vienna Sausages, the canned sardine slot at Thriftway is bare, dry yeast has disappeared, I couldn’t find any tahini, don’t even try to buy Starkist tuna, canned chili is the new must-have, and oatmeal is inexplicably popular. Meanwhile, back at Costco’s toilet paper aisle, there were at least fifteen anxious shoppers waiting for the warehouse to unload new pallets of Charmin (unanimously the preferred way to wipe). Like someone said, “Why did we throw out the thick, phone book that was dropped off on our doorstep?”

Anyways, life goes on. I’ve checked in with those I love and they’re well—coping, cleaning, baking, hiking, tidying, walking the dog, patting the baby, working from home. I cook—corned beef and cabbage, odon noodles, eggplant curry, fish soup, familiar dishes that come easily. Today I’m stepping out of my comfort zone into the ongoing search for a flakey biscuit. My biscuits have historically turned out dry and tough—eatable only if smothered in gravy or accompanied by a mandatory glass of milk. But hope is eternal, maybe this new recipe I found in the New York Times Cooking app will change my luck. We will see.

Here’s a photo of the week that eases my soul and brings a sigh of relief—a girl, a kite, a beach  


Thanks to Glenda, Ginny, and Andrew for the photos.

And then there’s this poem, And the People Stayed Home, by Kitty O’Meara that is everywhere:

And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently. And the people healed.

And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.

Sam Sifton’s all-purpose biscuits  

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting 
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder 
  • 1 scant tablespoon sugar 
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 5 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, preferably European style 
  • 1 cup whole milk 

Preheat oven to 425°

Sift flour, baking powder, sugar and salt into a large mixing bowl. Transfer to a food processor.

Cut butter into pats and add to flour, then pulse 5 or 6 times until the mixture resembles rough crumbs. (Alternatively, cut butter into flour in the mixing bowl using a fork or a pastry cutter.) 

Return dough to bowl, add milk and stir with a fork until it forms a rough ball. 

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and pat it down into a rough rectangle, about an inch thick. Fold it over and gently pat it down again. Repeat.

Cover the dough loosely with a kitchen towel and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.

Gently pat out the dough some more, so that the rectangle is roughly 10 inches by 6 inches.

Cut dough into biscuits using a floured glass or biscuit cutter. Do not twist cutter when cutting; this crimps the edges of the biscuit and impedes its rise.

Place biscuits on a cookie sheet and bake until golden brown, approximately 10 to 15 minutes.

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