Monday, March 5, 2012

French Fridays with Dorie-Saint-Germain-des-Prés Onion Biscuits

Saint-Germain-des-Prés Onion Biscuits
OK, I admit it.  I am a biscuit snob.  But, I have good reasons for it.  I come from a long line of biscuit lovers, and biscuit bakers.  Both of my parents grew up in east Tennessee, my mom on a farm where she and her sister and brother churned their own butter, raised hogs and where my grandfather made home made pork sausage, the perfect biscuit accompaniment.  (Country ham is another good choice, but that is a point for later.)  One of my fondest childhood memories is of sitting in my granny's kitchen watching her make biscuits every morning.  She used no measurements.  She had a pull-out container mounted in her kitchen cabinet that held flour (surely White Lily self-rising) that had a sifting crank on the side.  She would pull out the container, place her bowl under the sifter and  She knew just how many cranks it took to get the perfect amount of flour.  She cut in the shortening, mixed in the buttermilk, rolled and cut the dough and baked the biscuits for 15 agonizing minutes.  I have strived for years to make biscuits close to as delicious as hers, or even to find a close approximation.  The perfect biscuit, to me, has that wonderful combination of crunchy base, fluffy soft layered, salty interior that balances out the tangy sweetness of home made blackberry jam....yum. 

Biscuits come in all shapes and sizes, from super tall, doughy fluffy ones I found at a hole-in-the-wall BBQ joint in Montgomery, AL, to those hideous canned, so-called Grand kind you find in the grocery store.  I think if people knew how easy it was to make home made biscuits, and how superior they are to those canned monstrosities the world would be a better place.  Or at least the North would be a better place.  On my quest to find what I consider the perfect biscuit recipe, I tried many combinations...there are so many variations on this quick bread, it really can be mind boggling.  Butter or shortening?  Or both?  Milk or buttermilk?  AP flour or self-rising flour?   My personal favorite is the recipe below, taste tested many times by Edmund and me. This one also gets the family seal of approval after serving at many a breakfast, and even at Thanksgiving dinner:

Buttermilk Biscuits
½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut in to 16 pieces
2-1/4 c. self-rising flour, White Lily if you can find it…it’s the best
1-1/4 c. buttermilk
2 tbsp melted butter
Preheat oven to 450.   Grease a cookie sheet with shortening or butter. 
Place flour in a medium bowl.  Toss in the pieces of butter, and either using a pastry blender or two table knives cut the butter in to the flour until the combination resembles a coarse meal.  Work as quickly as you can so that the butter does not begin to melt.  You will have some larger and some smaller chunks of butter and that is great.  Chill this mixture in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.  Once chilled, make a small well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the buttermilk.  Stir with a fork until all the flour is just moistened and a soft dough begins to form.  Turn dough out on to a floured work surface and pat  dough out to a ¾” thick rectangle.  Fold dough like a letter, then flatten to a 3/4” thick rectangle again and rotate one clockwise turn, fold into a letter again.  Turn and fold two more times.  This creates those coveted layers.  Pat or roll dough out to a ½” rectangle and, using a sharp 2” biscuit cutter dipped in flour, push straight down-do not twist-and cut as many biscuits as possible.  Gather scraps and press out, cut the remaining biscuits.  Again, the quicker you work and the less you work the dough the fluffier the biscuits will be.  Place cut biscuits on prepared cookie sheet and bake for 13 to 15 minutes.  Brush baked biscuits with the melted butter and serve immediately.
I think these are the best, most delicious biscuits, and they work well with both sweet and savory fillings. 
Ready for the oven.....
So, with all of this said, on to the Saint-Germain-des-Prés biscuits.  Being the biscuit afficianado that I am, I somewhat objected to the idea of sugar in my biscuit dough...after all sugar is for shortcakes, not for biscuits, but I decided to follow the recipe faithfully rather than add or omit ingredients.  I did take some liberties with method in that I chilled my cut biscuits in the freezer for about 10 minutes prior to baking to prevent the still slightly warm onions from melting the butter.  I cut larger biscuits than called for, as well,  so I ended up with about 13 rather than the suggested 32 biscuits.  I decided to serve the breads with some prosciutto and melon, thinking the saltiness of the Italian ham would approximate the salty deliciousness of country ham, and that the classic pairing of proscuitto and melon would work nicely with the savory biscuit.  It was delicious, but truth be told, I think my biscuit recipe wins for flavor and texture.  I found this dough too sweet and under-salted.  I do like the idea of the savory addition of onion, so I will try adding some to my recipe for the next gathering.  Until next time, mes amis, bon apétit! (yes, I figured out how to use accents over my e's).


  1. These biscuits are good. Hearing your daughter call "Muuuummm" is priceless:)

  2. My boyfriend thought that these were very sweet, too. Funny how much the onions add to that!

  3. I copied your recipe for when I can play around later. Something about it seems "so right"! Thanks for sharing. I liked them well enough. Well, well enough to use them in BLTs. Bacon adds salt I guess.

  4. I grew up eating biscuits made from Bisquick! These homemade ones are SO much better! My husband is also from the South, so i'll have to try your recipe, too!

  5. I bookmarked your recipe for another time. I love the story and all the memories
    you have of childhood. Tricia and I have a lot of different traditions in our family and
    it is so nice to hear her boys talking about them. The onion biscuits look great.

  6. Your grandmother's flower sifting container gizmo sounds so cool. One of those things to keep an eye out for at garage sales. Nice story. I admit, I'm a New Yorker, and I know nothing about biscuits. I bake a mean bagel, though. lol

  7. You are absolutely correct about the "shortcake" aspect of the biscuit. Leave the onions out and top with strawberries and that is what you have. I love buttermilk biscuits - will try your version.

  8. As a product of the Northeast, my notions are a little less solid. I do remember my grandma making biscuits when I was a girl. She never measured & I am pretty sure she never used sugar.
    The buttermilk biscuit recipe sounds perfect.

  9. I liked these, but I'm going to try your recipe another time.

  10. I love the baking powder biscuit memories. Everyone has them, don, they? It's okay to be a "snob" about things. We all have our quirks. Nice Post. Mary Hirsch

  11. Your biscuits look so beautifully golden. I really enjoyed reading about your grandmother's biscuit making and it took me back to my own grandmother's kitchen where I would watch her cook and bake with no recipe. I still haven't achieved that level my grandmother did, but I hope to one day.

  12. I live in biscuit country too and started making my own from scratch a couple of years ago. Can't imagine going back to the canned variety. I loved this little biscuits too and think yours look parfait!

  13. Scott, I love the folding trick! Not happy enough with the outcome of my Dorie biscuits, I made a batch of yogurt biscuits the next day, and they looked too uniform for my taste. Thanks for sharing!

  14. Totally enjoyed your story, for me biscuits were a new invention that I first had the pleasure to taste at a Red Lobster when I was 18 .. Yeah I know.. the boys love them, I use to get the store box until I discovered all the fake ingredients... And no more biscuits here.. And now I am copying your recette... Merci beaucoup mon chef:)