I am going to tell you a story about what it’s like to live in Portland, OR.
Last week, an absolutely lovely family moved in down the street from us, taking the place of the absolutely lovely family who lived there before them. When I stand at my kitchen sink, I have a direct sight line down the street to the house that was being inhabited by the new family. After I had spent the better part of a day going back and forth to the kitchen sink (you may wonder why I visit my sink so much, and my only answer to you is this: I have a preschool-aged child), watching the new family’s moving fan becoming emptier and emptier, I made the decision to bring the new family a little breakfast treat to greet them the next morning, their first morning in their new house.
Not being a huge fan of eating anything tooth-achingly sweet first thing in the morning, I opted to hunt down a recipe for a nice savory biscuit. Thinking of the children in the house, it seemed as though something would be needed to make the biscuit a bit more enticing. I settled on adding blueberries to the biscuits, and began to assemble my ingredients.
I measured, I mixed, and I cut. As the biscuits were just about to go into the oven, I made the mistake of asking my husband whether or not he thought blueberry biscuits were an acceptable welcome-to-your-new-house gift for a young family.
“Sure,” he said. “Who doesn’t like blueberries?”
I was about to nod along in agreement when it occurred to me that, you know, someone in that house might not like blueberries. I hesitated slightly before putting the biscuits in the oven.
“Do you think they might not like blueberries?” I asked him.
Sensing that he may have mistakenly set the terrible wheels of my mind into high gear, my husband backpedaled. “No. Everyone likes blueberries. Everyone. They’re good. Always good.”
But then, the path horribly, unrelentingly forged, I began to wonder about other possible problems with the biscuits. What if someone in the family was gluten intolerant? Or allergic to dairy? Or what if the family was vegan? I could definitely start over and make a vegan biscuit (I’ve lived in Portland for 15 years, so it’s almost a given that I’ve learned how to make delicious vegan biscuits by now), but what if they were non-gluten-eating vegans? Or what if they only ate organic food? I had organic blueberries, but I didn’t know if I would be able to find organic non-gluten flour. This was getting complicated. I should head to the store and check out the gluten-free flour selection. I would also need to buy soy milk. But what if they were allergic to soy? Okay, I’d buy almond milk. But what if they were allergic to nuts? Rice milk? Hemp milk?
It was right about then that the oven timer went off, effectively causing the hamster wheel that is my brain to come to an abrupt stop. I took the biscuits out of the oven, admiring the lovely golden-hued tops that were studded with plump indigo berries.
The biscuits were as delicious as they looked, a fact that our new neighbors, unfortunately, never had the chance to learn. I have a feeling it will take a few more weeks before I am comfortable bringing them any surprise baked goods. Weeks that I will no doubt spend trying to work subtle food-related questions into everyday conversation without sounding like an absolute loon.
“Yes, the weather is lovely today. It’s a good day for ice cream. Ice cream made with milk and cream and probably even eggs. Real ice cream. Wouldn’t you agree it’s a good day for real ice cream?”
Adapted from Beth Hensperger’s The Bread Bible
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup cold buttermilk, or cold soured milk
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
3/4 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (unthawed)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, or grease a baking sheet and sprinkle it lightly with 1 tablespoon of cornmeal (to prevent biscuits from sticking).
In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Whisk to combine. Alternately, you can combine the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to aerate.
Using a pastry cutter, two knives, or in the bowl of the food processor, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs and there are no large butter pieces remaining. This will take a minute or two if using a pastry cutter, but only a handful of pulses if using the food processor.
Add the buttermilk or soured milk, the egg, and the lemon zest to the flour mixture. Stir just enough to moisten everything, until the batter just begins to stiffen. Gently fold in blueberries. If using the food processor, add the milk, egg, and lemon zest through the feed tube, and pulse just until the dough comes together and it begins to form into one mass. Knead in the blueberries once the dough has been removed from the food processor. It should go without saying that you should not pulse the blueberries in the food processor.
Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Gently knead a few times until the dough just begins to come together. The dough will still be slightly sticky, but do not handle the dough too much or add too much additional flour, lest you make the dough tough. Pat the dough into a rectangle roughly 3/4 of an inch thick.
Cut the dough into 2 1/2 inch rounds, using a floured biscuit cutter. Gently pat scraps of dough together to continue cutting, eventually yielding 12 biscuits. My cutting sequence produced 7 biscuits from the first rectangle, 3 from the first batch of scraps, then 2 final (slightly misshapen) biscuits from the last of the reformed scraps.
Place biscuits on the prepared baking sheet about 1/2 inch apart. Bake in the center of a preheated oven for 15 to 18 minutes, until tops have turned golden brown. Eat hot or slightly cooled.
Makes 12 biscuits.