September is an odd time for cooking. Summer is still clinging on for dear life, and in Portland we often get more warm days in September than we do in June. On the other hand, the warmth we feel in the air is always undercut with a cool, crisp feeling, a sign that no matter how many days we get to experience the glory of 90 degrees in September, autumn is, in fact, on its way. September really may be Portland’s prettiest month, offering sunshine, late summer flowers, warm days, and crisp nights. As I mentioned before, however, with weather like this, what’s a person to cook?
You see, part of me wants to stretch out summer as long as possible, grilling things, eating outside, and comprising meals of light, flavorful bites, as is befitting of summer. Another part of me, craving the comforts of autumn food, wants to turn on the oven, roast things, bake things, and take advantage of the season’s newest crops of apples and pears. For as much as I love summer food, I might actually like autumn food more, what with its ability to straddle the line between fresh and light (tomatoes, berries, grilled corn), and soothing comfort (apples, roasted anything).
To bridge the gap between the two seasons, I often find myself coming up with meals that can celebrate the best of both summer and autumn. These lovely, light biscuits manage to do just that. With a nod to cool and refreshing tzatziki, the biscuits are punched up with dill, olive oil, creamy yogurt, and a nice dose of lemon zest. Paired with an utterly autumn-inspired caramelized shallot butter, you’ve got a great combination of flavors. To bring this pairing home even more, slip a thick slice of cucumber into a biscuit and crunch down into the companionable world of summer freshness melting into crisp autumn.
Tzatziki Biscuits with Caramelized Shallot Butter Recipe
Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
2 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon dried dill
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ cup plain yogurt
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 large clove of garlic, peeled and mashed or grated into a fine paste
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch chunks
In a large bowl, whisk together 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons of the flour, baking powder, baking soda, dill, and sea salt.
In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, milk, lemon zest, garlic, and olive oil.
Add the cold butter to the flour mixture and, using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with a few pea-sized chunks of butter strewn throughout. Pour the yogurt mixture into the flour and butter, and use the pastry cutter to mix the liquid ingredients into the dry. Mix just until the ingredients come together and form a somewhat shaggy mass. If the mixture is unbearably sticky, add in the remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing with the pastry cutter until everything comes together in a workable mass.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Gently flatten out the dough a bit, then fold it over on itself and pat down to adhere the dough together. Gently flatten out the dough again, fold it over again, then gently flatten and fold once more. Pat the dough into a rough 10-inch oval then, using a 1-inch biscuit cutter, cut out rounds of dough, placing each one on the prepared baking sheet. Cut the rounds as close together as possible, ensuring that you are using as much of the dough as possible during this first cutting. Piece and pat together any remaining scraps, then cut out the remaining biscuits. The less you handle the dough, the lighter your biscuits will be, so be judicious with your cutting.
Bake the biscuits in the center of the oven for 12-14 minutes, until the bottoms are dark brown and the tops are a deep golden color. Remove from baking sheet to cool slightly before eating. Eat while still warm.
Makes about 20 biscuits.
Caramelized Shallot Butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 large shallot, sliced into medium-thin rings
pinch of sea salt
4 tablespoons unsalted, room temperature butter
In a small pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the sliced shallots and allow to sizzle gently for a couple of minutes, then add the sea salt and reduce heat to low. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until shallots are deeply browned and very limp, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes or so, until it reaches room temperature.
In a small bowl, pour the shallots and any remaining olive oil over the butter. Mash the shallots into the butter, then, using a fork, whip the butter up a bit until it has lightened just a tad.