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Gouda, Black Pepper, Bacon Biscuits Done Right

Bacon Gouda Black Pepper Biscuits

I wake up yesterday to the LA Times and right there staring me in the face were biscuits. The Food Section was celebrating the arrival of biscuits to Los Angeles. I stared at the photo and thought to myself “must have biscuits– now.” So I made biscuits. Gouda, Black Pepper, Bacon Biscuits. They were (are) delicious. But I have to admit they brought up a lot of issues. You see, biscuits have baggage.

Bacon Biscuits

It doesn’t seem like they should. After all biscuits are made with simple ingredients and technically they’re not hard to make. Flour. Fat. Liquid. Which isn’t to say that you can just jump in willy-nilly either.  Biscuits require a certain understanding of baking and they require really good execution. You need to make them right or not make them at all.

However “making them right” is hard to put into words. Most recipes will tell you explicitly not to overwork, to be gentle, or most particularly warn you that you should never (ever) over-mix. But even with all these caveats it’s hard to not look over your shoulder and and hear the admonishments of those people who will tell you to your face that however you’re making biscuits– you’re making them wrong.

I’ve spent some time in the kitchens of old-school Southern bakers. They are particularly vocal when it come to what is and what isn’t a biscuit.

Some people insist that biscuits should be mixed in a wooden bowl, preferably handed down from some (better) baker from some long past generation. I had an aunt in college (who wasn’t really my aunt) who dropped her biscuits by the ladleful onto a cooking sheet rather than cutting them out. “Your hands should never touch the dough”, she’d say.

Let’s start with the flour. In the South it’s common to find soft wheat flour brands like White Lily (often called cake flour). These low-protein flours will generate less gluten. Making a soft crumbly biscuit. Where I come from there is no controversy or baggage concerning the flour. It must be White Lily. If you can’t find this type of flour you can try adding 2 tablespoons of corn starch to a scant cup of all-purpose flour.

But fat is another question. Which fat is proper? Should that fat be flavorful, such as bacon or chicken fat? Is butter the only acceptable choice? Some people use lard because of the delicate, silken texture it produces. I like lard because it has an almost imperceptible meatiness. I don’t usually tell people I use lard though. Folks can be downright finicky about lard.

Some like my ‘aunt’ will tell you that a biscuit must be huge. Others will say, “if you can’t finish it in 2 bites it’s too big.” Round is the traditional shape. But there is less waste if you cut your biscuits into squares. I’m sure you’ve noticed that gathering the scraps and re-rolling them producers a less satisfactory biscuit. Still, Aunt Rose liked round, so I make my biscuits round.

Lastly the liquid. Water would work. But typically you’ll find liquids like cream, half-and-half, or milk that help create a soft texture. I’ve seen recipes that call for flat beer or cola. Like my Aunt Rose would say, “why waste when you can baste?” She wasn’t talking about biscuits, but I bet her philosophy would be the same.

Still, when it comes to biscuits buttermilk is best. It adds a certain tanginess. If you can find full fat buttermilk you’ll notice flecks of fat in the final product. Delicious. Buttermilk also helps your biscuits rise high because the acid in buttermilk activates the leavening action in baking soda.

So there you go. Bacon Biscuits done right, and by right I mean my way! GREG

bacon biscuits

bacon biscuits

Bacon Gouda Black Pepper Biscuits

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 30Source Adapted from Sqirl Cafe, Los AngelesPublished
Home made biscuits

Ingredients

  • 6 slice thick sliced bacon
  • 5 ½ cup flour preferably White Lilly of other soft wheat style
  • 3 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 12 ounce lard chilled & cut into 1‑inch chunks
  • 1 cup grated Gouda
  • 1 ½ cup buttermilk
  • 1 large egg (lightly beaten)
  • coarse sea salt such as Maldon, as needed
  • black pepper as needed
  • 1 egg yolk mixed with 1 teaspoon water, as egg wash

Directions

Place bacon slices in a large, unheated heavy-bottomed or cast iron skillet. Turn heat to medium and cook bacon, turning often until crispy. About 7 minutes. Transfer to paper towel-lined plate to drain. Crumble and set aside.

Place the oven racks in the upper and center positions, preheat the oven to 400°

Add the flour, baking powder, sugar and kosher salt to a large mixing bowl, use a fork or whisk to mix the ingredients together. Using a pastry cutter or 2 knives, cut in the lard until it is reduced to pea-sized pieces. Stir in the bacon, Gouda, buttermilk and lightly beaten egg until it just forms into a loose dough. Chill 20 minutes.

Scrape the dough to a well-floured surface, and pat into a rectangle 3/4 inch thick. Tri-fold the dough (as you might a letter). Then pat out again into a rectangle 3/4 inch thick; repeat the tri-fold and the repeat the whole process one more time.

After the third tri-fold, pat the dough out to about 1 ½‑inch thick. Cut out biscuits using a 2‑inch round or square cutter and place on two parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing the biscuits about 1 ½ inches apart. Gather the scraps and repeat until you have approximately 30 rounds. Brush the biscuits with the egg wash, and sprinkle over the cracked pepper and sea salt, to taste.

Bake the biscuits until puffed and golden, 15 to 17 minutes, rotating the trays between rack halfway for even baking. Transfer to a rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.