Monday, December 23, 2013

Cheese Biscuits and the Holidays

I've got time to squeeze in another post before Christmas, and I guess it's gotta' be another holiday baking post -- since that's been the majority of my focus in the kitchen for the weekend! Yesterday, I had a marathon baking session and turned out a batch of Butter Spritz Cookies and Cheese Biscuits. My mother always made Cheese Biscuits at Christmas, as did my Aunt Cissy, who gave her the recipe. No one loved to entertain like Aunt Cissy did. She always had a huge buffet on Christmas day, that included roast beef and country ham, as well as these Cheese Biscuits. Nothing goes with a holiday cocktail or a glass of wine quite like a cheese biscuit. Everyone always had fun at Aunt Cissys' parties -- she loved to laugh and tell stories, and she was a wonderful cook. There was always so much to eat, and she understood that you eat first with your eyes, so everything looked as good as it tasted.

I've updated her recipe only pertaining to the method for producing the cookies, not the ingredients. The original recipe clearly states the following, right at the top:


I can't find salted pecans in the store anymore, but I think the unsalted kind work just as well. I sprinkle just a touch of coarse Kosher salt on the pecans after I press them into the dough. And since so many people have nut allergies, and a few simply don't like nuts, I only place a pecan on about half of my cookies.  I also make the dough in my food processor. The dough is stiff and heavy, and I find the processor, fitted with a steel blade, is the easiest way to do it. I also use a mouli-grater for grating my cheese, but you could do that in your food processor as well. 
Cheese Biscuits

Cheese Biscuits

1 lb. sharp cheddar cheese
1 lb. all purpose flour (about 4.5 cups)
1 lb. butter, softened
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 T. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
pecan halves (salted if you can find them)
1 egg + 1 T. of water for egg wash
paprika for dusting the tops plus a little coarse and/or Kosher salt for sprinkling the nuts

Grate the cheese. Put it into a large bowl or into your food processor. Add the flour, butter, cayenne, salt and baking powder. Mix until the dough comes together and cheese is completely incorporated. If not using the food processor, you may find your hands to be the best tool! At least that's what Aunt Cissy recommended in her original recipe! 

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

The original instructions call for the dough to be rolled or patted out at this point. Rolling dough is not my favorite thing, and frankly, I am not that good at it. I either get the dough too cold so that it's hard to roll or I let it get too soft and it sticks to everything! I think it is best to slightly chill the dough so that it holds together well and you can handle it. The method my mom came up with -- obviously rolling dough wasn't her thing either! -- is to divide the dough into 6 - 8 pieces and roll the pieces into "logs" about 1" to 1.5" around. If you roll your dough out, it should be about 1/4" thick and you should use the smallest biscuit cutter you have to cut out the biscuits. If you roll the dough into logs, cut the logs into slices about 1/4" thick. Place the cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet -- they don't spread much, so you can place them fairly close together. Beat 1 egg with a T. of water in a small cup. Brush each biscuit lightly with the egg wash, and sprinkle over a dusting of paprika. Press a pecan half into however many biscuits you choose (and a few grains of Kosher or coarse salt, if you want). Bake for ~15 minutes. You must watch them as they can go from done to "browned" quickly and the taste will be off. Check them after 12 minutes. Browning them will definitely alter the taste! Makes about 12 dozen. This recipe can be easily halved or even quartered. 

Thanks Aunt Cissy, and Merry Christmas to you and yours! 

1 comment:

Thistle Cove Farm said...

ohmygosh...these look wonderful and I LOVE cheese biscuits.
Merry Christmas to you and yours!