I have been pining for these biscuits since I was 16. But wait, I feel like a statement like that deserves a little background. Allow me a moment to indulge.
The high school I went to in Texas was pretty small. My graduating class had 21 students, the biggest class the school had seen since the 60’s or 70’s. That was back in 1992.
School cafeterias are synonymous with horrible, over-processed, non-nutritious food. This cafeteria was different. Food was made from scratch before it was cool to do that. Is it okay to say my first love in high school was a biscuit? Okay, maybe a little weird, but then, that explains my fascination with food.
Each morning, just after the bus dropped us off and before our first period class, we got the most soft, buttery, warm, billowy biscuits served to us that we would slather with strawberry jam and wash down with a little, tin can of cold apple juice. Not really your My Plate kinda breakfast, but boy was it satisfying and memorable. So memorable, in fact, that after I graduated and found out my Tia Cookie had later become one of the cafeteria lunch ladies, I asked her to get me the recipe. Trouble was, the recipe was for 100 servings. I’m no baker. Too scientific. I’m the kinda kid that likes to color outside the lines and make up my own rules in the kitchen. I tucked that recipe away and only recently, after consuming countless inferior biscuits in my lifetime, decided that a day like today, National Biscuit Day, was deserving enough to dust off that recipe, get a little help from some trusty pastry chef friends, and rework the recipe into something that is all together a smattering of things I love. Sometimes a memory of food we enjoyed needs to be preserved that way for fear that another attempt might not live up to our first experience of it. I’m perfectly okay with that. Instead, here’s my attempt, dressed up with pepper bacon, cheddar, red onions and dill that definitely place these biscuits a close second to the original.
Pepper Bacon Cheddar Biscuits
5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup instant non-fat dry milk
3 TBS baking powder
1.5 tsp kosher salt
6 TBS chopped fresh dill
1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 large red onion, diced and sautéed
1# pepper bacon, baked and chopped
1 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups cold water
2 TBS olive oil
Yield: 14 biscuits
Before making the biscuit mix, you will need to do a little prep which includes bringing your butter to room temperature, cooking your bacon and onions and chopping fresh dill.
To begin, preheat your oven to 350º. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and bacon and bake for about 10 minutes or until the bacon is brown but still pliable. Remember, the bacon will continue to bake when mixed into the biscuit dough so you don’t want dry, overcooked bacon. Let cool and then rough chop.
Peel and cut red onion into a small dice. In a saute pan over medium heat, warm two tablespoons of olive oil and then add onions. Cook until soft and lightly brown and translucent. Let cool.
Remove large stems from dill and chop.
At this point, you’ll want to adjust your oven temperature and preheat to 450º for baking the biscuits.
In a large bowl, add flour, dry milk, baking powder and salt.
Next, add in bacon, onion, dill and cheddar.
Cut butter into small pieces and blend into the flour mixture. You will want to break up any big chunks of butter but not overwork the mixture. A fork or pastry cutter makes quick work of this step.
Slowly add in cold water until a soft dough forms. Again, do not overwork the mixture. A wooden spoon or stiff spatula will help bring the dough together. If there is a little bit of dry flour at the bottom of the bowl, you can knead this in next.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead dough for 1 minute. I like to start with clean hands that I also lightly flour to help keep the dough from sticking. If you do find the dough starting to stick, add a little more flour to your work surface.
Before cutting out biscuits, scrape up any dry bits and once again lightly flour your work surface. A kitchen scraper or the end of a wide spatula works well for this. Using your hands, lightly press dough out into a large round about 1/2 inch thick. Use a 3.5 inch biscuit cutter or glass with about this diameter to punch out the biscuits. (If you use a glass, you will periodically need to lightly flour it to keep it from sticking to the dough. Place the biscuits on a parchment or silicone mat-lined baking sheet. Gently press together remaining dough and cut out more biscuits.
Scramble one egg and brush over biscuits. If you want more cheese, sprinkle a little extra on the top of each biscuit.
Bake for 14 minutes on the middle rack of your oven. I love to eat these warm with a little extra butter slathered in the middle.