In San Francisco recently I rediscovered a Southern childhood favourite - biscuits with gravy!
They were on the special Friday-Sunday menu at Flour & Co on Hyde Street with a creamy mushroom sauce - as simple and delicious as my memory of them.
Very early on in my London life I invited new English friends to dinner and decided to give them an entirely American meal. With, of course, hot buttermilk biscuits on the table, beautifully folded into a crisply ironed white napkin. To my shock, the first guest at the table immediately commented: "scones for supper, how unusual."
Now scones are British. Very much like American biscuits in look and taste, but made with eggs and eaten only at tea time (or maybe breakfast) with jam and butter and sometimes cream. Not with supper. No.
Now I do make scones. Sometimes. And biscuits. Of the two, I really like biscuits better because there is so much you can do with them and so many different ways to make them. With cheese or bacon (or not), filled with slivers of salty ham tucked inside, with chives and sour cream in the mix, with cream instead of butter and milk or buttermilk, cut into shapes or just dropped in spoonfuls, and so on. There are lots of good recipes, each giving slightly different results, but my favourites sources are Fanny Farmer, The New York Times Cook Book, Gene Hovis's Uptown Down Home Cookbook (for his mama's Southern style biscuits) and, of course, The New Basics Cookbook. The New York Times Cooking and Martha Stewart websites are both great, too. And there is always the late, great Southern cook Edna Lewis' recipe which calls for making your own baking powder mix. You could give it a try.
The only problem with biscuit making is that all that rubbing of butter into the flour takes time. which isn't to say that this does't make a lovely, flaky biscuit. It is just that sometimes I just don't feel like it. And yet I do feel like biscuits. Hot, with melting butter.
Then one day when I looked again at my Fanny Farmer recipe for biscuits made with cream (instead of butter and milk), I thought "why not yogurt?" Why not indeed.
No this was in the Olden Days, before you could look up anything instantly on the internet and were forced to think for yourself or ask family and friends. Biscuits made with cream eliminates the rubbing butter into flour stage, as you don't use butter. Everything is just stirred in. So much faster. Thick Greek yogurt is more or less like whipped cream (as required by Fanny Farmer) and I always have some in the fridge so I gave it a go. And it worked! The consistency is different - fluffier and more cake like than biscuity. But fine. And fast. And to make it even faster I just rolled a rough circle and cut it into sections. Then just 15 minutes in a 400F oven. Easy. And quick.
Here's how I make them (or Not Quite a Recipe). Makes 8.
All you need is:
2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
Stir all dry ingredient together in a bowl and add:
1 very full cup thick full fat Greek style yogurt
Stir gently together then, with your hands, knead briefly into a soft dough (you might need a little more yogurt) and, on a lightly floured surface, press out into a round about 3/4 inch deep. Use a knife to cut into quarters and then eighths.