When you spend your day constantly (exaggeration) reading about recipes in English —their origins and ingredients, etc.— you realize that, besides the difficulty of a few of the recipes, sometimes there is also a whole fabric of terms lying underneath which are not always what they initially seem to the casual eye. Thus, the task keeps getting more and more interesting by the minute. And here’s me, trying to cast some light on this matter, which personally I find all the more fascinating—almost as much as making the recipe itself (oh, but I do love a good terminology controversy!). Well, all this is due to these Apple Pie Buttermilk Biscuits. Two favourites in one. Irresistible, aren’t they?
If we go and look up the term “biscuit” in the dictionary, we will immediately realize that we first need to locate it geographically. In case we step on UK-related soil, we will be faced with a sort of small, flat, dry sweet “cookie” (as one would call it in the US) or a type of cracker. Nevertheless, if it is US soil that we are stepping on, what we will get will be a kind of small, soft, raised bread similar to a classic scone instead. So there goes another term… But then, to loop the loop, on the one hand, we have the said classic scones (British) and on the other, the American scones, which are not necessarily the same thing either. But there could be enough material for a new post in the future…
Are you still there? Well, that’s quite an achievement! Because there’s still one last question left to be resolved. And that is the difference between these American biscuits (also known as “tea biscuits” in Brit. English) and traditional scones, the British ones. And this is a tough one. Basically both are, apart from a few differences, more or less the same: small raised breads with a rich, flaky, buttery texture; generally rounded and made out from a few basic pantry ingredients, such as flour, butter, milk (or buttermilk), and baking powder (and at times, a little baking soda too). Perhaps, and just for the sake of a good discussion, the former might call for less sugar, if anything, and are basically served as a side dish with meals or simply with gravy or preserves. Even so, it is not unusual to find alternative biscuit versions, whose dough may be enriched with some extra ingredients, such as sour or heavy cream, nuts, etc.
And to top it all off (or rather, to baffle you entirely), below you will find this spellbinding apple pie-style biscuit recipe to break all the rules. If you have stuck with me all through this entire harangue on pastry terms, you have surely and fully earned a couple of these beauties. Help yourself!
- 1 Fuji large apple
- 1 tablespoon (15 g) unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons (30 g) packed brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 2 cups (160 g) self-rising flour
- ¼ cup (55 g) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small dice
- 2 tablespoons (25 g) granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ⅔ to ¾ cup (160-180 ml) buttermilk, cold
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 2 tablespoons (25 g) granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Wash, peel, cored, and sliced the apple very thin.
- Place butter in a medium size saucepan or skillet over medium heat to melt.
- Add the sliced apples and stir until coated with the melted butter.
- Sprinkle with cinnamon, and brown sugar and toss with a wooden spoon to coat until the sugar is melted over the apples for about 2 to 4 minutes. The apples will be tender but they won't be cooked through. Remove from heat and let cool.
- Preheat oven (electric) to 425ºF (220ºC).
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- Place flour in a large bowl and add cold, diced butter. With your finger tips or a pastry blender quickly break the butter down into the flour. You don't need to be really thorough here; it should look like a sandy irregular mixture, with some bits of butter in different sizes. So the less you work on it the flakier your biscuits will be.
- Stir in the granulated sugar and the salt to combine.
- Create a well in the center of the butter and flour mixture and add ⅔ cup (160 ml) buttermilk. Dredge the dough and your hands with a little flour, then fold the dough over 2-3 times without kneading just until well moistened and holds together easily. At first, biscuit dough will be rather sticky but it will get a little smoother as you go through. Final biscuit dough should be soft and moist. If necessary, add the remaining buttermilk until no more traces of flour are left.
- Place dough onto a floured work surface and shape the dough into a ball and then gently pat it into a small, coarse rectangle.
- With a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough into a rectangle about ½-inch (1 cm) thick, and 7 x 10-inches (18 x 25 cm).
- Place cooled filling evenly over half of dough rectangle except for ½-inch (1 cm) on the edges and fold the bare side of the dough over the filling.
- Gently press the edges to seal in the apple pie filling and pat the dough into a 6 x 8-inch (15 x 20 cm) new rectangle.
- Slice the dough into 12 squares with a large sharp knife and transfer each biscuit with a flat spatula onto the lined baking sheet, about 2-inches (5 cm) apart.
- In a small bowl, whisk together sugar and cinnamon.
- Using a pastry brush, brush each biscuit top with the beaten egg and generously sprinkle with the cinnamon and sugar mixture.
- Bake for 12 to 14 minutes until the biscuits are risen and golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and serve warm or at room temperature.
Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.
- National buttermilk biscuit day: May 14th.
- National biscuit day: May 29th.
Recipe adapted from Joy the Baker’s Apple Pie Biscuits