Jul 2, 2012

Jalapeño Cheddar Cornmeal Biscuits

I usually make these these biscuits in winter, and almost always to go with a big pot of black bean stew. We're smack in the middle of the dog days of summer in the Hudson Valley, but I had some extra special smoked duck skin that I wanted to use to make beans with, so here are some hot weather biscuits.


I experimented with the proportions in my recipe for a while, trying to figure the highest ratio of cornmeal-to-flour that would work and still make a decent biscuit.  I'm happy with a half cornmeal, half white flour formula at this point.  (Sorry, but these won't work as well with whole wheat flour - not enough gluten.)  I think the addition of an egg helps a lot with the texture.  These have a soft and airy interior, a golden brown top, and a crispy bottom.  That's about all I ask for in a biscuit.  But wait, there's more!  Cheddar cheese and jalapeños put these over the top.  I'd say you can use just about any strong flavored cheese, and if you don't like jalapeños, try some fresh herbs like rosemary, sage...whatever.  I made 'em with blue cheese and cilantro last month and they were really interesting.  And when I use the term "interesting" to describe a food or flavor, I mean it in a good way. 


Jalapeño Cheddar Cornmeal Biscuits (makes 12 biscuits)



1 cup white flour
1 cup cornmeal
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

about 4 ounces cheddar cheese, the sharper the better
1 - 2 jalapeños, depending on how much heat you like

1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon vinegar

1 stick of cold butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Whisk together dry ingredients.  
Mince jalapeño and grate cheese.  
Whisk together egg, milk and vinegar.  
Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the dry ingredients.
Add the milk mixture and fold in 3 or 4 times.  you're not trying to get an even mixture, just wetting the dry ingredients.
Add the cheese and jalapeños and fold in just until the mixture looks roughly even.  try not to over mix.
Pour the dough onto a floured surface and press it into a sheet about 1inch thick.  using just enough flour to keep your hands from sticking, fold it in half and press it into a sheet two more times.  
Cut biscuits.
Optional step, purely for aesthetics: brush the biscuits with a mixture of egg and a little milk.
Bake at 400 degrees for 20 - 25 minutes.



Just out of the oven.


Crispy cheesy biscuit bottom.


Light and airy interior.


Okay, let's get down to business.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.


1 cup of cornmeal, 1 cup of flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, 2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (use more if your butter is unsalted).


Whisk together dry ingredients.  


1 large egg and half a cup of milk.  That's a lie.  I didn't have any milk, so I used a mixture of half and half and water.  


Add 1/4 teaspoon of vinegar to the milk and egg.  This is basically a substitute for buttermilk, which I never have in the house.  Do you?  That little bit of acid is going to help the biscuits rise better.  


Whisk together your pseudo buttermilk.  


I diced two jalapenos and 4 or 5 ounces of sharp cheddar cheese.  


Cold butter just out of the fridge.  You don't want the butter getting all soft and melty when you're making biscuits (or pie crust, for that matter) so get everything else ready and save the butter step for last.


Cut the butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender.


Add the milk and egg mixture.


I just barely mixed it in.


Then I added half the jalapenos and cheese, turned it over and added the other half.


Go easy on the mixing, you don't want to cream the butter.  Lumpy is good in this case.


Rather than overmixing, if it's still a bit dry you can add a tablespoon or so of milk.


Yeah, that looks good.


Dump the dough onto a floured surface.


Press it into a sheet about an inch thick.  Use just enough flour to keep your hands from sticking.


Fold the dough in half and press it into a slab again.

  Maybe one more time... 


Cut some biscuits already!


How many years have I been making biscuits?  And I still can't figure out what shape to make the slab to get the most biscuits out of it.


Oh well.  Press the scraps together into a new slab...


And cut a few more.


This is an optional step that will give you beautiful deep golden, shiny biscuit tops.  Mix an egg with a little milk.  I actually just used egg yolk because I had so many left over from last weeks' angel food cake.


Whisk the egg and milk together.


Brush the biscuits.


Pop 'em into a 400 degree oven for 20 - 25 minutes...


...or until they look like this.  


A Frankie Kimm classic meal:  black bean stew with jalapeno cheddar cornmeal biscuits.  This one was extra delicious because the beans were stewed with smoked duck.  

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