When I saw a recipe for blue cornmeal biscuits in Southern Biscuits, I pulled out a bag of cornmeal I bought at the farmers' market. It was a light blue, but after I baked with it, I realized it wasn't all blue. The cornmeal was actually a multicolor mix, so my muffins had flecks of red, blue, and yellow. They were pretty, but not really blue.
I had a few problems with this recipe because it was way too hot in my kitchen and I was trying to work as fast as possible. I didn't do a great job mixing and forming the biscuits. While biscuits can be made quickly, you do need to take the time to do it right.
What Worked: These biscuits are a cross between biscuits and cornbread, and it's a good combination.
What Didn't: Between my rush to get these done before the butter melted, and the butter getting just a little too soft despite my efforts, the biscuits spread a bit during baking. That didn't affect the flavor, though, and the texture was quite nice.
Suggested Tweaks: I tend to add all sorts of things to cornbread—bits of fresh corn, cheese, or peppers are the usual. Any of those would be interesting here.
Adapted from Southern Biscuits by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart. Copyright © 2011. Published by Gibbs Smith. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved
- 1 1/2 cups commercial or homemade self-rising flour
- 1 1/4 cups blue cornmeal, divided
- 1 tablespoon light or dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup butter, roughly cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 1/4 cups milk, divided
- Butter, softened or melted, for finishing
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Select the baking pan by determining if a soft or crisp exterior is desired. For a soft exterior, select a 8- or 9-inch cake pan, pizza pan, or oven-proof skillet where the biscuits will nestle together snugly, creating the soft exterior while baking. For a crisp exterior, select a baking sheet or other baking pan where the biscuits can be placed wider apart, allowing air to circulate and creating a crisper exterior, and brush the pan with butter.
Fork-sift or whisk the 1 1/4 cup of flour, 1 cup cornmeal and sugar in a large bowl, preferably wider than it is deep, and set aside the remaining 1/4 cup of flour and 1/4 cup cornmeal. Scatter the butter over the flour and work in by rubbing fingers with the butter and flour as if snapping thumb and fingers together (or use two forks or knives, or a pastry cutter) until the mixture looks like well-crumbled feta cheese with no piece larger than a pea. Shake the bowl occasionally to allow the larger pieces of fat to bounce to the top of the flour, revealing the largest lumps that still need rubbing. If this method took longer than 5 minutes, place the bowl in the refrigerator to rechill the fat.
Make a deep hollow in the center of the flour with the back of your hand. Pour 1 cup of milk the hollow, reserving 1/4 cup and stir the milk using broad circular strokes to quickly pull the flour mixture into the milk. Mix just until the dry ingredients are moistened and the sticky dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. If there is some flour remaining on the bottom and sides of the bowl, stir in 1 to 4 tablespoons of reserved milk, just enough to incorporate the remaining flour into the dough.
Lightly sprinkle a board or other clean surface using some of the reserved cornmeal. Turn the dough out onto the cornmeal and sprinkle the top lightly with cornmeal. With floured hands, fold the dough in half, and pat dough out into a 1/3- to 1/2-inch thick round, using a little additional flour only if needed. Flour again if necessary and fold the dough in half a second time. If the dough is still clumpy, pat and fold a third time. Pat dough out into a 1/2-inch thick round for a normal biscuit, 3/4-inch thick for a tall biscuit, and 1-inch-thick for a giant biscuit. For each biscuit, dip a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter onto the reserved flour and cut out the biscuits, starting a the outside edge and cutting very close together, being careful not to twist the cutter. The scraps may be combined to make additional biscuits, although these scraps make tougher biscuits.
Using a metal spatula if necessary, move the biscuits to the pan or baking sheet. Bake the biscuits on the top rack of the oven for a total of 10 minutes, until light golden brown. After 6 minutes, rotate the pan in the oven so that the front of the pan is now turned to the back, and check to see if the bottoms are browning too quickly. If so, slide another baking pan underneath to add insulation and retard browning. Continue baking another 4 minutes until the biscuits are light golden brown. When the biscuits are done, remove them from the oven and lightly brush the tops with butter. Turn the biscuits out upside down on a plate to cool slightly. Serve hot, right side up.