A very warm welcome to our friend J.J. Cook. We're always happy to see JJ here with her wonderful Southern recipes. Today she's tackling something that is an art in the South. Biscuits! But these aren't any ordinary biscuits. They've been elevated to a gourmet level!
And here's J.J.!
When we hit on the idea for making biscuit bowls the signature dish our heroine made in her food truck, it changed everything. The name of the food truck became obvious – The Biscuit Bowl – right down to the flying biscuit on the top of the motorhome.
Zoe Chase wants to make a name for herself in the foodie world. She wants to own a wonderful restaurant with great cooking. But she doesn’t have the money to fix-up the diner she bought. That’s where her food truck comes in. She hopes to make enough money to remodel. She goes out day after day, trying to find what she hopes will be her followers.
The idea behind the biscuit bowl came from a trip to the Renaissance Faire. My husband and I always have bread bowls with hot chili, thick soup, or stew. We usually go in November so the warm bowl in your hand is great, and so is the hot food in it.
So we thought – what about making a biscuit into a bread bowl? How would we do that? How would Zoe do it in her story?
We took ideas from many people we visited in the food truck world while we were writing the first book, Death on Eat Street. They had some crazy thoughts on how to make a biscuit bowl, but we wanted to keep it simple. Zoe only has a limited amount of room to cook anything in her food truck.
The biscuit also had to be strong enough to hold thick sweets like pie filling and custard, and savory fillings like stew, gumbo (she’s from Mobile, Alabama), or fresh salads.
Our son is a pizza chef, and he helped us a lot. (Thanks, Christopher Lavene!) We finally came up with the way to bake thicker biscuits that held together so they could be filled.
First Zoe makes the biscuit dough. She always makes her fresh. She has to bake the biscuits at the diner because she doesn’t have an oven in the food truck. She doesn’t bake them flat on a sheet like most biscuits. Instead, she puts dough into each opening in a muffin tin.
As the biscuits bake, they leave a hollow area in the middle. Sometimes, you have to take out some extra dough to make room for the filling, but most of the time, it works perfectly.
The next step is to deep-fry the biscuit. This is the secret to the biscuit bowl. It makes the sides crunchy and strengthens the bowl. Let the biscuits cool completely before dropping them into a deep fryer. Only leave them in the hot oil for about 2 minutes, and then remove.
Let the biscuit bowls cool again before filling them with sweet or savory fillings. Keep the fillings solid – they won’t hold a runny soup. Serve right away. The biscuit bowls are best when they are fresh.
One of the first fillings we tried was Crème Brulee, in honor of Zoe’s cat of the same name who is truly the star of this new series.
You can add garnish to the bowls by adding powdered sugar, icing, or cinnamon for the sweet ones, and cheese, herbs, or crumbled bacon to the savory.
Here’s the recipe we use for biscuit bowls. It seems to be a hit for Zoe!
2 cups white flour
¼ tsp baking soda
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
6 tbsp. butter or vegetable shortening
1 cup buttermilk
How to make it:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine the dry ingredients. Cut the butter into the flour mixture until it forms coarse balls. Add the buttermilk until the mixture is slightly wet. Turn the dough out on a floured board. Gently roll or pat dough until it is about ½ inch thick. Fold the dough three more times then carefully press down to about 1 inch thick.
Here’s where the normal biscuit recipe changes for biscuit bowls.
Spray vegetable shortening into a muffin tin. Use a cutter to cut circles of dough. Place these circles into the openings in the tin, pressing down the center gently. Bake for about 10 minutes until brown. The biscuit dough will rise around the circle, leaving a well in the middle for the filling.
The biscuits don’t have to be deep-fried right away, but don’t wait more than a few hours. The freshest biscuits will make the best biscuit bowls. If you can’t use them right away, freeze them for later.
To fry, simply drop the biscuits into a deep fryer set on high for 2 minutes. You want them to be crisp but not greasy. Be sure to use good quality vegetable oil in your deep fryer.
J.J Cook are married authors who live in North Carolina, and write the Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade Mysteries and the Biscuit Bowl Food Truck Mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime. www.jjcook.net