Thursday, August 28, 2014

Spicy Polenta Basil Biscuits with Honey Butter and Strawberry Jam

The Surprise Food Exchange Challenge has been fun. Holly, my fellow 37 Cook from the great state of Colorado, choose the ingredients for me to work with. The first thing I saw in her box was instant polenta. I have never cooked with polenta. Down South and in Texas we use grits or ground yellow cornmeal. Polenta is very close to those favorites. I would say that it has been ground a little finer than the cornmeal I am accustomed to using. The next thing I pulled out of the box was pure honey from Colorado's western slope. Donna, who is also a 37 Cook from Colorado, said it was great because it's made from "mountain wildflowers"! Then there was homemade strawberry jam, one of my husband's favorites. Last, there was Modenacrem balsamic glaze. I have
used everything but the balsamic glaze in my recipe today and look forward to making something with it at a later time.

Holly was very generous and she gave me a product (polenta) that I had never worked with. My research began! I wanted to do something different and ran across Chef Ripert's cornmeal biscuits recipe on the Kitchen Joy Blog, that I could easily transform to polenta biscuits. It was even more perfect when I saw that he paired them with honey butter! I decided to add fresh basil and red chili pepper flakes to mine. It is summer and I have an abundance of fresh basil in my herb garden. The spicy red pepper flakes would give them a nice, spicy kick that would pair well with the sweet honey butter and strawberry jam. I can definitely see myself making these again and again. I hope you enjoy them and thank you, Holly, for the wonderful surprises!

Spicy Polenta Basil Biscuits with Honey Butter and Strawberry Jam
by Linda
Inspired by Cornmeal Biscuits with Honey Butter by Eric Ripert and Kitchen Joy Blog

For the biscuits:
3/4 cups instant polenta
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
8 Tablespoons very cold unsalted butter, sliced into small cubes
1/2 Tablespoon red chili pepper flakes
1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
3/4 cup cold buttermilk
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

1) Preheat oven to 425°F.

2) Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.

3) Place polenta in large mixing bowl.

4) Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into mixing bowl with polenta.

5) Using a pastry cutter or two forks, combine cold, cubed butter to dry ingredients. Make sure all the dry ingredients are evenly combined with butter. You will have some small crumbs of butter throughout that look like little pebbles. That is okay, don't try and smooth it out.

6) Add red chili pepper flakes and basil to mixture.

7) Slowly add the buttermilk, stirring gently until the dough comes together.

8) Roll dough out on a well-floured surface. I use a pastry mat.

9) Pat the dough into a rectangle about 1/2 inches thick.

10) Take a floured rolling pin and gently smooth the top out. Don't press down.

11) Using a 1 1/2-inch cookie cutter, cut your biscuits out. You should be able to get 12 biscuits. Do not twist the cutter or press the dough down.

12) Place cut biscuits on cookie sheet. Place them close together (almost touching) for a nice soft biscuit.

13) Brush the top of the biscuits with melted butter.

14) Bake 10-12 minutes, until lightly brown.

For the honey butter:
2 sticks soft unsalted butter, cut into cubes
3 Tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1. Make the honey butter while your biscuits are in the oven, so it will spread easily.

2. Place butter, honey and sea salt into a small food processor.

3. Pulse until well mixed.

Serve the honey butter and your favorite strawberry jam with the biscuits, when they come right out of oven. Enjoy!

Notes from a novice biscuit maker:

1) Make sure your polenta, flour and baking powder is fresh! I don't bake a lot, so I wasn't surprised to find that my flour and baking powder were past their expiration dates.

2) When making the biscuits, keep the butter and buttermilk in the refrigerator until you are ready to add them to dry ingredients! My friends who are bakers have drilled this into me.

3) Use real butter, no margarine, no diet. You have to have the real stuff.

4) Decide what changes you might want to make to the original recipe. Chef Ripert and Kitchen Joy rolled their dough out to 1/2 inch thick and used a 3-inch biscuit cutter. My preference was to have a little thicker and smaller biscuit. I did some research on the internet to see how this would affect my finished product and the one important note I found was that my cooking time would vary, depending on the size and thickness.

5) Be organized! Take your time and practice. I tested one batch, tweaked them and then made a second batch before writing my recipe up. I had to ask my friends why my biscuits weren't browning on the tops and what could I do about it. They helped me and the consensus was to brush the tops lightly with butter, to assist in the browning.

6) Last, but not least, enjoy the experience AND, of course, the biscuits!

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