Some of the happiest moments of my childhood were helping my dad–in his workshop or in the kitchen. I love and respect my father, and always have, with that childish hero worship that seems to only exist in television shows and adults. I always wanted to be just like my dad. His second toe is longer than the first and as a kid I even tried to will mine to grow longer so I could be more like him. Some days, I still look down at my feet with a wistful distaste.
I remember all sorts of things my dad cooked. One year he made the Thanksgiving turkey. He took out the rib cage and stuffed the whole thing, carefully sewing it back up so it looked whole again. Once we made this cake that was built of levels and layers of chocolates and creams, rich and dense and light and fluffy. One time he made beef wellington. I don’t remember this, but I do remember him spending days working on a single project one time. That project, my parents told me when I most recently saw them, was the beef wellington.
Beef wellington is a cut of beef tenderloin coated in a pate. The whole thing is wrapped in a flaky pastry shell. It is cooked over a period of three days. At least, that’s how Julia Childs made it.
My dad has a special respect for Mrs. Childs. His respect doesn’t just stem from how she became a famous chef–though he loves little anecdotes, like how she learned to chop onions. He respects not just that she was famous, or that she respected the food she cooked (one of my favorite points in her garlic mashed potatoes recipe is where she notes to “serve it as soon as possible.”) He respects the food she cooks. He told me that whenever he wants to make something–the implication being something new, something he hasn’t made before or lacks special designs on–he checks to see how Julia made it.
With this advice in mind, when I decided it was time to make biscuits (something I used to do at least once a week), I didn’t follow my standard tried and true recipe (half a stick of butter, two cups flour, 1stp baking power, salt, sugar, milk to consistency bake at 400 until done) that I had gotten from a World War II era cookbook. No, I looked up to see how Julia did it and then made a recipe of my own.
I made herb biscuits. They smelled really good. This recipe, should you want to try, worked like this:
-3 cups flour
-2 tsps salt
-4 tsps baking powder
-1 tsp baking soda
-2 tbsps spring onions
-2 tbsps parsley
-1 stick butter (8 tbsps)
-1 1/2 cups almond milk
-1/2 cup chopped spinach
-fancy Vermont cheddar
Mix everything except the cheddar. I used a potato peeler to make little peels of cheddar that sat on top of the biscuits and baked in. I also made some without cheddar because I am veganish these days (hence the almond milk–didn’t have regular milk around.) Bake at 425 for about fifteen minutes. I took them out a bit before.
Then, I made another batch of biscuits with a different recipe. Also based on Julia’s. Also using almond milk.
-2 cups flour
-1 2/3 tbsp baking powder
-3/4 tsp salt
-1 tbsp honey
-12 tbsps butter
-1 cup almond milk
Again, mix. Bake at 425 for closer to ten minutes this time.
In both cases, I rolled them out using a ton more flour.
In short, I traded three sticks of butter and a whole [small] thing of flour for four batches of biscuits. Let’s see if I can trade those biscuits for happy people. Making food, the process of baking, is the best part in a personal sort of way. I get pleasure out of feeling like some mix between scientist and artist. Ask me about my escapades with Guy Fawkes Night cakes sometime. Shirking my selfish joy, the second best part about baking is when I get to trade things for smiles and being around happy people.
I like when people are happy.