Sunday, November 1, 2009

Baking Marathon - Oat Scones, Blueberry & Oatmeal Muffins, and Drop Biscuits

Fall has finally arrived in my neck of the woods and I’ve gotten busy baking. I really like to spend a couple of days in a baking marathon and then freeze everything. I especially enjoy having a variety of breakfast items in the freezer. That way my husband can help himself when he gets up in the morning (usually a couple of hours earlier than me). Then, when I finally drag myself out of bed, I can easily fix myself something too.

One of my favorite breakfast treats remains oatmeal scones. They’re not too sweet and chock full of old fashioned rolled oats. I really like the recipe from Quaker, the oatmeal folks. One thing I really like is that the scones are short & buttery not cake-like.

The recipe can be found on the Quaker Oats site here. I’ve made some changes, though. First of all I used brown sugar because I like the flavor. I also used unsalted butter and the sodium free baking powder, Featherweight. Of course, I omitted the salt. I also use 1/4 - 1/2 cup of either white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour. Lately I’ve been including dried sour cherries. And, finally, I don’t sprinkle on any cinnamon/sugar topping, but I do brush the scones with cream before baking.

When my son & his family visited a few weeks ago I decided to give blueberry muffins a try. I found a “guaranteed" blueberry muffin recipe on the King Arthur Flour site. I followed the recipe exactly using the sodium free baking powder and yogurt. I didn’t sprinkle the muffins with sugar nor did I use any salt. I’ve explained before that my experiences using a sodium free baking soda product were not satisfactory, so I use the regular store-bought stuff. These turned out really well and were a big hit with my granddaughters.

Then I tried out an oatmeal muffin recipe that had been posted on the Harvest Forum. You can probably guess that I’m a sucker for oatmeal in baked goods, so I was sure I’d enjoy these muffins. I used brown sugar, plain yogurt, sodium-free baking powder and omitted the salt. I decided to make these with butterscotch chips (I added just a half cup because I figured the butterscotch chips would be really sweet). They came out perfectly. The oatmeal muffin part is not overly sweet. I think it’s a good basic recipe that could be adapted to include all kinds of add-ins.

And to finish off my quick bread baking marathon, I made the Cook’s Illustrated recipe for drop biscuits. I discovered this recipe a while ago and have been making it ever since. It’s easy because it doesn’t require patting out dough and the flavor is really good. I used sodium free baking powder and Knudsen brand buttermilk because it's the lowest I’ve found in sodium. I also omitted the salt.

The thing that really sets this recipe apart from other drop biscuit recipes is the technique for combining the buttermilk and the butter. “When you stir slightly cooled melted butter into cold buttermilk, the butter will clump. Although this might look like a mistake, it's one of the secrets to this recipe. The clumps of butter are similar to the small bits of cold butter in biscuits prepared according to the traditional method and help guarantee a light and fluffy interior.”

Cook’s offers three flavorful variations – Bacon & Black Pepper, Cheddar & Scallion, and Parmesan & Rosemary. I’ve made the plain and cheddar & scallion versions. This time around I made a Parmesan & black pepper variation using only 1/4 cup of grated Parm. The suggested quantities are listed below:

6 strips bacon , cut in half lengthwise and then crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (2 ounces)
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (1 1/2 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

Best Drop Biscuits
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated, published November 1, 2007
Makes 12 Biscuits
(Printable Recipe)

If buttermilk isn't available, powdered buttermilk added according to package instructions or clabbered milk can be used instead. To make clabbered milk, mix 1 cup milk with 1 tablespoon lemon juice and let stand 10 minutes. A 1/4-cup (#16) portion scoop can be used to portion the batter. To refresh day-old biscuits, heat them in a 300-degree oven for 10 minutes.


2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (10 ounces)
2 teaspoons baking powder (Hain Featherweight)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup cold lower sodium buttermilk
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly (about 5 minutes), plus 2 tablespoons melted butter for brushing biscuits


Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 475 degrees. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt in large bowl. Combine buttermilk and 8 tablespoons melted butter in medium bowl, stirring until butter forms small clumps.

Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients and stir with rubber spatula until just incorporated and batter pulls away from sides of bowl. Using greased 1/4-cup dry measure, scoop level amount of batter and drop onto parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet (biscuits should measure about 2 1/4 inches in diameter and 1 1/4 inches high). Repeat with remaining batter, spacing biscuits about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake until tops are golden brown and crisp, 12 to 14 minutes.

Brush biscuit tops with remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter. Transfer to wire rack and let cool 5 minutes before serving.

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