Sunday, January 18, 2015

Cinnamon-Sugar Biscuits

I was the ecstatic and tearful recipient of a Komo Fidibus 21 home grain mill for Christmas. It is a thing of beauty and my longing for it was inspired by reading Dan Barber's The Third Plate, a simply fantastic book about taking the idea of local food one step further. My hope is that I will grind all of our grains and legumes freshly before each use (as opposed to grinding in bulk and using the flour bit by bit), and the Fidibus 21 will make that a snap. How fortuitous that at about the same time I read Barber's book, I found out about Erin Anderson's The Homemade Flour Cookbook, which the awesome Seattle Public Library has on its shelves.

While I expect that most of the time I will use my usual wheat-based recipes and grind the flour for them fresh, I also am excited to experiment with new grains. Anderson's cookbook is great for this. The first recipe I tried was her Biscuit Cinnamon Rolls, which use einkorn (one of the many ancient wheat-related grains out there). We all loved them, but I felt they were a bit dry and einkorn is very expensive. I decided I wanted to try them with spelt, as everything I'd read suggested that quick breads made with spelt have a very tender crumb. It's also cheaper, at least at our co-op. I also modified Anderson's recipe by reducing the melted butter because I could not manage to use up anywhere near the whole 6 TBSP to paint the dough, substituting regular cane sugar for the brown sugar (the caramel notes in brown sugar are just too much for me), and using kefir instead of buttermilk. My husband has started fermenting a bunch of stuff and always has some kefir going spare, whereas we don't keep buttermilk around on a regular basis.

One thing I have noticed is that I like cinnamon-sugar things to be more cinnamon-y than most recipes call for. However, I can go too far in the cinnamon department and end up with a less satisfying end product. So, a 1-1 ratio of sugar to cinnamon is too much cinnamon, but 3 or 4-1 sugar to cinnamon (which is closer to what most recipes call for) is not enough. I settled on something like 2-1 sugar to cinnamon, but as I eyeball it most of the time, results may vary.

These modified cinnamon biscuits were delicious, definitely better (to my family's taste) than the original. They are a great combination of crispy exterior and tender interior. You know when your 7 year old says, "Put it on the blog, Mommy!" that you've made a winner. The recipe below is unapologetically based on how I will make it in future. I have no idea if it would work the same with pre-ground spelt (can't imagine why not), I use some metric and some volume measurements,  etc, etc. As I suspect my readership numbers in the tens, I cannot imagine it will make much difference.

A note to the curious, according to Anderson's book, most grains are 120g to the cup. This is true for wheat, barley, rye, emmer farro, and spelt, as well as many legumes. The major exception is einkorn, which is only 100g to the cup. Therefore, I used 360 g of spelt instead of the 300 g of einkorn in the original, because Anderson said that the volume should be 3 cups. This worked just fine.

3 c. (360 g) whole spelt flour
1 TBSP baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 TBSP cane sugar
6 TBSP cold butter, cut into cubes
1/2 c. plain kefir, runny yogurt or buttermilk
1 large egg

For the filling and topping
3 TBSP butter, melted
1/4 c. (approx) cane sugar
2 TBSP ground cinnamon

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F if using a convection oven. If using a regular oven, 425 degrees will be better. Line a baking sheet or half sheet pan with Silpat or baking parchment
  2. Grind the weighed spelt berries directly into the bowl of a food processor with the blade in
  3. Add the baking powder, salt and sugar and pulse to combine
  4. Add the cold butter pieces and pulse 6-10 times or until the butter is the size of small peas in the flour. You can also cut in the butter manually but I'm too lazy for that
  5. Measure the kefir into a liquid measuring cup, then crack the egg right in. Lightly whisk the egg and kefir together
  6. Make a bit of a channel in the middle of the dry ingredients in the food processor and pour in the liquid mixture. (If I don't make a channel, I find that the liquid all goes to the center of the bowl and there ends up being unincorporated liquid at the end)
  7. Pulse a few times until combined and the dough starts to come together. It'll be a bit crumbly, but not too bad
  8. Pour out the dough onto a clean counter (or one lined with waxed paper or parchment--you can get the paper to stick to the counter a bit if you mist it with water first)
  9. Knead a few times to combine
  10. Using your fingers or a rolling pin, get the dough into somewhat of a rectangle, about 8x12 inches
  11. Paint most of the melted butter on top of the dough (the kids love this part) and then sprinkle on most of the cinnamon-sugar mixture evenly all over the rectangle
  12. Doing the best you can (I like to use my offset spatula to help and the rolling part is the reason i like using waxed paper or parchment instead of bare counter) and starting with the long edge nearest you, roll the dough into a log, gently pressing together as needed
  13. Paint the rest of the melted butter on the top and sides of the log and sprinkle on the remaining cinnamon-sugar
  14. Cut the log into 8 roughly-equal pieces and space them out evenly on the baking tray. You leave them in the same orientation--don't lay them down as you would a cinnamon roll
  15. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until they are crisp on the top (it's hard to judge by color because the cinnamon is dark)
  16. Let cool slightly, then serve. If you have leftovers, they'll taste much better if you reheat them