October 18, 2013

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Bacon Fat Biscuits

I'm not sure, but this might encompass all of the above principles: reduce the amount of groceries purchased (no extra purchase of solid fat for baking); reuse the fat drained from cooking bacon; recycle the fat into an entirely different dish. Okay, those last two are kind of similar, but I'm giving it points because the re-use is not for the same dish or type of cooking, and because it's actually incorporated into the recipe as opposed to simply being a cooking medium (the usual fate of reused fats, if I'm not mistaken). It's economical and delicious!

The biscuits shown above were made with unstrained bacon fat, which is why they are a bit flecked in appearance. To get a less speckled effect, you can strain the fat through a fine sieve (or possibly cheesecloth) to get a more homogenous, lard-white colour. I also was using (solid) bacon fat that was a little on the soft side, which actually seems to inhibit rising a bit; these could be taller.

You can do a straight-up substitution of whatever butter/lard/shortening etc. that you currently use for biscuits, but if you don't have a biscuit recipe, here's one to try:

Bacon Fat Biscuits

Makes 9 biscuits, or tops an 8 - 12 inch pot pie, depending on how thick or thin you want your topping.

Total prep and cooking time: 25 minutes

2 cups all purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 teaspoons sugar
1/3 cup rendered bacon fat, in solid form (chill until firm)
3/4 cup milk - I use 1% milk

Preheat the oven to 450 F.

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients - to be fair, I don't really sift, I aerate them with a whisk, but do whichever pleases you most. Add raisins, herbs, cheese, or any other additional flavourings at this time. Using a pastry-blender or a fork (and a lot of patience) cut in the bacon fat until the mixture is crumbly and the little lumps of fat are about corn-kernel sized. If your bacon fat is frozen hard, you can do this step in a food processor fitted with a metal blade.

Create a well in the middle of the mixture and pour the milk in all at once. Hold the bowl steady and, using a fork, stir rapidly and briefly until the dough comes together in a ragged mass. Quickly dump it out onto a clean counter, and knead very lightly and briefly until the flour is incorporated. You may need to add a little extra flour, but probably not. Go cautiously - too much flour makes tough biscuits.

Pat out the dough into a rough rectangle, and slice into the size of biscuits that you want. Place them on an ungreased cookie-sheet and bake for 12 - 15 minutes, or until they have gotten tall and golden.

If you are using the biscuits as a topping for pot pie, pat out the dough into the shape and size of your stew-pot. Stab the biscuits with a fork to make a few air-holes, and lift the entire thing (no cutting necessary) onto the bubbling hot stew. Place in the 450 F oven, and bake uncovered for about 25 minutes. It does take longer when the biscuit is cooked over a stew.

Bonus Tip: freeze your bacon drippings in a spare measuring cup until you have enough, or create a form out of tinfoil wrapped around your 1/3 cup measure, and store it (covered) in the freezer until it is full.

These would be awesome for Biscuits and Gravy, don't you think?

You can use the same technique to make pie crust, of course. Some of my friends will remember the potluck to which I brought sour cherry pie with a bacon fat crust, the leftovers of which were served with my friend Rodney's homemade gelato for breakfast.

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