Week Forty-Five: Potent or Unusual Flavors
In New Orleans, brunch is an altogether different beast than it is anywhere else I’ve lived. I have a theory that it relates to the predominant Catholicism of the city, taking the whole “day of rest” thing a bit more seriously than other Americans, or maybe it’s that people are too hungry to cook after sitting through mass.
Whatever the case, the great love of food that unites all New Orleanians draws them together every Sunday afternoon to most every restaurant in the city. The live jazz and complimentary (or better, endless) champagne at many establishments doesn’t hurt, either. They gather, toasting with ubiquitous mimosas, over a boundless array of delicacies such as eggs Sardou, grillades and grits, or pain perdu, and always with the customary plate of biscuits, the only nod to the cuisine of the rest of the South around them.
Having spent Sunday upon Sunday of my younger days at such tables, I find the best brunches are those that include those two constants: mimosas and biscuits. Both sunny and bright, they liven a meal; I can scarcely imagine anyone turning down either, much as I can scarcely imagine serving brunch without both.
So when I saw this recipe that unites the two, I obviously had to try it. Make biscuits with a mimosa? Sign me up! I was a little concerned that they would come out tough, as biscuits are usually made with milk, which has a tenderizing and softening effect on baked goods. But bolstered by my experiment with champagne bread earlier in the year, I was reasonably confident. And hey, any reason to open a bottle of champagne is fine by me.
The finished biscuits were indeed barely (just barely!) tougher than typical biscuits, but they absolutely made up for it in personality. Full of cheerful orange flavor, from both the orange juice and potent zest, they rose beautifully in properly flaky layers, and had a textbook crunch to the exterior.
I was well pleased with these biscuits. They were fluffy, flavorful, and light, and will surely be making an appearance at the next brunch I host. Though I might try adding a little powdered milk to the dough, for a bit of extra tenderness, either way it’s certainly going to be a good excuse to start pouring the drinks. Now, if only I could find a way to make mimosas out of biscuits….
Adapted from Latil’s Landing Restaurant, Darrow, Louisiana
Makes about 12
11 ounces (about 2½ cups) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest (from 1 orange)
2½ tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into as small pieces as possible
1/2 cup cold champagne
1/2 cup cold orange juice (from 1 orange)
1. Preheat the oven to 400º F. Grease a large baking sheet, or line with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and orange zest. Add the cold butter, and cut into the flour by pinching with fingertips, or with a pastry blender.
2. Add the champagne and orange juice. Using a nonstick spatula or fork, quickly and gently toss until a rough dough forms. Turn out onto a floured work surface, and dust the top liberally with flour. Fold the dough in half, and dust with flour. Press or roll the dough out to 1/2 inch in thickness. Using a 2½ inch round cutter, cut as many biscuits as possible, being careful not to twist the cutter as you press down (this will pinch the edges and prevent the biscuits from rising as tall as possible). Place biscuits on the prepared baking sheet.
3. Bake at 400º F for 10 to 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Let cool slightly on the pan before serving warm.
1. If you don’t get quite 1/2 cup of juice from your orange, you can make up the difference with additional champagne, or water.