Side Dish Recipe: Bacon and Cheddar Cheese Biscuits

Sometimes you just need a biscuit. One that's warm from the oven and pillow-soft in the middle. These particular scruffy-looking biscuits have become a recent obsession of mine, owing in great part to the fact that they're incredibly easy to throw together. They're also studded with bits of smoky bacon and flavored with sharp cheddar cheese - who can resist that?
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This recipe is based on our favorite Buttermilk Biscuit recipe. I simply added a few slices of crispy bacon and a handful of shredded cheddar cheese. The minced chives add a kick of freshness. Apart from frying the bacon, everything can be done in the food processor in about five minutes. (Additional directions for making biscuits without a food processor follow below.)

I like to make biscuits in my cast iron skillet, especially if I've left a little bacon grease in the bottom. You can also make them a stainless steel skillet or a regular baking dish.

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Bacon and Cheddar Cheese Biscuits Makes about 18 small biscuits or 10 large biscuits

6 slices (~5 oz) thick-cut bacon, diced
1 cup (6 oz) all purpose flour
1 cup (5 oz) cake flour (or 3/4 cup all-purpose flour + 2 Tablespoons cornstarch)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick, 4 oz) frozen unsalted butter
1 cup (4 oz) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup minced chives
1 cup (8 oz) buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Place a cast-iron or stainless steel skillet over medium heat and fry the bacon until just crispy. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and allow it to drain on a paper towel. Pour off all but one tablespoon of the bacon fat into a heat-proof bowl and reserve.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt. Pulse several times to thoroughly combine. Quickly cut the frozen butter into large chunks with a sharp knife and add these to the food processor. Pulse food processor 8-10 times until meal is finely ground (be careful - the flour bounces up at first).

Pour flour and butter mixture into a medium-sized bowl and stir in the bacon, cheese, and chives. Add the buttermilk all at once. Using a spatula or fork, gently mix until you see no more dry flour.

Sprinkle a little flour on the counter and dump the dough on top. Sprinkle a little more flour on top and use your hands to quickly pat the dough into a circle about 1/2 - 1 inch thick, depending on how thick you like your biscuits. Use a biscuit cutter, circular cookie cutter, or the rim of a glass to cut out biscuit shapes. Transfer to the skillet used to cook the bacon. Reform the dough and cut more biscuits until the dough has all been used.

Brush the tops of the biscuits with reserved bacon fat (or melted butter) and bake for 18-20 minutes, until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let the biscuits cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack until dinner time. Store leftovers in a sealed container for several days. These make an excellent snack on the go.

Additional Directions for Making Biscuits by Hand:

• Whisk the dry ingredients in a bowl. Use a box grater to shred your butter as quickly as possible and then toss this with the dry ingredients. Use a fork or pastry blender to further cut the butter into the flour until the pea-sized crumbs are formed. Continue with the recipe as above.

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Related: Leaveners and Fats: The Science of Great Biscuits

(Images: Emma Christensen)

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