First, I must bring to light a very obvious and wonderful fact: the quality of these photographs far surpasses that of any of the others in my small but growing collection. This is thanks to one Jana Heaton, who is credited with taking all of these (if I do say so myself) gorgeous pictures. Hip hip hooray for Janana!
But let’s take a step back. How did we get to the finished dish featured? Well, my two choice ingredients (provided by Merri) were maple syrup and garlic. The combination sounded strangely amazing to me, so I just had to try it out immediately.
When thinking about maple syrup, of course I instantly thought about breakfast: pancakes, waffles, french toast, etc. For garlic, my mind instantly went to garlic bread. I knew that I would want to roast the garlic 1) because I love to do it and it’s so easy, and 2) because it brings out a fantastic, slightly smokey sweetness that would pair really well with the maple flavor. As a side note: that description reminds me of black garlic, garlic that has been fermented until it turns completely the shade of a charcoal briquette. Black garlic is also sweet and smokey, which is why I thought of it, and almost has a molassesy flavor. I’ll have to do something with it to demonstrate, but it really is pretty excellent, so get your hands on some if you can!
Anyway, back to the recipe. So, I was thinking about breakfast baked goods and garlic bread and I decided that a garlicy bread product would be great with something mapley to put on it. Suddenly, the idea of little garlic biscuits with maple butter was born. My stepdad, Sinjin, loves to put butter and honey on biscuits, so why not maple? I mean… can you argue with this?
Yeah… I didn’t really think so. But butter and biscuits don’t really scream figure friendly. On one hand, they shouldn’t really be. They’re buttery and doughy and fluffy. On the other hand, because cooking healthfully is a priority of mine, I decided to try and make these puppies a little more on the (as Trader Joe’s would say) reduced-guilt side of things.
For that reason, I decided to do three main things: 1) I used some whole wheat flour for some added fiber. I actually also like the subtle earthiness that it gives the biscuits, so that was a win win. 2) I made the biscuits fairly small (just like I did for my bacon banana cream pies) so that having a whole one didn’t seem like a huge splurge, just a nice little indulgence. 3) I used buttermilk. One of my favorite common misconceptions to debunk is that buttermilk high in fat and calories. Not true! Buttermilk usually contains only 1/2% milk fat, making it leaner than even Low Fat milk. It also is said to contain gastrointestinal benefits, similar to those found in yogurt. I love it in these biscuits because I think that it provides a nice tangy note and also helps to make the biscuits rich and fluffy. With that as a base and the addition of fresh aromatics, sage and of course all of that roasted garlic, these babies are hard to beat.
The maple butter on the other hand is definitely not guilt-free (hello, it’s butter!), but the flavor packs enough of a punch that you only need to use a little bit to make an impact. My housemates love it so much that they asked me to make sure that there’s always a supply in the fridge. I’m happy to oblige since it’s so damn easy to make… as long as they spring for the real maple syrup once in a while. That’s key… don’t use the stuff that’s mostly corn syrup… go for 100% real maple syrup. The little grocery store on campus, WeShop, only carries grade A, but if you have a choice I’d suggest grade B since it is a bit darker and has a stronger flavor. There are already several recipes for maple butter out there, but what makes mine unique I believe, is the decision to reduce the syrup and to add vanilla and salt during the reduction process. This allows the maple flavor to really concentrate and imbue the butter with all of its sweet, sort of woody, goodness.
Enough of my raving, just try them for yourself already!
- 2 heads garlic
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1½ tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp fresh sage, finely minced
- 8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold and diced very small
- ⅔ + ¼ cup buttermilk
- ¼ cup milk, plus more for brushing
- ¾ cup maple syrup
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 sticks butter
- To roast the garlic, preheat the oven to 400F. Peel all of the garlic cloves and place them on a lined baking sheet. Roast them in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until they are brown and soft. Allow the cloves to cool completely to room temperature before chopping them into very small pieces. This can be done ahead of time, just refrigerate the garlic until ready to use.
- To make the biscuits, preheat the oven to 425F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- For the dough, whisk together the flours, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Add in the garlic and the sage and stir well to combine.
- Using your preferred method, cut the butter into the flour mixture. You could use a food processor or a pastry blender, but I just used my fingers and mixed the butter in, breaking it into smaller pieces until they were about pea sized. It definitely helped to start with cubes of butter that were already close to that size.
- Next, add the buttermilk and milk and stir just to combine.
- Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough to about a ½-1 inch thickness, then fold in half and repeat about 4 times. Roll the dough out to about 1 inch thickness again. Using any type of cutting tool (I used the opening of a small jar that was roughly 2 inches in diameter), cut the biscuits. Try to re-roll the dough as few times as possible to prevent the biscuits from becoming tough and overworked.
- Place the biscuits on the lined baking sheets about an inch apart. Brush the tops with just a bit of milk (I didn’t have a pastry brush, so I used a spoon).
- Bake the biscuits for about 10 minutes, until golden brown. Serve as soon as possible, since they are best nice and warm.
- For the maple butter, pour the maple syrup into a small saucepan over medium low heat. Add the vanilla extract (or a vanilla bean could be very nice) and the salt. Simmer the syrup for about 30 minutes until it looks to have reduced by about half. If the syrup begins to look like it might bubble over, just reduce the heat slightly.
- Take the syrup off the heat when it has reduced and allow to cool slightly. Break the butter up and place in a large bowl. Pour the syrup over the butter and whisk until the mixture is nice and smooth with no lumps. Refrigerate in tupperware or a clean glass jar until ready to use. For optimal spreading, let the butter come to room temperature before serving.
I brought them fresh from the oven (well… they got cold on the way over so we reheated them in a toaster oven, which worked well) to improv rehearsal and they were gobbled up! I’m sure that the rest of Desperate Measures would agree that they were pretty good fuel for all that goofing around and acting weird… oh, I mean scene work.