Surely by now you’ve seen the brilliant Hater’s Guide To The Williams-Sonoma Catalog, by Drew Magary at Deadspin, right? I’m not sure which is funnier, that or the hilariously scathing review of Guy Fieri’s Times Square restaurant by Pete Wells for the New York Times. Either way, it’s been a good week for food writing: if you haven’t seen these yet, you should check ‘em out. I’ll wait.
Williams-Sonoma says: “Flaky, buttery, and made by hand by celebrated caterer Callie White.”
Price:$72 (set of 24)
Notes from Drew: That’s $72 dollars for biscuits. At Popeye’s, the biscuit comes free with your order. At Williams-Sonoma, it costs you the rough equivalent of your phone bill. How good could these biscuits possibly be? There’s a threshold past which biscuits cannot improve. Even the best goddamn biscuit in the world isn’t $72 better than a Popeye’s biscuit. Unless that biscuit can make you teleport.
And what kills me is that there are clearly people out there who have shitloads of money and NO cooking skills who order this shit. Who are these people? How are there so many of them that Williams-Sonoma can sustain its business model? Are we all just racking up massive biscuit debts that will soon break the economy? I imagine that 60 percent of Williams-Sonoma’s business come from a group of six Persian oil barons, who buy everything in every catalog five times over every year for no good reason at all. Seventy-two-dollar biscuits. WHAT THE FUCK.
I had basically the same reaction. $72?? That would buy me four chickens. Four fancy-pants, organic, free-range, pasture-raised, hand-fed-organic-beet-tops-by-Trappist-monks chickens. $72 for 2 dozen biscuits? That goes beyond ‘elitist’ straight to ludicrous speed. Then Joel pointed out the even more ludicrous $80 pint of chicken stock, which prompted its own hilarity on the LK Facebook page. Like I said: a good week for food writing.
But it got me to thinking; just in case you, like me, are not a Persian oil baron who can afford to toss down four Jacksons for a couple dozen biscuits, you’re in luck, because I’m here to tell you a little secret: you can make them yourself. I know what you’re thinking, “She’s crazy! Surely if biscuits are worth $72, there is no way I could simply manufacture them in my very own kitchen!” I know: it sounds wacky. But it’s true: a little flour, a little butter, some cheese & herbs to fancy them up, and in about 30 minutes, you too can have your very own $72 biscuits for the Thanksgiving table.
Then? Use the money you save to put towards an heirloom turkey: elitist and thrifty! Who says we can’t have it all?
- 2 cups (9 oz) whole white wheat flour
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 2 oz (4 tbsp) butter, frozen
- 4 oz semi-hard cheese, such as cheddar, gruyère, asiago, etc., grated (I used half gruyère and half peppered pecorino)
- 2 tbsp fresh herbs, minced (I used thyme)
- ½ cup heavy cream, very cold
- ⅓ cup whole milk, very cold
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (400 degrees F convection).
- In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Grate in frozen butter, and work into flour until the mixture is the consistency of coarse sand. Run your hands under very cold water for a minute if they are warm. Mix in grated cheese and herbs. Add in cream, then gradually work in the milk, tossing with a wooden spatula until dough begins to come together.
- Turn onto a floured board. Knead minimally, just until dough will hold its shape. Flatten with your hands, as gently as possible, to a 1-inch high round. Cut biscuit shapes (I used a 2 and ½-inch round cutter), without twisting the cutter, until you’ve used all the dough. Arrange evenly on an unlined baking sheet. Bake until puffed and golden, about 15 – 18 minutes.
Yields about 1 dozen biscuits.
- All-purpose flour will yield a fluffier, more tender biscuit, but honestly, it tastes like nothing to me now. I may try these again with half whole wheat pastry flour in the mix.
- A little black pepper, cayenne or chipotle in the flour mix wouldn’t be amiss; start with a ¼ tsp.
Best eaten fresh. Store uncooked biscuits frozen for up to 6 months: cook from frozen, simply adding a few minutes to the baking time.