Books for Cooks

Barbara Burke

Endless variety
for any meal

"Biscuit Bliss"
By James Villas
(Harvard Common Press, paperback, $14.95)

This book is a biscuit lover's delight. With 101 recipes, there is a homemade biscuit for just about everyone.

In "Biscuit Bliss," you'll find classic recipes, including buttermilk and baking powder biscuits, breakfast breads, such as cinnamon-pecan drop biscuits and chocolate chip scones and sophisticated party fare such as smoked salmon and dill biscuits with salmon caviar.

Award-winning author James Villas also offers many regional favorites, such as Cajun biscuit sausage rolls and Missouri bran biscuits. There are dozens of "Southern" quick breads, including Thomas Jefferson's sweet potato biscuits. Even whole meal recipes such as Texas chili on jalapeño buttermilk biscuits and New England chicken pot pie are provided.

An index search in the back of the book for tropical ingredients came up empty, except for one recipe for coconut-vanilla drop biscuits. However, you can certainly try substituting macadamia nuts for walnuts or pecans and dried mango or dried papaya in place of dates or raisins in the biscuit recipes.

The cookbook has a great, no-nonsense layout with one recipe per page, and lies flat on a countertop. A beautiful eight-page color photo insert will remind you how irresistible homemade biscuits can be.

Although biscuits are not difficult to make, they do require the proper ingredients and technique. To help you create the perfect biscuit, Villas includes detailed instructions and a trouble-shooting chart where you will learn remedies for biscuits that don't rise enough, are tough, are too dry, or have "hard bottoms."

Credit the author's sister for coming up with this unusual recipe for "high and fluffy" biscuits. Your guests will have fun trying to figure out the strange but beguiling flavor. For best results, be sure to use cold 7-Up and cold vegetable shortening.

Hootie's Mystery Biscuits

2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chilled shortening
3/4 cup chilled 7-Up soda
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine, melted
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Add shortening and cut it in with a pastry cutter until mixture is mealy. Add 7-Up all at once and stir with a fork just until dry ingredients are evenly moistened.

Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead about 8 times. Roll dough 3/4-inch thick and let rest 5 minutes. Cut into rounds with a 2-inch cutter.

Arrange rounds on a baking sheet about 1/2 inch apart. Brush with melted butter and bake in the upper third of the oven until golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Serve immediately. Makes about 1 dozen.

Approximate nutritional information per biscuit (12 biscuits per recipe, using Crisco and butter): 150 calories, 8 g total fat, 4 g saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 2 g protein, 17 g carbohydrate, 390 mg sodium.

Rating Scale: StarStarStarStar Best in its class / StarStarStar Highly recommended / StarStar Recommended / Star Not recommended

Barbara Burke is a Hawaii-Pacific University instructor who teaches and writes about food and nutrition. Contact her at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, Honolulu 96813; or e-mail her at:

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