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Brown Sugar Bacon Cheddar Biscuits

  Let me tell you a few things about biscuits.  First, you want your butter cold cold cold cold cold.  Dice it up and stick it in the fridge, don't over-mix, all that good stuff.  Cold butter chunks are what give you the flake-y fluffy factor. 

  Second, don't overbake.  You want your biscuits lightly golden, and the exterior should have a just firm shell.  A gentle poke should prove the presence of a very soft inside, and you should feel a slight squish.  The biscuits will firm up more as they cool.

  Third, you need bacon.  To be specific, you need chopped bacon that's been candied in brown sugar and freshly ground black pepper.  Easy?  Yes!  Weird?  Nahhhh.  It's mostly just amazingly delicious.  Go ahead, try it, and see if you don't find yourself with none left to put in the biscuit dough.  I was picking out the bacon bits while forming the dough, cutting the dough, and even after baking the dough.  It just didn't stand a chance, sitting there being all aromatic and...bacon-y.

  Fourth, grate some sharp cheddar.  This is not the place for lesser substitutes such as Colby or...medium cheddar.  Go for the sharp and you'll thank me later.

  Fifth, these biscuits mean business.  With re-forming the scraps, I got about 15 biscuits.  When I got up the next morning, looking forward to an indulgent breakfast, I discovered that the 5 members of this household had consumed them all.  I'd had only 2 the night before.

  Be generous with your bacon and butter bread and butter.

Brown Sugar Bacon Cheddar Biscuits
Yield: about 15 biscuits, cut with a 2-inch cutter and with re-forming scraps

Ingredients for the bacon:
  • 7 slices of bacon (turkey bacon is acceptable)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • coarsely ground black pepper

Ingredients for the biscuits:
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese (preferably sharp cheddar)
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes (be sure to keep in the fridge until you need to add it)
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk

To candy the bacon, place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper and spread bacon across the baking sheet in a single layer.  Sprinkle with brown sugar and black pepper.  Bake until crisp and cooked through, about 13 to 15 minutes (if using turkey bacon, keep a watchful eye, as it cooks much faster than regular).  Remove from the oven and carefully use tongs to place the hot bacon on a cutting board.  Don't use paper towels, as the bacon will stick.  Allow to cool until able to handle, then chop the slices into medium chunks.  Set aside.

To make the biscuits, increase oven temperature to 425 degrees F.  Line another baking sheet with parchment paper or foil, and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and black pepper.  Add the grated cheddar and toss with your hands to combine.  Add cold butter and use your hands to quickly break the butter into the flour until the mixture is combined and resembles coarse meal (it's okay if you have some chunks of butter, that's what creates the pockets of flakiness).  In another bowl, lightly beat the egg and buttermilk together with a fork.  Add to the flour mixture all at once, stirring  to incorporate (you can totally use the fork to stir).  Once the batter is nearly incorporated, add bacon and mix in.

Dump the shaggy dough onto a lightly-floured work surface and lightly knead just until it comes together, taking care not to overwork the dough and melt the butter, keep those cold chunks intact!

Roll or pat the dough into a 1-inch thick circle.  Cut into 2-inch rounds using a biscuit cutter, or cut into 2×2-inch squares.  Gently reshape and roll dough to create more biscuits with excess scraps.  Place on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes, until the biscuits are lightly golden brown.  Let cool on the sheet until firm enough to transfer to a cooling rack.  Serve biscuits warm with jam or a fried egg, or on their own!

These are best they day they're made, but they can be kept in the fridge for up to two days.  The shaped, uncooked biscuit can also be frozen, then thawed in the fridge overnight and baked up in the morning.

Sources: adapted from Joy the Baker