I have what I deem to be a problem. It is not over-eating, nor gambling. I don’t buy too many clothes for myself, or even collectibles for my home. I can’t stop buying cookbooks. My husband says that it’s perfectly fine– it’s all in the name of research. (Some would call him an enabler, I prefer to think of him as generous and understanding.) The cookbook acquisition has gotten to such a magnitude, that I can hardly keep up. There are always new (to me) books to peruse, forgotten relics waiting to be rediscovered, as well as brand-spanking-new cookbooks with glossy pictures and pages unmarred by sauces and food stains. But it is really those vintage cookbooks, written by mostly unknown authors, with dingy photographs, or no pictures at all, that get my stomach churning and my mind reeling.
Each year when we go to Los Angeles to visit family, I make a special trip to Pasadena to Cookbooks by Janet Jarvits. A small shop with a varied collection, this is the best vintage cookbook store I have ever found. Unassuming, incredibly knowledgeable yet non-threatening Ms. Jarvits, whether she knows it or not has helped me immensely with my two cookbooks, and endlessly fuels my curiosities. If buying cookbooks is my drug, she is one of my pushers.
I had the opportunity to stop by the store in February. When it was laughably cold in New England, her little shop was sunny and bright. I picked up a handful of books that day, and now, all these months later, I’m just getting around to spending some time with them. One book I selected is As American as Apple Pie. It’s a wonderful collection of recipes and variations of classic American recipes. Think of it as greatest hits album for the kitchen.
In the chapter covering biscuits I found a recipe for Campton Place, a hotel in San Francisco’s, Caraway-Rye Biscuits. The recipe sounded delicious– a basic buttermilk biscuit, enriched with rye flour and embellished with caraway seeds. I mixed up a batch over the weekend, and they did not disappoint!
Although this cookbook is 25 years old, with the addition of whole rye flour (I used the dark variety), the recipe tasted new– rich and sustaining. The caraway offered a bite in the texture and a licorice perfume, and the biscuits were like any good biscuit should be– flaky and buttery. I am nothing if not a lazy cook, so I didn’t bother to cut them out in a proper biscuit shape. I simply patted out the dough, and cut it into squares. No scraps left over! These biscuits were delicious straight from the oven and slathered with jam, but they were still very good the next day as well, revived in the oven for a few moments.
Campton Place Campton Places’s Caraway-Rye Biscuits
adapted slightly from As American as Apple Pie
I altered the original recipe by adding a bit more salt, and less caraway– I find this spice can be too aggressive. I also found that this recipe needed a a bit more buttermilk. Start with 1/2 cup, and see how the dough comes together. You can always add a few tablespoons more if it appears dry.
Makes 8-10 biscuits
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (7 1/2 ounces)
1/2 cup rye flour (2 1/2 ounces)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons caraway seeds
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, chilled, and cubed
1/2-3/4 cup buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Whisk the flours, baking powder and soda, and the salt together. Toss in the caraway seeds. Toss the butter cubes to coat in the flour, and then work them into the flour mixture to create coarse crumbs. Stir in 1/2 cup of buttermilk. Dough should still be relatively dry, yet come together, this may require a few additional tablespoons of buttermilk.
Empty the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Pat the dough into a rectangle, about 3/4 inch thick. Cut the biscuits into squares, and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 12-16 minutes.