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How To Stress-Bake with Claire Saffitz

I’m feeling tired and uninspired in the kitchen.

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Episode Notes

Are you sick of sourdough? Stress-baking the same chocolate chip cookies every week? Our listener Daniel understands—he’s been baking like crazy during this pandemic, but is feeling tired and uninspired lately. On this episode of How To!, we bring on Claire Saffitz, pastry chef, beloved host of Bon Appétit’s “Gourmet Makes” series, and author of the new cookbook Dessert Person, to hack Daniel’s kitchen pantry and find new ways to use familiar ingredients. As Claire and Daniel make miso buttermilk biscuits together over Zoom, Claire not only shares tips for all the amateur chefs out there, but also opens up about how baking helped her learn to manage her anxiety and adapt to difficult situations. These days, we need the biscuits and the lessons. Check out the full recipe below.

If you liked this episode, check out “How To Cook One Perfect Meal.”

Do you have a problem that needs solving? Send us a note at howto@slate.com or leave us a voicemail at 646-495-4001 and we might have you on the show. Subscribe for free on Apple, Spotify or wherever you listen.

Podcast production by Derek John, Rachael Allen, and Rosemary Belson.

Miso Buttermilk Biscuits

Active Time: 40 minutes | Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes, plus time to cool | Difficulty: 1 (Very Easy)

Most people know miso from Japanese miso soup, but they might not be aware of all the incredible applications this salty, funky umami-rich paste (made from fermented soybeans) has in cooking and baking. I’ve played around with it in sweet recipes with only limited success, but Chris Morocco from the Bon Appétit test kitchen has made a convincing case that it’s definitely possible (check out his miso almond butter cookies recipe on bonappetit.com). In these flaky, fluffy, savory biscuits, I mash a staggering ½ cup sweet white miso, one of the milder varieties, into cold buttermilk and mix it into the dough. The miso both seasons the dough and contributes an almost cheesy flavor. It makes a fantastic biscuit that works just as well served with scrambled eggs as it does as the base for a katsu sandwich. Or you can just do as I recommend and serve them warm with miso butter.

Makes 16 biscuits

½ cup sweet white miso (4.8 oz / 136g)
1¼ cups buttermilk (10.6 oz / 300g), chilled
3¼ cups all-purpose flour (15 oz / 423g), plus more for rolling out
1 tablespoon baking powder (0.42 oz / 12g)
1 tablespoon sugar (0.46 oz / 13g)
¼ teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks unsalted butter (8 oz / 227g), cut into ½-inch pieces, chilled, plus 2 tablespoons (1 oz / 28g), melted, for brushing
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven and prepare the baking sheet: Arrange an oven rack in the center position and preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

2. Mix the miso and buttermilk: Place the miso in the bottom of a medium bowl and pour in a couple of tablespoons of the buttermilk. Mash with a fork until smooth, then add a few more tablespoons of buttermilk and continue to mash until you have a smooth, lump-free paste. Repeat the process until you’ve worked about half of the buttermilk into the miso and you have a smooth, pourable mixture (working the buttermilk in just a bit at a time helps prevent lumps). Whisk in the rest of the buttermilk until smooth. Refrigerate while you assemble the rest of the ingredients.

3. Mix the dry ingredients: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and baking soda to combine. Work in the butter: Add the pieces of butter to the bowl with the flour mixture and toss to coat. Then use your fingertips to quickly smash all the pieces into the flour mixture, flattening them and breaking up into bits.

4. Mix in the miso buttermilk: Stirring the mixture constantly with a fork, drizzle the buttermilk mixture into the bowl with the flour mixture. Using a flexible spatula or bench scraper, fold the mixture several times inside the bowl to bring the dough together and ensure that it’s evenly combined. It will be a bit wet and sticky.

5. Form the biscuits: Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Use floured hands to pat it into a rectangle about ½ inch thick. Use a bench scraper or knife to cut the dough in half lengthwise and again crosswise to create quadrants. Stack the quadrants one on top of the other, dust a bit more flour on top and underneath the dough, and then roll out the stack with a rolling pin into a square measuring about 8½-inches across (this stacking and rolling step creates flakiness).

6. Cut and chill the biscuits: Using a sharp knife, trim the edges to straighten so you have a neat 8-inch square. Then cut the square into sixteen 2-inch squares (a 4 x 4 grid). Transfer each square to the prepared baking sheet, spacing evenly. Place the baking sheet in the freezer for about 15 minutes to allow the butter to firm up.

7. Brush with butter and bake: Brush the tops of the chilled biscuits with the 2 tablespoons melted butter and top with black pepper. Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and reduce the temperature to 375°F. Bake until the tops of the biscuits are browned and the bottoms are golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet.

DO AHEAD: The biscuits are best served the day they’re made but will keep, stored in an airtight container at room temperature, up to 3 days. Rewarm the biscuits before serving. The unbaked biscuits can be covered with plastic wrap on the baking sheet and refrigerated up to 24 hours or frozen up to 1 month. No need to thaw before baking (frozen biscuits may take a few minutes longer in the oven).

Note: To make miso butter to serve with the biscuits, mash together room temperature unsalted butter and miso with a fork in a small bowl until smooth—how much miso you add is up to your own taste, but I like about 1 part miso to 2 parts butter.

Reprinted from Dessert Person. Copyright © 2020 by Claire Saffitz. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House

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What if Dear Abby were an investigative reporter? Each week, David Epstein (bestselling author of Range and The Sports Gene) takes on listeners’ toughest problems and, with the help of experts, finds the answers to questions you’ve always wanted to ask but couldn’t. Until now.

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