Breakfast · Recipe

Basic Breakfast Biscuits

ALL RIGHT: apologies up front.  I haven’t neglected breakfast for myself, but I have neglected writing about it.  I’ve feasted; I’ve feted; I’ve cooked; I’ve kneaded.  And all I can say in my own defense is that I’ve also moved.

That’s right. I am now ensconced in a four-bedroom flat in Washington Heights, New York City, even though the four bedrooms are only occupied by three people (can I get a shout of “guest room!” Sweet).  We are still arranging our furniture and stocking our pantry, but it’s a home.  We even have the two requisite plants to prove it.

This morning was the first time in the month I’ve been living here that I felt ready to take on the oven and make breakfast.  I’ve been itching a while for a really good biscuit, but between the work, unpacking, and mental mapping to do, I wasn’t ready for a huge project.  So I put away the Paula Deen butter-heavy recipe and went instead with an easier, butter-less version.

I made these biscuits to make New York feel more like home; I made them because my Tennessee roots have been showing (mostly, I think, in a rebellion against the stiffness of much of NYC); I made them to show off to my roommates; I made them because Lexy told me to; I made them because I needed to.

And they were divine.  They didn’t last long, but while they lived, they were wondrous little fluffy beings.  Dotted with apple butter or scored with butter, these little creatures are absolutely delightful.  A great kick to the morning, a citywide homecoming, a return to yourself, a great banner of pleasure for your tastebuds.  Oh lovelies, I can’t wait to make you again!

Basic Breakfast Biscuits

  • 2.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups milk (I used 1%, but I reckon heavy cream or even half & half would be great*)

Preheat oven to 400F.

In a bowl, stir together the dry ingredients.  Add milk (or cream) and stir until a dough forms.

Drop heaping 1/4 cups of batter onto a greased baking sheet.  Bake until tops are golden brown, bottoms browned, about 18-20 minutes.  (I baked these on the bottom rack of my oven, but the middle would probably have been a better idea.)

Slather with jam, butter, or fruit.  Enjoy!



*NOTE: using 1 cup heavy cream and 1 cup regular milk helps to make the biscuits a bit denser; the addition of a couple of handfuls of grated cheese gives them a more serious mien.  Yum!

Breakfast · Drink · Full Complement · Lunch

Midtown IV, Philadelphia: Like Another Rocky Movie

MIDTOWN IV is a 24-hour, ATM-providing, extensively menu-ed diner that smells vaguely of hot dogs.

The menu has plenty of options, ranging from brunch specials to hamburgers; they offer old-fashioned milkshakes and ice cream sodas. Like a Rocky movie, you know exactly what you’re getting. There are no surprises here, except for the rolling eyes of the harried waitresses, and there’s a certain comfort to be found in the familiarity.

The occasion was a visit from a college friend; five of us gathered at Midtown IV to reminisce, catch up, tease each other, and make new plans. Fitting us into a booth should have been easy enough: we added a chair to the end of the table and our conversation flowed easily over our glasses of water and coffee. But our waitress seemed to take exception to the addition, and despite the emptiness of the diner, she seemed to be put-out by our special requests (“no anchovies in the Greek salad,” for example).

But Midtown IV is open 24 hours. And it serves breakfast all day long. There’s a cocktail lounge in back, but the front restaurant space is taken up by booths, a counter, and a few wall-hugging tables. Portions are just big enough to satisfy, and the coffee pitcher comes by frequently (a necessity, as the coffee mugs are a little on the small side for my taste). There’s no need for gourmet experimentation. Like Rocky, Midtown IV is an institution in its own right and has perfected the art of its own familiar flavors.

HandsConsidering what we ordered, Midtown delivered admirably. Between the five of us, we ordered two of their specials, their french toast platter, pancakes with a side bacon, a Greek salad, fried mozarella sticks and two milkshakes (the vanilla milkshake tasted like marshmallow fluff, the strawberry just tasted pink). The Midtown Omelet Special is a frothy goat cheese and tomato omelet that comes with home fries; the Midnight Special B is three slices of french toast, 2 eggs made to order, and your choice of meat (yum!). Tallying up to just under $50 and leaving us feeling replenished and energized (except for Blake, who overdid it with the giant Greek salad, mozarella sticks and vanilla milkshake), the Midtown put in a decent showing.

Now, I have a few requirements when it comes to my french toast. I was raised on french toast. When I had sleepovers as a kid, my friends would only spend the night if they were promised my dad’s french toast in the morning. It’s that good. I’ve tried to recreate it, but somehow I always fall short.

So when I go brunching, I like to check out the french toast as a baseline for comparison. I like my french toast moist enough that syrup is an option, not a necessity. I want to be able to cut it with my fork alone; I like knives (who doesn’t?), but I also like having a hand free to gesticulate while I talk and to raise my coffee mug for refills. Thickness is a factor, too: too thick, and the fork won’t cut it; too thin, and it’s just not enough for a mouthful. Garnishes depend on the establishment, and I’m not that picky about presentation. If the menu says “french” and “toast,” I’ll pretty much eat whatever they put in front of me. But I do have standards, and a bad french toast experience can break a whole menu for me.

The SpreadLuckily for me, Midtown IV rose to the occasion. They serve diner french toast, which means homey and comforting and soft and golden. As part of the Midnight Special B, I was able to couple my french toast with strips of bacon and a side of scrambled eggs. The french toast was fluffy and light; it’s nothing particularly special, but is the kind of french toast you whip up on gray mornings that beg for comfort food, when you don’t have the energy to go that extra yard and chop up bananas for a garnish. The scrambled eggs were saved by a healthy dose of ketchup (a trick I picked up in Morocco; god bless cafeteria food). Altogether, the special is satisfying without being pretentious. It doesn’t aspire to greatness. It merely wants to feed you good, and does.

I’ll be back, I’m sure, to test out the “we never close” and “breakfast all day” creeds. But, like Rocky I, II, III, IV, V and Balboa, this one isn’t going in my permanent collection.



Donuts at Larchwood: Welcome to Twin Peaks

SPECIAL Agent Dale Cooper is a special man. Not only does he possess the top-notch–creme de la creme, if you will–intelligence of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s finest but he also has the brave soul of a man willing to cross into the land of dreams, demons, and giants to save the lives of those preyed on by a mysterious murderer. The main character of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks loves good coffee, good pie, breakfast and most importantly: Donuts. Fortunately for him, so do the local deputies and sheriff. The local law enforcement is housed in an appropriately wood paneled office where Lucy, the faithful and oddly competent secretary, keeps all of the deputies in donuts, artfully laying them out on the conference table (where they do in fact cover the table) each morning.

Watching enough episodes of Twin Peaks will convince anyone that clearly the only way to consume donuts is by first buying about four dozen of them and then lining them up on the closest thing to a conference table that one has around –stacked two high and arranged in neat rows (a mirror of Lucy’s own careful donut presentation). So that is what we, the residents of Larchwood Ave, did this past Sunday. In the early Sunday morning we set out on our donut expedition. We decided to avoid the large monstrosity that is Dunkin Donuts and opted instead for a small coffee and donut shop on 43rd and Chestnut called Pure Donuts. We trooped in and stared at the cases of donuts. For the first time in my adult life there was no agony involved in choice. Four of this, five of that, three of the strange looking ones in the corner with the blue sprinkles. We laughed as we chose more and more. Soon we had filled up three white pastry boxes at which point we departed, the fatty sweet scent of three dozen donuts following in our wake.

Returning home, we placed the donuts on the table, brewed a large pot of coffee, and dug in. Check out this website and you will have an idea of what was arranged upon our dinning room table (what I really would like to know is what sort of class you would have to take to get to list donuts. Just saying…).

Gathered around the table with Twin Peaks playing in the background, we dug in with the gusto of the hungriest deputies in Twin Peaks. Delicious fried sugar dough filled our mouths and was washed down with the bitter darkness of the first cup of morning coffee. I think, in retrospect, it was that first bite that was the best. We each continued on through that first donut and began on our second and thirds. It was somewhere around the middle of that second donut we were all feeling a little worse for the donut. But how often do you get to live the dream of a table full of donuts?

I thought I would never want to eat another donut, but the stomach stretching, sugar-high pain has since passed and in the recording of our donut feast I really think that I could go for another…

Live on Breakfast Questers!