I started this year off with a goal to become a better runner and train for a marathon. For me it was a metaphor about moving forward.
For a number of reasons, I felt – and feel – as if I’ve been handed a baton, like life and circumstance had given me a story and said, ‘Go. Run with it. Metamorphose.’ I needed something to believe in and I needed something to prove. I needed to be braved out of my skin.
For people like me who spend a lot of time thinking and writing, it’s imperative to have activities that provide outlets for grounding and centering. Running provided an outlet to reify negativity into something positive.
Looking back now, everything I needed to know about running, I had already learned in baking. Concepts like, one should spend several weeks working on endurance and building a solid base (the dough), before adding on the speed work (additions that make a baked goodie sparkle).
Both baking and running create a shift of awareness. A quality of inner awakening and focus to give your attention to something. The two also demand concentration and presence, while also offering a bit of sanctuary.
Baking is something I’ve always loved, and making the perfect biscuits has been a baking goal (I have many and take each one seriously), just like running a marathon has been an ultimate goal. And baking — the undertaking itself – turning ingredients into a supple ball of dough evokes the transformation of the mind from messy to manageable, just like running.
Although recipes (including this one) will teach you what to look for, baking like running requires intuition, observation, and practice, practice, practice, practice. Begin with a pure intention. Understand the basics. Create a regime. Understand you will become addicted to perfecting the process. Be patient. Expect and welcome challenges and obstacles. Be present. Release attachment to outcome. Joyfully preserve. And most of all BREATHE. Pretty profound, right?
In my opinion, biscuits should be high-rising and feather light. Their magic lives in the crevices, the sweet in-betweens. Biscuits made with flour, salt, and leavening agents – baking powder or/and baking soda. Butter is cut in, so the mixture resembles a dry oatmeal and then some kind of liquid, like cream binds it all together. If the butter is melted the dough gets all gummy. Too cold and it won’t break down into pea sized pieces.
Insufficient mixing of dough won’t incorporate the leavening agents, leaving you with acrid tasting biscuits. Over kneading will make the biscuits tough, like hockey pucks. The entire process requires awareness, attention to detail and a certain level of detachment: a commitment to balance
I find regular biscuits boring. They never have enough oomph. Raita biscuits merge the piquancy of raita with traditional high-caloric, high carb, high fat heavenly discs. There are many secrets to this recipe. The first is to chill everything. Everything should be COLD. Chill the flour and butter, sour cream, and buttermilk. After the dough is formed. Chill it some more. Chilling prevents the flour particles from collapsing. This helps to create the necessary steam when the biscuits bake, ensuring a light, airy texture.
Another secret is the luscious buttermilk. It is a mainstay in my kitchen. Mixed with uber tangy sour cream, it creates a sensational slurry that wets the dry ingredients to form the perfect dough. The addition of aromatics like onion and green chilies, along with a variety of spices produces tender, moist, airy baked savoury confections.
Handle the dough as little as possible. Finally, biscuits need quick heat to cook properly. Ensure your oven is preheated and the biscuits are only baked until they are light brown. They will be done at this point. Baking them any longer will overcook and dry them out.
2 cups flour, plus more for dusting the surface
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoon butter, very cold and cut into small chunks
¼ cup onion, finely chopped
2 green chilies, finely chopped
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground chili powder
½ teaspoon ground caraway seeds.
4 tablespoons sour cream
¾ cup buttermilk (plus 3 tablespoons for brushing on top)
Preheat oven to 400F and prepare baking sheet with parchment paper.
If you have a food processor, great. Place dry ingredients into the food processor. Whirl this very well to ensure the baking powder and baking soda are well distributed. (I do this extra, I want lovely tasting biscuits). Cut up the butter into 1/4 inch pieces and add to your dry ingredients, pulsing about 10 times until the butter is evenly mixed. (If you do not have a food processor, put your dry ingredients into a large bowl and work the butter into the mixture. It should be pea-size). Into your food processor funnel stream in the raita. Quickly pulsing. Do not overwork the mixture. It will be slightly sticky and little bits of butter will be visible. Put the biscuit dough in plastic, flattening out the dough and chill again.
After proper chilling, turn dough out onto counter that has been very lightly dusted with flour. Ensure it is about 1/2 inch thick and cut with a drinking glass. Gently transfer to prepared pan. Brush with buttermilk. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until they are a light golden color and cooked all the way through.