"Biscuit Bliss" by James Villas

Pros: Tender, flaky, tasty, never-fail biscuits
Cons: None!
Rating: 5 out of 5

I love a good biscuit, but it can be hard to make them come out right. Until I saw Alton Brown make biscuits on his show “Good Eats” I hadn’t ever quite managed it, and then I just had his one buttermilk biscuit recipe–sure I can alter that to my heart’s content, but I wanted more (I’m greedy that way). I decided to try out James Villas’ “Biscuit Bliss” and I haven’t looked back once.

These are fairly simple recipes that use a variety of ingredients and cover a lot of culinary ground. The book does include a recipe for self-rising flour in case you want to use your own (a handful of recipes call for it), and the author is thoughtful enough to make the self-rising flour recipe in a volume that’s perfect for the recipes that call for it (it’s the little details that can make a cookbook a joy to use). Whether you like your biscuits made with shortening, butter, lard (believe it or not, lard has less cholesterol than butter), or some combination of the above, you’ll find plenty in here to suit you. There are even a few recipes that use whole-grain flours such as whole wheat. Many of the recipes include historical or personal notes that are fun to read and add interesting background to the process. Helpful hints include tips on freezing biscuits, as well as the all-important note for Northerners that finally saved my biscuit attempts when Alton shared it: if you use hard Northern flour, substitute cake flour for some of it.

The book includes plain raised biscuits, flavored biscuits, drop biscuits, cocktail and tea biscuits, scones, and recipes that allow you to cook with biscuits. There are plenty of hearty recipes in here such as biscuits with bacon and cheese in them (one of my favorites). There are also more subtly-flavored choices such as the parmesan-herb drop biscuits and the sweet potato biscuits (which work surprisingly well with canned pumpkin). The scones are far better than any commercial scones I’ve had before–not too sweet, not too dry.

The book includes a few photographs, but not many, which is fine in this sort of book. The layout is clear and easy to read, and directions are broken down into short, numbered steps. I haven’t yet found a single mistake or sub-optimal instruction anywhere in this book.

Whether you want to go all-out with biscuits fried in lard on the top of the stove or make something out of buttermilk or whole grains; whether you prefer traditional favorites or unusual combinations such as parmesan and chutney–you’ll find the perfect never-fail biscuit recipe in here. And that’s definitely biscuit bliss!

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