This is the opposite of facing your blog post with not enough to say. I just got back from two weeks in Italy and I have too much to say. Too much.
Coming back from a trip is hard, I feel, because people seem excited to see you and ask you how your trip was but you’re not quite sure how much they want to know. I’m not a “why don’t you come over and eat food and you can look at all my trip photos!” type of person. Mostly because I personally feel that looking at 500 pictures of someone’s else’s trip is somewhat akin to listening to someone tell you about all the dreams they’ve had over the last year. “And then this monkey showed up! And it had my math teacher’s face! And it gave me a coconut!” Mother of god. Make it stop. In some ways, we are all still toddlers- if we’re not in the wedding photos, why do we care?
In this way, Facebook is actually a blessing because you can just throw all the photos up there! And if you want to look at them, GREAT. And if you don’t, at least I don’t have to suffer that glazed-over look on your face, I know, I missed you too.
In the same way that Facebook is a perfectly acceptable place to house all my trip photos, I realize that SKS can serve its own perfectly acceptable function- mainly, let’s talk about the food in Italy. And then we’ll eat biscuits, a perfectly acceptable non-Italian food because I’m pretty sure if someone put a plate of pasta in front of me at this juncture, I’d run headfirst into a wall in the opposite direction.
I spent the first week in Rome with my girls, a 10 year reunion from when we all lived there, together, during college, for the loveliest semester of my life. We rented an apartment in Trastevere which helped us save money, relive how it felt to walk the streets like residents and not tourists, eat as much Roman-style pizza as possible (square cut, airy crust, resplendent) and also helped me fulfill one of my trip goals- go to a market in Rome, buy food and then cook it. Which I did. Stepping foot into the market, Sunday, by the Roman Forum, with its buzzy locals, surrounded by food and bread and fresh-cut flowers was a highlight of my adult life, to be sure. I’m glad I crossed it off the list and I’m sure you, you kindred spirits you, can fully understand why I had to do it.
Rome was marked by a few home-cooked meals and one particularly memorable home-cooked meal that just happened to be in a restaurant in Trastevere where I almost wept openly over a plate of Caco e Pepe. And pizza, from a variety of places but mostly the places we used to hit while we were in “school”. We all had our favorites and they all delivered. There is something like those two square pieces, folded together and wrapped in paper, handed over the counter, that resonate deeply within me, a combination that can only be achieved when genuine deliciousness and your happiest of memories collide.
And gelato. I felt like it was my obligation to eat Nutella-flavored gelato at least once a day. For you. All for you. And my ass.
The second week was all about Calabria and Sicily and my family. We visited the towns of my great-grandparents in Calabria and my grandfather’s home in Southern Sicily, met relatives, drove a giant van through narrow Italian streets, dented said-van, cried upon emerging from the van because you should never do this, drive the world’s largest car through the world’s smallest streets, and we ate. We ate a lot. A lot. A lot cannot be stated enough. Octopus. Swordfish. Squid. Artichokes. Lemons. Ricotta. Eggplant. (So much eggplant!) At one point, my uncle’s cousin revealed the olive oil they used for the insane, 5 course meal his daughter cooked for us (the meal took 2 days to prepare and it was stunning, from start to finish, GOD BLESS YOU PATRON SAINT OF CALABRIA), a jug of gold they he said he got in the mountains somewhere. I wondered, in one wild-eyed moment, how offended they would be if I leapt over the table, grabbed the jug and made a run for it. But I was too laden down with stuffed calamari to make a move. Lucky for all of us. I finally let him walk away with it, a tear sliding down my cheek.
Lest you think Sicily was lacking in dessert, oh, OH, don’t worry- I ate my body weight in cannoli. One every day. One better than the last. They haunt my dreams.
And now, back to reality. Delicious, American reality.
These malted buttermilk biscuits are danged good. And I love the way they look when cut, closer in kin to a homemade English muffin. Best served warm, in a basket or shallow dish, wrapped in a kitchen cloth. Is there anything better than pulling back a little bread blanket and finding warm biscuits underneath? There is not. You are correct.
Malted Buttermilk Biscuits
3 and 1/4 Cups of all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons of sugar
1 Tablespoon plus 1 Teaspoon of baking powder
2 Teaspoons of kosher salt
1 Cup (8oz) of unsalted butter, frozen for 15 minutes (and some additional melted butter for tops)
1 Cup of buttermilk, cold (make your own)
1 Tablespoon of barley malt syrup
Sea salt for sprinkling
1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. In a large bowl, whisk to combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
3. Using a box grater, grate the frozen butter over the flour mixture and distribute through flour with a rubber spatula.
4. In a small bowl, combine buttermilk and barley malt. Stir to blend thoroughly.
5. Pour the buttermilk mixture over the flour-butter mixture, stirring just until dough comes together.
6. On a lightly floured work surface, turn out dough and lightly knead to finish incorporating ingredients. Gently press the dough together into a flattened ball.
7. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough to a 1-inch thickness. Cut out biscuits using a 2 and 1/2 inch biscuit cutter (don’t twist cutter. Flour it well and punch down and up.) Reroll scraps once but be gentle.
8. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, place biscuits about 1 inch apart.
9. Brush tops with melted butter and sprinkle with flaky sea salt.
10. Bake until golden and cooked through, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before serving.