Bread of the Month: Braiding a blonde biscuit

image_4[R]ecipes can come from surprising sources. The backs of boxes or packages, coupon inserts, obscure Internet sites and offbeat cookbooks. If you had told me even a year ago that, upon seeing a copy of “The Disney Princess Cookbook,” (2013) I had gotten for my nieces that I would have not only bought one for myself, but found myself eagerly making plans to cook my way through it, I would have said, well, no bippity-boppity way!

boobk01Outside of the original “Cinderella,” and a vague interest in Belle from “Beauty and the Beast,” I have sort of missed (nay, avoided) the whole Disney princess thing. Every few years, a new rendition of a doe-eyed, full-haired, colorfully costumed beauty comes out that sends little girls and their parents to the movies and the toy department and the Halloween costume center. The stories connected to these princesses have seemed rather thin, and while promoting some semblance of ferocity, independence and individuality in each heroine, in the end, they are princesses, and the emphasis is that being a princess (and getting your prince) is the thing to be.

So, you lovers of Disney princesses can come after me with your sparkling wands, if you want. I most likely don’t know enough about these movies and characters to be able to speak accurately and represent properly. I was long grown before the princess barrage began, and I don’t have children, but I have two very spirited young ladies in my world who do love the princesses (it is the culture of their generation). I recently watched “The Princess and the Frog” about Tiana, a young woman in hoppinNew Orleans who has a knack for cooking and dreams of opening her own restaurant, and found myself quite taken with the story.

And despite the oversight of not including Pocahontas (is that really a surprise?), “The Disney Princess Cookbook,” is also quite captivating. Various Disney princesses and other characters “contribute” recipes throughout — accompanied by colorful photos and illustrations — that are kid-friendly to cook and eat, I made Tiana’s Hoppin’ John at New Year’s and was impressed with how delicious the rice and black-eyed pea dish came out without any additional embellishment or seasoning than that offered by the recipe.

There are fun and creative offerings throughout the book, from “Magic Carpet Roll-Ups,” from “Aladdin”’s Jasmine to “Fa Family Lo Mein” from “Mulan” to “Snow White’s Apple Dumplings” and “The Little Mermaid” Ariel’s “Sea Turtle Cupcakes.” The book includes tips on safety, prep and cleanliness.

hair01What I really wanted to make from the book for September’s National Biscuit Month (my annual foray into my favorite bread) was a new rendition of biscuits I had not seen before — biscuit braids! Appropriately offered by the lengthy haired Rapunzel from Disney’s “Tangled,” the biscuit braid recipe included a little cornmeal, cheddar cheese and ham. Could you braid biscuit dough? The beautiful braids shown in the cookbook indicated you could. If they were offering this as a kid recipe, surely it was do-able.

image_1Having made tons of biscuit doughs, I knew this one would be a snap to whip up. I did wonder if some of the recipe’s instructions might be too vague for kids (for example, it says to cut up the cold butter into “several pieces” before adding to the flour. Might want to be more specific).

The biscuit dough rolled out easily into a large square to be cut into sections, then strips. The directions for braiding in the recipe were good, as I discovered again (I found this happening when I braided bread dough) that I was dumbstruck when trying to braid. It’s such a tactile process….when I braid my own hair, I simply do not think about it, I feel my way along (and it probably looks it, too).

But once I started, the instinctual process kicked in, and soon I had a number of braided biscuits I laid easily on my baking sheet

braid02The recipe makes quite a few braids. It would be easy to assemble them and have them in baskets as an appetizer with a dip or add them as a fun bread on the holiday table. I had a couple of concerns as they baked: would they end up tough from all the braiding or would they be sturdy enough to hold up…a biscuit in its standard form is one thing, but in this delicate princess version, who knows.

Golden blonde, I mean, brown, they emerged perfectly from the oven, just like the Disney cookbook presented them. And sturdy! They could be stacked or stood up in baskets with wilting or crumbling not even a possibility. They tasted good, too, tender and very biscuit-y, and a little like the cornmeal-laced breadsticks you used to be able to find in a can, only better!

And, yes, they were pretty, too.
Ham and Cheese Biscuit Braids
From “The Disney Princess Cookbook” (2013)
Makes 16

2 cups flour

1⁄2 cup cornmeal

3 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

5 Tbsp cold butter, cut into several pieces
1⁄2 cup diced ham

1⁄2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1cup milk

Heat the oven to 400 degrees

In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt.

Use your fingertips to pinch the butter into the flour mixture until the bits are the size of peas.

Stir in the ham and cheese. Add the milk, and stir the mixture until it starts to look doughy.

Sprinkle some flour onto the cutting board and set the dough on top. Sprinkle a little more flour on the dough to keep it from sticking. Using a rolling pin, flatten the dough into a 12-inch square. The dough should be between 1/4inch and 1⁄2 inch thick.

Slice the square into quarters. Then slice each quarter into 12 strips, each about 6 inches long.

Now it’s time to braid the dough. Gather 3 strips, and pinch them together at the top. Take the right section and cross it over the center section so that they switch places. Then take the left section and cross it over the center section. Keep going until the whole strip is braided, then pinch the strands together at the bottom. Repeat until you’ve braided all the strips.

Ask an adult to help you with the oven. Place the braids, spaced apart, on an un-greased baking sheet. Bake them until the dough starts to turn golden brown. About 8 to 10 minutes.

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