Welcome to the first installment of Mondays with Martha, where I’ll be baking my way through Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook – sharing tips and tricks, baking memories, and mouth-watering photos!

I thought it would be nice to start with the very first recipe in the book – Baking Powder Biscuits. Few ingredients and ones you’d likely always have on hand, not heavy on technique, quick to make, and useful for any occasion.

Of course my camera managed to lose the photo of my butter-cutting success. However, Martha’s tips above about how to blend butter into dry ingredients are spot on. More important, though, is the tip about NOT over-blending. As a beginning baker, and even know sometimes when trying new recipes, I am The Queen of Over-Mixing. Just want to make sure it’s all mixed, right? Wrong – the goal is to just make sure all the dry stuff is stuck together with the wet stuff – it’ll be FINE!

Compare my ‘slightly sticky’ dough to hers – and I tried So Hard to stop before I really thought I should.

Patting the biscuit dough out to one inch thick means you need a very large cutting board. This 14″x17″ monster stays out on the counter all the time – half because I use it so often, and half because it won’t fit in any of the kitchen cabinets!

The recipe says to use a round biscuit cutter and I’ve only got a fluted one – I don’t bake biscuits often enough to need more than one of these, plus I know it won’t make any difference to the quality. Make sure your fingers are well-floured though, because you’ll need to gently poke the dough out of the cutter to land on the baking sheet.

So here’s something that bothers me – the recipe says it makes 12 biscuits. I used the correct size biscuit cutter, the dough was a full inch thick, and yet there’s still scraps for at least another 4 biscuits. I hate to waste, so I pressed the scraps together and made more. Do you tend to just throw away the scraps, or put every bit to use?

Once the biscuits are formed, they gave a hefty coating of heavy cream, painted on with a pastry brush. My pastry brushes seem to have run away, so I use a silicone basting brush instead. Works just as well if you’ve got a gentle hand, and likely easier to clean.

All done! Flaky, moist, crumby biscuits – fresh from the oven! So many possibilities with these – we tried them with an herb butter, almond butter, and my favorite – homemade strawberry preserves. There are variations included for cheddar herb biscuits, as well as a much-higher-sugar-content version to make strawberry shortcake biscuits. While I still prefer a richer buttermilk biscuit, these were a big hit!


Baking Powder Biscuits – from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook

Makes 1 dozen

4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
2 cups heavy cream, plus more for brushing

Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with a few larger clumps remaining.

Pour in the heavy cream; using a rubber spatula, fold cream into the dough, working in all directions and incorporating crumbs from the bottom of the bowl, until the dough just comes together. The dough will be slightly sticky.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. With floured fingers, gently pat the dough into a round about 1 inch thick, pressing in any loose bits. Do not overwork the dough. Use a floured 2 1/4-inch round biscuit cutter to cut out the biscuits as close together as possible. (Use one cut edge as the edge for the next biscuit.)

Place the biscuits on an unlined baking sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart. Generously brush the tops with cream. Bake, rotating the sheet halfway through, until the biscuits are golden and flecked with brown spots, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer biscuits to a wire rack to cool.


New Feature: Mondays with Martha

by Gena on June 10, 2013

Martha Stewart. Brings to mind the Mary Poppins sentiment ‘practically perfect in every way’ – minus that whole prison fiasco. The human embodiment of Pinterest. She’s fascinating – a modest upbringing, an in-home catering business, some fantastic networking, and eventually a mega-empire of media, retail products, and many, many books.

She’s written cookbooks, party-planning how-to’s, even entire manuals devoted to housekeeping. The woman has a tip or trick for every imaginable stain, supper, or soiree!

As I have no formal pastry training, I thought it might be fun to work my way through one big tome of baking knowledge, and Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook seemed the perfect choice: a large variety of treats and techniques, photos and descriptions of tips and trouble-shooting, and fantastic photography.

While I guarantee my first tiered cake won’t look 1/100th the beauty of hers, I’ll learn so much and have lots of yummy fun.

I don’t intend to make every single recipe in her book, and I may not even stick to going in order by section. But I thought it would be best to start out with the first chapter, called Simple Baked Goods. Starting with a solid foundation and then progressing to more complicated dishes is likely a smart path to take.

Each Monday I’ll share my success [or flop!] with one recipe from the Baking Handbook. I’ll include hints for success, alternative techniques or ingredients that have worked well for me, and share some baking memories of my own. Join me!




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