Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Sweetest Surprise -- And All A 12-Year-Old Needs To Know. (Frosted Cinnamon Biscuits)

Last week, The Today Show aired a segment about the things every woman should know how to do (drawn from the new book, How to Sew A Button:  And Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew.)

In addition to “sew a button,” the must-know’s included roast a chicken, hang a picture, throw a yard sale, and build a fire.  (It’s not just me, right?  A yard sale? Really?)  Nevertheless, at age 47, I’m sufficiently old that it never occurred to me to “test” myself.

Instead, my always-on-mothering mind instantly darted to Darling Daughter (DD).  How would she measure up?  Or, to be frank, as the most-likely-teacher of her success-in-life-requirements, how would I measure up?  (Easy to see why I’ve never subscribed to Cosmo.  Every monthly quiz delivered by Mike The Mailman would prompt an appointment with my neighborhood psychiatric professional.)

OK.  DD’s only 12, so I’ll keep my expectations to a simmer.  I’m not worried about her roasting a chicken.  True, she is skeeved out at the very idea of touching meat – much less chilly, raw, jiggly, pink meat, but she’s 12, OK?  I’m not worried.  Knowing how much she enjoys roast chicken (particularly Beer Butt Chicken), I’m willing to bet DD overcomes these issues as an adult.

DD should also, according to "those in the know," be able to hang a picture, compost, and build a fire.  Ideal training, I suppose, for her future.  Provided her future involves a career as a perfectionistic, environmentally-minded arsonist.

So.  “Tie a tie?”  Ummm, OK.  Particularly helpful, I suppose, if she ever has a son, and if her spouse (presumably, the keeper of that tie-tying knowledge) works long hours, but she's the one who’s got to deliver the kid to a coat-and-tie event.  (Been there, done that.  Times 10 other boys whose moms couldn’t tie a tie.)

So what’s left?  “Mix a perfect martini?”  Maybe.  But as her mother’s daughter, DD’s expertise is more likely to lie with sangria.  But I digress.  My real advice to her (when she’s of age, of course), would be to understand that when her date says he wants a bourbon and ginger, he is not sending a double-top-secret code for more sangria.  Even if her sangria is the very one that The Episcopal Church is considering serving at Communion.  He wants bourbon and ginger.  So relent and make the best bourbon and ginger ever.  Crushed ice.  Decent bourbon.  In a hefty, cut-crystal highball (not double-old-fashioned) glass.  With your own signature touch.  A slice of candied ginger comes to mind.

Despite these occasional worries and fret-sessions, I love being DD’s mom.  Still, I’ve recently been longing for and reminiscing about the days when she was wee bit of a girl.  When I could tote her on my hip and snug her into my bed.  When the backseat of my minivan was crunchy and paved with Goldfish and Cheerios. When DD so plainly and plaintively needed me.

But wouldn’t you know it?  Just as I was in the midst of thinking that DD had outgrown me -- just when I was fretting about silly stuff like composting and sewing on buttons (which really, I do need to teach her), DD's started showing up in my bedroom in the early morning.  Weekend, school day.  Whatever.  With her sleep-crusted eyes, somehow always-fabulous-looking hair, and her hip Winnie-The-Pooh pajamas, she wanders into my room and stretches across the foot of my bed just a few minutes before I’d have headed into her room to wake her up.

What a sweet surprise.  What a wonderful way to wake up.  What a tremendous reminder of my fortune at being her mom.

Just as sweet – one recent morning, after snuggling on the bed with me and Lionel (the 12-pound man of the house), DD suggested that there might be a way to improve on my basic Buttermilk Biscuits.

She was right.  These rich, untraditional buttermilk biscuits were a hit -- and have been added to our own list of “things every woman should know.”

Frosted Cinnamon Biscuits
Makes 12-15 biscuits.

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting the board
2 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons shortening (chilled, cut in small slices)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (chilled, cut in small slices)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup heavy cream
½ cup cinnamon chips

½ cup confectioner’s sugar
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream
½ teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 400.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients for biscuits.  Using a pastry cutter or two forks, cut in shortening and butter until mixture is crumbly and mealy.  Quickly stir in cream, buttermilk and cinnamon chips.  Do not overmix.  Dough should be soft and sticky.  Scrape dough onto well-floured board or counter.  It will not (and should not) be as elastic or dry as bread dough.  Using floured hands, gently pat out dough, folding it over itself several times (patting, not kneading).  Pat dough to ¾ inch thickness.  Dipping biscuit cutter in flour, cut out biscuits, placing on ungreased cookie sheet.  Repeat with remaining dough scraps.  Bake until very lightly golden – about 10 minutes.

While baking, mix together frosting ingredients, beginning with only 1 tablespoon of cream, and adding more as necessary to achieve a spreadable consistency.  Spread over biscuits while still warm and serve.  No butter needed!
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