Friday, December 13, 2013

Herb and Cheese Poppers

An urban cheese popper, for all you city dwellers out there!

I made these to accompany our Thanksgiving dinner, and they were very popular. Bread, cheese and herbs? Yes, please. It's hard to go wrong there.

I made and cut the dough two weeks ahead of time, froze the poppers and thawed and baked them fresh on Thanksgiving. These were easy to pull together, and I loved the technique of grating the frozen butter into the dry ingredients. It's much easier than using a pastry cutter, I think. The direction to fold the dough like a business letter was a little weird, I thought, but basically you should tri-fold the dough as though it was a piece of paper you were going to put into an envelope. You do this four times so the cheese and herbs are nicely distributed throughout the dough.

Nothing can beat fresh out of the oven bread, and this was a really easy way to include that in my already busy Thanksgiving cooking schedule. I popped them in the oven after the stuffing and sweet potatoes came out and while the turkey was being carved.

Herb and Cheese Poppers

2 cups coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese (about 6 ounces) (I used the Tillamook extra sharp white cheddar)
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1 teaspoon minced fresh sage
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour plus 1/4 cup (or more) for dusting and rolling
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, frozen
1 1/2 cups chilled buttermilk

Mix cheese and next 5 ingredients in medium bowl. Whisk 2 3/4 cups flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and baking soda in another medium bowl. Using large holes of box grater, grate frozen butter onto plate. Add grated butter to flour mixture and rub in with fingertips until evenly distributed. Stir in buttermilk just until incorporated (dough will be sticky).

Sprinkle work surface with 1/4 cup flour. Transfer dough to work surface; sprinkle dough with flour. Using hands, press dough into 8-inch square, about 1/2 inch thick; sprinkle more flour on work surface as needed to prevent sticking. Sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese-herb mixture over 2/3 of surface of dough, leaving remaining 1/3 of dough surface uncovered.

To fold as for business letter: Using dough scraper or metal spatula as aid, lift uncovered dough portion from work surface and fold over half of cheese-covered portion; still using dough scraper or metal spatula as aid, lift folded portion over remaining cheese-covered portion.

Sprinkle dough with flour to prevent sticking. Press dough out again to 8-inch square. Spread 1/2 cup cheese-herb mixture over 2/3 of dough; repeat folding as for business letter, then pressing dough out to 8-inch square. Repeat 2 more times with dough and cheese-herb mixture.

Roll out dough on floured surface to 10-inch square; cut into 36 small pieces.

DO AHEAD: Place biscuits in single layer on baking sheets; freeze until firm. Wrap biscuits in single layer in foil, then enclose in resealable freezer bags; freeze up to 2 weeks. Place frozen biscuits 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets; thaw in refrigerator overnight. Let biscuits stand at room temperature 20 minutes before baking.

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 500°F. Bake biscuits on a parchment lined baking sheet, 1 sheet at a time, until golden on top and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 10 minutes. Cool biscuits on baking sheet at least 5 minutes.

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