The Dyke Kitchen: Spicy South Asian-ish Biscuits

The Dyke Kitchen is a bi-weekly series about how queerness, identity, culture and love are expressed through food and cooking.


We have to begin with a disclaimer: I am not Southern and I don’t make the kinds of biscuits that make you want to die. I do make the kind of biscuits that make you want to come over to my apartment earlier than you might otherwise be inclined, try out my vast array of toppings (from cheese and tinned fish to truffled honey and mango picked in garlic vinegar) and light-heartedly vent with a glass of champagne.

It used to be my favorite surprise when my mom made biscuits in the morning, and part of the fun was watching her pat the cute, soft dough into a gentle rectangle that she would then cut into sharp triangles. I still like that part. Because they’re so easy to make, I started making biscuits myself when I was eating in a co-op in college and had signed up to cook a weekly breakfast meal. This meal took place at 8 AM, so the number of people who ate breakfast was 15 max and became a chill situation for me and my co-chef to play around with different flavors — plus I got to feed any leftover duds to my swimmer girlfriend, who was always trying to eat more carbs and protein.

This weekend, I woke up and to eat an egg with something that would do more than bread could, that would be transformative. So I decided to make a spicy biscuit, featuring the fresh jar of garam masala I had on hand, chilies, finely diced red onion and preserved lime. So that’s what this biscuit is about: it’s a spicy South Asian-ish biscuit, meant to upstage an egg, but also compliment it.

This is my Risk It Biscuit recipe, because there are a lot of different ways to go out on a limb and make a biscuit really pop: does it need toasted pumpkin seeds, does it need fish sauce, does it need bbq sauce, does it need weed? The texture on these biscuits tends to be more flaky and scone-like than fluffy, so keep that in mind. But this recipe is a good one for customizing whatever BIG experience you think would be great packed into a biscuit. My main pointers are about moisture: when you add more moisture (in this case, both the onion and the preserved lime) you’ll want to reduce the yogurt and/or add a touch more flour, and know that if the dough gets too heavy with wet ingredients, it’s not going to rise as well, though it could still taste fantastic!


How to Make A Spicy South Asian-ish Biscuit

Ingredients:
1 stick or ½ cup of cold butter, and a little extra for brushing on top
½ cup whole fat plain yogurt (you can use Greek style, but you might need to add a little water or cream to loosen it up, you can see!)
1 ¾ cups flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper flakes (you could use any pepper flakes)
2 ½ teaspoons garam masala + ½ teaspoon turmeric (you could your own blend of curry powder too, with turmeric, cumin, coriander, clove, cinnamon, fenugreek, whatever is your jam)
2 tablespoons finely diced onion
2 tablespoons finely diced preserved lime (or lemon, if you made these ones!)

If you were making a biscuit with a sweeter edge, you could also add sugar to the biscuit dough, but I tend toward the salites, myself.

Directions:
Heat your oven to 400 degrees.

Get out a baking sheet and lay down a sheet of parchment paper or bust out your silicone version.

Mix up your dry ingredients in a large bowl. Grab you flour, salt, spices, chilies, baking powder and baking soda and stir them up together with your favorite fork.

silver mixing bowl with colored spice piles on top of flour

Cut your butter into little chunks and smooth them into the flour. The way I do this is I cut the stick of butter into three strips, and then cut each strip in half lengthwise, and then horizontally cut those columns into little cubes that are about the size of a fingernail or smaller.

stick of butter getting cut by a knife

When my butter is cut, I dump it into the flour and get them coated. Then, using my fingers, I squeeze each butter chunk between my fingers so they start to blend into the flour. You want to get a mostly integrated meal of butter and flour, but you still want some bigger flattened pieces of butter — those will help make flaky layers in your biscuits, and flaky layers are your best friend.

hand mixing up flour

mixed up flour and butter

If you have a food processor, you could do this part in there, but be careful not to get the butter chunks so small and processed, that you end up with what is essentially a fully integrated shortbread. And if you do get that, honestly, it’s a butter dough, it’ll be harder to get layers, but you’ll still be fine!

Once the butter has been rubbed in, add the yogurt, onion and preserved lime, and stir it all together. I start with a fork, and then as a shaggy dough starts to hold together, I use my hands to help pick up the patches of dry ingredients that are getting left in the bowl.

cutting board w onion and preserved lime sliding into bowl of flour

hand mixing up dough

Next, flour a board so you can press out your dough without it sticking.

Plop down your dough and pat it out into a shape that is about an inch thick. It doesn’t matter what shape it is, but if you can aim for a rectangle, it’ll make it easier.

Cut your dough into quarters and then stack them on top of each other. Then smash or press all of these layers down into the board (I love this step!) into one pile of dough, and pat the dough out into a rectangle about an inch in thick. Layers = friends.

hand smashing pile of dough

Smooth your top and edges, and then cut your dough into equal sized shapes. I went with a 3 x 3 grid that gave me nine rectangle biscuits. I wanted a big enough surface to comfortably snuggle an egg on top, but if I were more interested in trying different toppings, I would cut each of these rectangles diagonally in half.

Place your biscuits on the baking sheet and brush the tops of each with melted butter, if you want, but you don’t have to!

Pop in the oven and bake for 25 minutes, until the edges and tops of the biscuits are golden.

nine biscuits on a baking sheet

Let these cool for about 5-8 minutes before you eat them, but do eat them hot, they’re the best that way!

I had my biscuit topped with slices of a medium-boiled jiggly-yolked egg that had been hanging out in a soy sauce bath for a couple of days.

Kamala Puligandla lives in LA and is the writer of various autobiographical fictions. She is the distinguished recipient of her parents' leftovers and hair compliments from strangers on the street. Her first novel is forthcoming from Not A Cult. Find her work at kamalapuligandla.com.

Kamala has written 35 articles for us.

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