Do you like surprises? I'm not sure where I stand. Maybe the grand sort would do, the kind that sounds like "meet me at the airport, pack a passport, a bathing suit, something soft for bedtime, something slinky for cocktail hour, and a book". Or maybe the quiet, understated type? Flowers on your doorstep. A kiss dropped gently on your bare shoulder when you're standing talking to friends at the bar. A book from Amazon in your mailbox that you forgot you ordered.
Being a creature of habit, I like knowing what lies ahead. But planning is the easy route, and doesn't often lead to wild moments of unexpected joy. Plan all you want, I tell myself. Keep that as a structure to your days, but leave a crack open all the time to the unexpected.
If I didn't, I'd have kept making the same old cheese biscuit recipe again and again and never thought to add mustard, thus transforming a basic (but amazing) mouthful of buttery, flaky carb into something transcendent. Mustard! Who would have thought! (This coming from a girl who would never put mustard on a burger or hot dog until college, and now I felt rather bereft if I look in the fridge and don't have a jar of grainy mustard on hand. It's a bit like always keeping a lemon around -- you know it's an instant flavor brightener to most dishes if you're at loose ends for what to cook.)
I suggest that when you make these biscuits, don't tell anyone what they're about to taste. Just don't! Since the secret behind the exceptionally good flavor of these biscuits is mustard, and might throw people off, I like letting them taste it for themselves. It's a surprising element that plays off of the cheddar cheese which oozes from every bite. The mustard is a pop of savory, salty, umami-laced goodness that can't be matched (in my opinion) by cheese alone.
I used Ovenly's scone recipe (Ovenly is a very wonderful Brooklyn bakery run by two very cool women and their cookbook is full of casually surprising recipes like this one and their amazing chocolate chip cookie recipe that happens to be vegan!). Instead of pressing the dough down firmly and cutting it into wedges, I folded the dough gently over itself a few times to create extra layers, and shaped it into a rectangle. I cut the rectangle into small squares, which lend themselves nicely to feeding a crowd of people.
Cheddar, Basil + Mustard Biscuits
Adapted from the Ovenly cookbook
3 cups flour
1 1⁄2 tablespoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon mustard powder
8 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
3 tablespoons grainy mustard
1 1⁄2 cups cold cream
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and mustard powder.
Cut the butter into the dry ingredients using a fork or pastry cutter until it's in mostly pea-sized chunks -- some chunks can be slightly larger and some smaller, but don't overwork it. Stir in the grated cheese and chopped basil
In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the mustard and cream.
Add the cream/mustard mixture to the dry ingredients and stir the dough with a fork until it is somewhat evenly moistened, then knead it a few times in the bowl so it mostly comes together in a ball but don't overwork it at all. It should not be cohesive and there should be chunks of drier areas and some wetter areas.
Turn the dough out onto the parchment-lined sheet, and fold it over onto itself until there aren't any dry spots remaining. Don't think of this as kneading: You want to handle it gently and as you fold, the wet/dry areas will disappear. Fold about 10 times, then gently press the dough down to a rectangle about 2 inches high.
Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 2" squares and separate them slightly on the baking sheet.
Bake for about 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool slightly, then eat!