In one of my early posts (please see link above), I followed the very interesting route of the bisquet, the Mexican version of the American biscuit (scone-type pastry); from its origins on the railroad trails in the US and Northern Mexico, the humble pastry travelled south to Mexico City, brought by Chinese immigrants turned cooks, after their welfare was jeopardized as their jobs building the Transcontinental Railroad, and other railroad projects in Northern Mexico, were gone. That time, I shared my own version of a low fat, quick dough bisquet with no yeast (printable recipe above), but since I had a frothy and rich cup of café con leche (coffee with milk) from my last post, and I mentioned the idyll of pairing with a bisquet from a Chinese café (as seen below), this time I decided to give the traditional recipe for bisquets a try.
Photo above: Bisquet and café con leche in glass cup from “Bisquets Obregón”, served during my stay at my friends’ home in Mexico City (2019). Special thanks to my dear friends Adriana and José Luis for their hospitality.
Bisquets require a generous amount of butter, and the dough must be kneaded lightly and briefly, then folded for extra flakiness. The main characteristic of these delicious biscuits/scones is that the dough is risen with both yeast and baking powder. I have found recipes with mostly yeast and just a little baking powder, or vice versa, but I think it is better to have a balanced ratio between them for a nice crumb. In Mexico, bisquets are a staple item at bakeries and supermarkets, and I have seen some examples that may illustrate the extremes of either using too much baking powder, making the dough to over-rise in the oven, and break apart (photo below, left), or using mostly yeast, and probably kneading for too long, producing basically a bun (photo below, right):
I managed a happy medium with an equal amount of each leavening agent, as measured in grams, as well as a generous amount of butter; kneading was kept to a minimum, with two simple folds, for a flaky, yet crumbly texture, and enough rising for a light biscuit, that did not fall apart:
Classic Mexican Biscuits – Bisquets Clásicos
Ingredients (for 12 pieces)
2 cups flour
4 g (1 tsp) baking powder
4 g (half an envelope) instant dry yeast
½ cup unsalted butter; cut into small cubes
2 tbsp sugar
½ tsp salt
¼ cup milk
Place flour in a mixing bowl, and add yeast and baking powder (photo below, left); whisk thoroughly with a fork or an egg beater (photo below, centre). Add cubed butter and mix with a spatula (or very clean hands), breaking the butter and rubbing into the flour (photo below, right):
Once the mix has a sandy texture, and there are no big clumps of butter left, add sugar and salt, mixing them in (photo below, left). In a separate bowl, beat one egg and the milk together, then slowly pour into the flour mix, while incorporating lightly with the spatula (photo below, right):
As soon as all the liquid has been absorbed, dump mix onto a lightly floured working surface; it will still be crumbly (photo below, left). Knead just until the dough looks uniform and may be formed into a ball; it should not be elastic at all, and break when pulled (photo below, right):
Mould into a smooth ball and flatten into a thick disk with hands, then roll into a rectangle, approximately 12 by 9 inches, with a rolling pin. Score a few lines on the surface, marking the dough into thirds, across the long edge:
Fold the sections on either side towards the centre, to form a trifold rectangle, about 4×9 inches:
Roll again into a 12×9-inch rectangle, and repeat the fold. Use a 3-inch-diameter round cookie cutter, or upside-down cup, to cut the biscuits. At this point, either 1) roll into a 12×9-inch rectangle again, cut out 12 pieces and form an extra circle with the trimmings, for a baker’s dozen of 13 biscuits, or 2) roll into a square slightly bigger than 9 inches per side; cut out 9 circles (photo below, left). Gather the trimmings and form a 3×9-inch strip, rounding the edges to echo the shape of the cutter (photo below, right):
Cut two more circles, then gather the leftover in the middle of the strip and form into the last circle by hand, for a total of 12 biscuits. Place discs on a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper. Use a 1-inch-diameter round cookie cutter, or a bottle cap, to score the centre of each biscuit (photo below, left). Beat the second egg in a small bowl, and brush each biscuit with this wash (photo below, right):
Allow biscuits to rest in a warm spot away from drafts, for 30 minutes. The circles will not rise too much, but will look softer and smoother; brush with egg wash a second time:
Pre-heat the oven to 375°F (190ºC). Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown (photo below, left). The bisquets will rise mostly upwards, and the crumb will be flaky and crumbly at the same time, thanks to the balanced use of the two kinds of leavening agents (photo below, right):
Bisquets may also be sliced in half, to spread butter on each open half (photo below, left), or to be filled with preserves (photo below, right):
These bisquets are equally delicious with savoury fillings, such as ham and cheese.
If cold, sliced and toasted bisquets are as tasty as if from a freshly baked batch; in the photos below, a breakfast of toasted bisquet and café con leche at “Salut Restaurant” in Mexico City’s International Airport (2019):
FUN FACT: In the 1980s, a popular fad in Mexico was “La dieta de los bisquets” – “The Mexican Biscuit Diet”. It was a 13 day program, in which breakfast consisted of a bisquet and black coffee for some of the days, then the rest was all carbs-free and low-fat meals. I recall using it as a young grown-up for short-term emergencies, such as a couple of weeks before going to a wedding, or other event. It seems to be gaining some popularity again; a sample menu list may be found, for example at Bisquets Pio on Facebook. Of course, back then as it is now, the recommended way is to check with your family doctor before any drastic changes in diet.
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I am sharing my recipe at Thursday Favourite Things #476, with Bev @ Eclectic Red Barn, Pam @ An Artful Mom, Katherine @ Katherine’s Corner, Amber @ Follow the Yellow Brick Home, Theresa @ Shoestring Elegance and Linda @ Crafts a la Mode.