The Fresh Loaf

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Biscuit, Pie, Cookies - Inspirations From Kneading Conferece West 2012

txfarmer's picture

Biscuit, Pie, Cookies - Inspirations From Kneading Conferece West 2012

Sending this to Yeastspotting.

Click here for my blog index.

Floyd and Breadsong have both written about their experience with Kneading Conference West. It was indeed a fun, delicious, and enduational experience. In addition to learning specific techniques, I was very impressed with fellow attendees' dedication and appreciation to local organic whole grains. Love for the land and nature reflects clearly in their baking, and our taste buds were greatly rewarded as the result. One of the highlights of the conference for me is to meet fellow TFLers, it's always fun to put faces to names!

This biscuit recipe was from one of the workshops I attended.
AP, 339g
sugar, 28g
baking powder, 21g
salt, 5g
butter, 112g, cut into 1/4inch cubes
egg, 27g
buttermilk, 186g
baking at 400F for 15min

The recipe itself is nothing special, it's the techique that I found helpful. Butter was cut into small chunks and lightly mixed with flour (not smeared in like pie dough), liquid is poured in, and the very rough dough was folded 2-3 times like an envelope, which creates minimal amount of gluten necessary to keep the biscuits together, yet keep the end product light and loose. The folding also creates nice layers in biscuits, similar to laminated doughs.

The instructor demonstrated a whole wheat version at the workshop and I made the formula with AP flour at home, both were incredibly flaky.

I have been wanting to learn how to make a good pie crust for a long time now. I have read enought tips, but it really takes looking and touching the "right dough" to finally "get it". At the pie workshop, I finally got to see what's the right consistency for a pie dough, what is "as dry as possible but not too dry", and how to rub butter chunks into flour without creating too much glutent developement. The instructors showed us pie crusts made with different flours and fats. At home, I tested out the all butter recipe with AP flour -- success! When the dough is of the right consistency, everything became so easy . No more tear and shrinking!
AP, 709g
sugar, 38g
salt, 1.5tsp
butter, 450g, cut into 1inch chunks
ice water, 240g (more or less)
lemon juice, 2TBSP

1. Mix AP, sugar, salt, rub/smear cold butter chunks into cold dry ingredients until butter becomes quarter sized pieces
2. Add lemon juice and 1/2 of ice water, mix roughly, pour onto counter, press dough together. If dough is too dry/crumbly, add the rest of ice water as needed.
3. Pat into one disk, cut into 4, pat each one into disk, rest in fridge before rolling out. The dough can be wrapped and frozen as well.

This is an Italian rice ricotta pie, typical for Easter, but good for anytime. Fillig recipe here: , pie crust recipe was from the conference, and I did reduce the amount and only made a 9inch pie.

Can't wait to try the WW pie crust, or one with lard. I see a lot of pie eating in my future.

On the last day I attended a cracker workshop. I never knew crackers were such great vehicle for whole grain flours. There's no worries about rising and fermentation, so one really can experiement with different kinds of flours and grains/seeds. Tasting some samples, I was floored how delicious the fresh organic flours taste. The recipes for these crackers are not complicated, which means flavors of ingredients really shine through. The following crackers were made from a oat cake formula from that workshop. Since my flours were not as fresh as what's used at the workshop, the flavors were not as great, so I immediately ordered myself some fresh whole grain flours.

Oat flake/spelt flake, 100g
Corn meal, 100g
WW flour, 200g
salt, 5g
butter, 136g, softened
sugar, 20g
code water, 80g
baking powder, 2g
baking soda, 2g

1. Mix everything, knead, pat into disk, rest in fridge for an hour.
2. Roll out to 1/4-1/2 thickness, cut into shape
3. Bake at 350F for about 10min

Here are some photos from the conference

Andrew Whitley, author of "Bread Matters", a book I have owned and loved for years.

My first encounter with Brick Oven, it's not easist equipment to use, but OMG, pizzas sure come out great from it!

Trying my hand on pizza stretching. Thought about tossing it around like a pro, but "wisely" decided against it.

We ran out of topping, so the rest of dough became pita breads!

Then I went to the cracker class, these crackers are the oak cakes I posted above, but these tasted so much better, becase the ingredients were better/fresher I suspect.

Hazelnut shortbread cookies. The thing about these crackers is that flavor of the ingredients really shine through. I immediately bought some local hazelnuts after tasting these cookies.

Some red wine spelt thin crackers. Oh, did I mention all the crackers were made in a brick oven?

Went to a sweet bread class on the last day. Made some pretzels. The one on the left were made with white flour, and tasted more traditional; the one on the right were made with ww flour and a bit of starter, tasted great but not traditional. I like both. Oh yeah, I shaped these two!

My first encounter with Mexican Conchas. A bit similar to Chinese Pineapple Buns but ... different.

And now I want to buy some Conchas presses.

These were the ww version of the biscuit formula I posted above. In comparison, I like ww ones better.

To make the conference even more perfect, we had great wether for all 3 days, and the setting was beatiful with fruit trees and herb gardens.


Mebake's picture

Mmmmmm... What an enchanting days.., Txfarmer!

I like the fact that when you get inspired, you somehow trasmit your inspiration to us with your lovely posts.

So, are we seeing any home milling in the future? You know, most routes will lead you there, eventually. Fresh flour, from organic grains milled at home? Could you resist? :)



txfarmer's picture

You and Janet are so evil! I am indeed tempted...

Floydm's picture

Nice write up.  It is neat to learn about some of  the sessions I didn't get to.

And here is one more photo of you playing with pizza dough.


txfarmer's picture

Thanks for the picture! Hope your daught feels better now. I was so happy to finally meet the creator of TFL!

LindyD's picture

Your pies and baked goods are gorgeous, as usual, txfarmer.

What I'm really drooling over, however, is that exquisite pie server.    Family heirloom?



txfarmer's picture

It's a gift, but it's indeed an antique, so it was someone else's family heirloom. :P

Janetcook's picture

Hi Txfarmer,

Thanks for another one of your thorough write ups.  I have enjoyed reading each person's perspective on the events and yours is no exception.

Sounds like you have really settled into your new home and are taking advantage of all there is to do around you.  With all of your new baking skills I can't help but wonder when you have time to work :-)

Like Khalid I wonder when you will begin to mill your own grain.  A good mill is a life long investment and pays for itself in no time at all.  Storing grains is far easier than storing flour and the price of organic wheat where I live is a mere $35.00 for 50 pounds of grain. That's a lot of organic bread!

The oat/spelt cracker recipe looks wonderful and a breeze to mix up so it has been placed on my 'to bake' list.  Do you know why they are refrigerated prior to baking?

Also, did you by chance get the recipe for the hazelnut cookies?  I'd love that recipe to add to my list too.  They look nice and wholesome.

Take Care,


txfarmer's picture

Ah, you give me ideas. I have something like 17 different kinds of flours. It does become a challenge to consume them quick enough. Man, another major time sink...

PiPs's picture

Thanks for the great write-up + photos from what looks like a fab day.

The hazelnut shortbread cookies look amazing!


txfarmer's picture

I love that hazelnut cookie too, will try the recipe out and post it later.

dabrownman's picture

baking all around but you have to like that huge pita bread!  So light and fluffy it had to be delicious.

We are now calling you 'Empress Ying' around the Brownman household.    Your baking has always been out of this world and after reading Bread 3  my apprentice actually thinks she had a dream about you last night.  She really didn't think much about it until we saw your post today but she has been freaked out ever since.   This goes against her stoic German nature and usual demeanor.  I just can't keep this dream secret, even though my apprentice is against letting the world know that she has these kinds  of dreams all the time.  The dream was quite long but we will go to the good part right away.............

Emperor Ming the Merciless of the planet Mongo had a daughter, Princess Aura, who was a pretty nasty character in the beginning of the dream but turned to the good side when she got to know Flash Gordon better than she should.   It got a little murky dream wise.  My apprentice has a hard time explaining herself and my German isn't that good but, Aura was fleeing from a furiously burning Mingo City; the capital of Mongo.   It had been destroyed by Flash with Ming's own Nitron Lamp; a weapon of mass destruction that Ming had tried to destroy Earth with earlier in the dream.  Princess Aura was fleeing with Prince Barin of Arborio, seemingly her new love and...........she was obviously very much pregnant.

The dream got murky again with all kinds of strange German doggy gibberish when an unknown extraterrestrial, obviously  a very royal woman was landing on earth in a very fancy do space ship with her entourage.  She said that she wanted to find Flash Gordon who she claimed was her real father and not the Prince Barin who her mother had always put forth as her daddy.   She was carrying a very cute baby she called Princess Ying in one arm and a very nice large loaf of artisinal bread in the other.  The bread could easily pass as one of your creations txfarmer - so my apprentice swears.   Sorry and sadly, according to my apprentice, the lady getting off the space ship never identified herself.

Now, since this was a dream by a non human, who can know if it has any basis in fact, but, after seeing your photo and  I'm not sure we should tell you this but, there is a striking resemblance between you and Emperor Ming, sans Fu Manchu moustache of course.   He might be your long lost great grand father - if one of yours is long lost.  Your grand parents might be Princess Aura and Flash Gordon and this might explain your out of this world baking talent.

Anyway, you are now known as Empress Ying from now on around here by m my apprentice and others.   You should also know that my apprentice's dreams are rarely wrong - on all accounts.

Hope this helps :-)

txfarmer's picture

War! Princess and her new lover! Preganency (which romance with an old lover?)! Spaceship! Mass destruction weapons! What a fun dream to be a part of -- until I got to the part and realized that I (Ying) was just a baby in that whole story! I got as much excitment and action as a loaf of bread! That's no way to treat a headliner star!

Oh well, go off to research my ancestors, and possible hidden treasurs....

dabrownman's picture

My apprentice reads your reply and says "I knew it" .....and  in German under her breath - "Emperesss Ying ist ein wildes kleines Ding, genau wie ihre Großmutter".  She knew my wife's cousin married a Gordon, like your grandmother didn't and now she thinks we might vaguely related or at least several times removed!  She will be totally worthless in the kitchen, even more so than usual,   now that she thinks she might be a royal!  She's been all tail  and nose in the air ever since you made her day.......

Isand66's picture

Beautiful post...thanks for sharing your experiences with all of us.  I hope one day I can go to one of these events if I'm lucky enough.

On a technical note, what is "Oat Flakes" and Spelt Flakes?

Oh, and those biscuits and pies look fantastic. 


txfarmer's picture

Oat Flakes refers to raw oatmeal flakes (not steelcut, not instant), spelt can also be processed in the same way to get "flakes"

FlourChild's picture

Gorgeous stuff, txfarmer!  Your biscuit method is very close to my flaky pie crust method, I'll bet it makes great flaky biscuits.  You look right at home with the pizza dough, is there a WFO in your future? :)

Grandpa Larry's picture
Grandpa Larry

I stumbled on this technique for making biscuits while surfing You Tube videos.

It changed my life. Finally, I can bake biscuits without fear of biscuit failure. Even times when I obviously have screwed up the dough: butter pieces too big, dough too crumbly, etc, the biscuits turn out great!

The whole wheat version is good as the white! Just use WW and AP flour, half and half.

Biscuits and jam for breakfast, anyone?

Patti Y's picture
Patti Y

Hi, I saw the biscuit recipe with AP flour, but where can I find the recipe for the whole wheat biscuits?


I had a Great Aunt who made the lightest, fluffiest, tallest biscuits, but mine have never measured up to hers. Not even close. Of course, she made them 3 times a day for 60 + years, and never measured anything. I know to not twist the cutter, but I just can't get mine fluffy like hers. It has to be how I am handling the dough.

In the 1960s, she didn't have anything but regular store bought flour with an unknown protein amount. I remember her using her hands to mix and rolling them out with a rolling pin. 

What are suggestions for working with biscuit dough?  Thanks.