The food: cream biscuits
A year ago this week, my husband E and I were in England, walking through beautiful landscapes like this one in Cornwall, on the approach to Tintagel (the 13th-century castle ruins can be seen at the top left of the photo):
A month ago, we were reminded of that trip when we saw the charming English film Tamara Drewe (opening soon at a theatre near you), at the Toronto Film Festival. The film is closely based on a critically and commercially successful graphic novel of the same name, by artist/author Posy Simmonds:
The very contemporary story, itself loosely based on Thomas Hardy’s novel Far from the Madding Crowd, is a fascinating mix of comic strip-style illustrated panels and passages of narrative text, presented from multiple
first-person points of view:
Both book and film tell the story of an ugly duckling turned swan named Tamara Drewe, a trendy London newspaper columnist who returns to the picturesque village where she grew up, and proceeds to break hearts and collect lovers. Among her conquests is a successful (and despicable) middle-aged writer of popular crime novels who lives on a lovely farm where his long-suffering wife runs writers’ retreats for paying guests.
There was much to like about the film in addition to the gorgeous green English scenery: impressive acting by the writer character and his wife, entertainingly slangy rapid-fire dialogue from two teenage girls who live in the village, Dominic Cooper in eyeliner as a louche rock star, various clever jokes and jabs about writers and writing. And then there was the delicious-looking food served to the aspiring writers at the retreat. Biscuits with cream and jam were prominently featured in one scene, and inspired me to make some soon after I saw the film.
I made my biscuits using the admirably simple (and American!) James Beard recipe for cream biscuits that I first encountered in the New York Times Sunday magazine a few years ago. The biscuits come out soft and light on the inside with a crisp golden outer shell. They can be eaten, warmed, slathered with salted butter, or spread with whipped cream and strawberries for a decadent mid-afternoon snack that would be a suitable reward for a writer who’s met her goal in number of words written that day.
They could also provide solace for a writer who has not met a word or page count goal.
Cream Biscuits Recipe:
5 tablespoons melted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the surface
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
1 ½ cups heavy cream
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Brush a baking sheet with a little melted butter. Sift 2 cups flour, the baking powder, salt and (if using) sugar into a large bowl. Fold in 1 ¼ cups cream. If the dough is not soft or easily handled, fold in the remaining 1/4 cup cream, little by little.
2. Turn dough onto a floured surface, mound it into a ball and, using a rolling pin or your hands, press it to a thickness of about ¾ inch. Cut into rounds, 2 ½ inches in diameter. Gather dough scraps and continue to make rounds. Dip the top of each round in the remaining melted butter and arrange on the baking sheet. Bake until golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Serve immediately. Makes about 9 biscuits. Adapted from “James Beard’s American Cookery.”