Zucchini Biscuits with Basil and Parmesan is a great way to use excess zucchini, and there’s always excess zucchini.
You may think preparing one of my blog posts is just a matter of baking up a recipe from my repertoire, taking a few photos and pressing “publish”. For some recipes, that’s basically true. (Although “taking a few photos” is an excruciatingly long process for me as I’m still learning my way around the camera.) I’m pretty certain I could make my vanilla butter cake and Italian meringue buttercream recipes in my sleep. So those posts came together pretty quickly, no recipe testing necessary.
When I want to create a new recipe or a twist on an old favorite there’s sometimes a bit of trial and error involved. I start by looking over my own recipes and/or looking at favorite recipes from trusted cookbooks. Then it’s a matter of tweaking the ingredients based on the desired outcome.
This is exactly the process I went through last week to create a new zucchini recipe. I thought sharing this process might help you see how you can adapt and create your own recipes. If you know the function of each ingredient in a recipe you can make changes with specific goals in mind. This is especially true when baking, as you can’t just randomly change an ingredient without possibly running into big trouble.
As many of us do at this time of year, I’ve had an excess of zucchini in my refrigerator for several weeks now. If you grow vegetables, belong to a co-op farm or shop at local farmer’s markets in the summer you know that zucchini plants are very prolific.
Beyond grilling, shredding into pasta sauce and adding to salads, zucchini is a great baking ingredient since it’s mostly water and doesn’t have a strong flavor. I wanted to create a baked good that leaned more toward the savory side. I decided to make savory Zucchini Biscuits with Basil & Parmesan that could be served with dinner or used as the base for a nice breakfast or lunch sandwich.
In her book Bakewise the great Shirley Corriher discusses in detail how to bake a true southern biscuit. She tells us that two keys to a great biscuit are soft flour (like low protein cake flour) and a very wet dough. The starting point for my recipe was a cross between Shirley Corriher’s recipe and a good buttermilk biscuit recipe I’ve used over the years.
These are the changes I made to the original recipe and why I made them: Even though I wanted a wet dough I was afraid there might be too much added water from the zucchini. So I cut back on the buttermilk and made sure to get rid of some of the excess water in the zucchini by salting it lightly and layering between paper towels.
I thought the bits of zucchini running through the dough might weaken the structure a little, so instead of using only cake flour I used 1/2 cake flour and 1/2 all purpose flour. The higher protein content of the all purpose flour would make for a stronger structure and the all purpose flour would absorb a little more water than the cake flour. Finally, I reduced the amount of sugar and added shredded Parmesan cheese, basil and black pepper to amp up the savory flavor.
Well, my first attempt didn’t come out that great. The biscuits tasted good but they baked up too flat and had a slightly gummy texture.
Back to the drawing board. I decided that the dough was just too wet and I wanted a little more zucchini in the biscuits. I reduced the amount of buttermilk by a full 1/2 cup and increased the amount of zucchini. To improve the structure and texture I used all purpose flour only and no cake flour. Because the dough was not as wet, I could now cut the biscuits with a 3″ biscuit cutter rather and using the scoop. This also improved the shape.
And I’ve still got a drawer full of zucchini in the fridge. Anyone care to share their favorite zucchini recipes?
- 1.5 cups (6 oz) grated zucchini
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
- 4 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
- buttermilk for brushing the biscuits
Preheat the oven to 450°f convection or 500°f conventional
Prep the zucchini
- Toss the grated zucchini with a very small pinch of salt
- Sprinkle the zucchini in an even layer on a paper towel
- Lay another paper towel on top of the zucchini and press down to absorb the liquid
- Allow the zucchini to set while you mix the dough
Mix the dough
- Combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, pepper, basil and Parmesan and toss to combine
- Work the butter in with your fingers until there are no pieces larger than a pea
- Add 1 cup of the buttermilk and the zucchini to the flour mixture and toss just until combined
- If the dough seems very dry, add 1 or 2 extra tablespoons of buttermilk just until all the flour is absorbed
- Turn the dough out onto a heavily floured work surface
- Sprinkle the surface of the dough with flour and use your hands to flatten the dough into a 1/2" thick slab
- Dip a 3" biscuit cutter into the flour and cut round of dough
- Your should get about 7-8 biscuits from the first cutting
- Gather the scraps together and continue flattening and cutting to use up all the dough
- Place the biscuits on a parchment lined baking sheet
- Brush each biscuit with buttermilk and sprinkle with shredded Parmesan
- Bake about 12-15 minutes until golden brown