Squash Biscuits

At what point in a cook's life does a recipe seen, read, copied, or whatevered become his or her own? "Oh, Juanita's spinach dip is to die for! ... What? She just follows Martha Stewart's recipe?"

I'd wager Juanita's famous and completely theoretical recipe (although, certainly, a Juanita somewhere might have a famous spinach dip gleaned from the minds of Martha's best and brightest interns) had its origins somewhere else, but she modified it, perfected it to her taste and the tastes of her friends/loved ones/whatevers.

Does it, at that point, become hers? Is it hers the second she modifies it by including diced jalapenos for a little kick but follows the recipe exactly, otherwise? Or is it always Martha's recipe?

Okay, hold that thought.

I made squash biscuits tonight. I felt like doing something new, so I flipped to "squash" in the Fannie Farmer 1896 Cook Book's index (I love this book!), and the first recipe was squash biscuits.

I didn't use the butter or milk called for by the recipe, I didn't prepare the squash the suggested way, and I had no "yeast cake" to dissolve in lukewarm water. Instead of all that, I used a little bit of olive oil, twice as much baked-'n'-scooped butternut squash, a buttload more water than the recipe called for, and a packet of yeast (in addition to following the recipe's 2.5 cups flour, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1/2 tsp salt). I didn't let the mixture rise overnight--just an hour, on the assumption that our modern-day yeast is more active than her olde-tyme yeast-cake yeast. The dough had just about doubled after an hour, so I thought that was fine. The recipe just says "bake" after that, with no other instruction. (It also says "yeast plant" earlier in the section, but that will have to be a different rant.) At the beginning of the bread section, it says "experience is the best guide for testing temperature of oven. Various oven thermometers have been made, but none have proved practical."

That set me back. That's how I have to use my oven, even in this cracked-out modern world. The knob thing that is set to 350 F? Yeah, no, that's a big fat lie. It's actually 700 F! It goes to "Inferno" setting no matter what the dial says, so I always keep the door open and watch food in there like a hawk. It might take an hour and a half to bake a quiche, depending on what's in it, but if the door is closed, no matter what temperature the dial is on, whatever's in there will be blackened within minutes.

Anyway. I thought it was cute that thermometers were so shitty a century ago. It gives an interesting perspective on the things we take for granted.

But referring back to the beginning of the post, I would, of course, say I got the idea for these biscuits from the Fannie Farmer Cook Book, but only this first time, probably. By the second time I make these biscuits, they'll be so different from the original recipe (because I can't follow a perfectly good recipe without modifying it in some fashion to make it "better") that it would be misleading to even mention it. I don't think Fannie would mind, really, but being in the journalism field makes me wonder about sourcing "ideas," whether or not you have added your own touch on it so that it is significantly different from the original "idea" (read: recipe).

Hat-tip to FF1896CB on this one, anyway!

I made 10 nice-sized biscuits from this recipe. Each biscuit should be 3.5 points in the Weight Watchers system (about 150 calories or so, maybe). That, some fruit or something, and a cup of coffee should be a good breakfast, right? Right. I'll probably eat half of them before the day's out.

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