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The hell that is putting soup in a biscuit.

I am sliding this blog post into home plate. Just hours shy of the weekly deadline. It’s been a long, painful week. Actually two weeks of pain since my first attempt was a complete fail. There’s no recipe this week because after what I went through, no one should try this at home.

My goal was to make an interesting dish inspired by the Shanghainese soup-filled dumpling – the xiao long bao. I was piggybacking off Tom’s epic trip to Shanghai. You might have already gathered that I didn’t go, and I didn’t eat anything that’s he’s been raving about in his last three posts. However, I have had xiao long bao in Hong Kong, so I knew enough to get by.

And with that, all I wanted was to put soup in something. Something that would garner the same surprise and satisfaction as the first time slurp from a freshly steamed xiao long bao. Soup in a potato? Soup in a fish? Soup in a sandwich?

Chicken Soup in a Biscuit

I kept thinking about buttermilk biscuits (the American version of an English scone) and fried chicken. Perhaps a combo of chicken soup in a biscuit might work. The first week I did a test run using freshly made biscuit dough and store bought chicken stock. By adding some gelatine, I made chicken stock jelly cubes so I could easily form the dough around the stock before baking. But after a couple trials, the biscuit dough was just soaking up the stock. What was left was a soggy centre. Clearly a biscuit was too porous a choice to hold soup. Back to the drawing board.

The second week, I determined that I needed to make a dough that would bake up with a crisp shell. Less biscuit-like and more like a roll or puff. I needed the dough to be thin and pliable, and I thought my pizza dough recipe might be a good place to start.  I followed the same steps that I usually do, mixing flour and salt with a wet mixture of yeast, warm water, and sugar. But this time, I added a little bit of chicken fat and melted butter.

wet mixAfter mixing the wet ingredients with the dry. I kneaded the dough, rolled it into a ball and let it rise overnight.

dough ballAs the madness started to unravel, I decided to make the chicken stock from scratch. I bought my first live chicken from our local wet market.

raw chickenMade a roast for supper.

roast chickenAnd then roasted the bones.

bonesI simmered the bones with onions, carrots, and celery overnight.

stockIn the morning, I strained the stock and brought it to a rapid boil.

boiling stockThe chicken stock jelly I had made the previous week had worked well during the biscuit assembly. So this time, I reduced the stock by 3/4′s to intensify the flavour, then mixed in three sheets of gelatine. I left it in the fridge to chill for the day.

into the tinThat evening, it was time for attempt two. The stock had solidified, and I could easily cut it into cubes.

gelatineI cranked the oven as high as it would go and let the dough sit at room temperature so it would be nice and pliable.

dough restsFrom previous experience with my pizzas, I knew that the thinner the dough, the crisper the crust. I rolled out a small portion into a thin square and placed a cube of stock in the centre.

I simply pinched the edges together.

first wrapThen popped it in the oven and waited.

Just as it began to puff up and bake, I saw the liquid make a break for it.

first leaksThe second try, I tried folding it like a little package.

second foldAll seemed ok at first.

second bakesBut soon enough the liquid snuck out and began to bubble.

second leaksNot to worry, trial three, I went for the double wrap.

third double wrapIt sure looked like it was going to make it. But then, more bubbles.

third leaksWhen I cut into this one, there was actually some soup still inside that squirted through the air. Partial success, even if it was a bit messy. The problem seemed to be that the stock cube was melting faster than the dough could bake. So we decided to freeze the stock cubes and try again.

third squirtsI was still optimistic as I wrapped the first frozen cube like a little ravioli.

first frozen like a ravioliInto the oven it went with fingers crossed.

first frozen bakesThe frozen cube seemed to buy us time. It puffed up nicely, but just when I thought we’d done it…bubbles.

first frozen leaksWhen we checked the inside to see if any soup remained, the puff was empty. I was slightly amazed that the frozen cube had evaporated so quickly.

first frozen emptyI was about to call it quits when I thought I’d give it one more try with a double wrap. Instead of folding it like an envelope the way I did the first time, I wrapped the first layer tightly, then did the second wrap like a ravioli. By this time, we were so tired of trying bits of dough soaked in chicken stock that I really didn’t care what happened.

second frozen bakesBut then, it puffed. And puffed some more. I kept expecting those bubbles to leak out any time. But they didn’t.

second frozen attemptAfter all that, I wasn’t sure what I’d find inside. I was somewhat excited, but I couldn’t bring myself to celebrate. After the biscuit dough test the previous week, I thought perhaps the first layer had just sucked up the soup like a sponge. As I cut into the puff, I expected the inside to be a wet mess of dough.

second frozen cutBut then, sweet Jesus, there was soup! Soup bleeding onto the plate. By this time, I didn’t even care what it tasted like. I was just happy the soup was there. The first layer hadn’t swallowed it as I had expected. And although the dough was moist, it was not raw or undercooked. The outside layer was even crispy.

beauty shotDespite never wanting to see flour again after this experiment, I’m glad we tried it. I’m glad we didn’t give up. But with that, I think it’s safe to say that was the first and last ever chicken soup in a biscuit.

13 Comments

  1. Tom

    I am almost glad I waited two weeks, spent one night getting up to re-start our induction stove every hour to make sure the stock was intense enough and then spent hours cleaning up fat laden utensils and a flour covered kitchen.

    Never again.

  2. All I can say is….wow. Your ingenuity and sheer determination is admirable!

  3. Valiant effort. Thanks for documenting the entire process for us!

  4. A valiant effort but wouldn’t it have been easier to make a jian bing?

    • Sung – Jen will kill me! She never got to try one (though I did suggest she give that a go as it is quite a remarkably good dish).

    • Of course jian bing would have been a hell of a lot easier. But a) I don’t create recipes for dishes I haven’t tried before and b) I’ve discovered that people don’t like reading about simple recipes. Complicated disasters erm…”challenges” are more fun. :)

  5. Soup biscuit hero! Amazing. I was so rooting for the frozen attempt to work- like deep-fried butter!

  6. I almost cheered at the end… a real epic of a cookathon. Marie Curie and her home brewed heavy metals don’t even come close. Good job on the triumph at the end too. Who knew sisiphus would be able to get that boulder up the hill.

  7. But wait! I want that!

  8. Chirman Mau

    This is similar to Shen jian bao’s from Shanghai, except Shen jian bao’s are pan fried.
    http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g308272-d1514075-Reviews-Xiao_Yang_Sheng_Jian-Shanghai.html

    These were my favorite thing in Shanghai and I’m planning a trip back just to eat these. The wrap is very similar to pizza dough, crispy and chewy.

  9. Chairman Mau

    This is similar to Shen jian bao’s from Shanghai, except Shen jian bao’s are pan fried.
    http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g308272-d1514075-Reviews-Xiao_Yang_Sheng_Jian-Shanghai.html

    These were my favorite thing in Shanghai and I’m planning a trip back just to eat these. The wrap is very similar to pizza dough, crispy and chewy.

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