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.
The 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.
Just as it began to puff up and bake, I saw the liquid make a break for it.
When 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.
I 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.
After 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.
But 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.
Despite 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.