By Genevieve Ko, The New York Times
There’s a thin red line weaving through the egg sandwich at All Day Baby, a restaurant in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles, and it’s at least one reason crowds come for brunch, despite the impossible parking. That alluring condiment? It’s strawberry jam, which runs down the shiny slide of American cheese melted over scrambled eggs on a fluffy biscuit. The optional sausage patty or bacon (or both) are just that: optional. The berry-red jam is what makes the dish — and it’s a sandwich you’ll definitely want to cook a version of at home.
Jam in savory sandwiches isn’t new: It’s sometimes spread in fried ham-and-cheese Monte Cristos, smushed against turkey in an Elena Ruz and, more recently, swiped on soft bread in Inkigayo sandwiches made famous by K-pop bands and their fans. In parts of the American South, adding jam to a sausage-egg biscuit is the sandwich equivalent of asking for honey with fried chicken — which is to say, a great idea.
The inspiration behind the All Day Baby breakfast sandwich comes partly from chef and co-owner Jonathan Whitener’s extended family in the Carolinas, but primarily from his Southern California upbringing. When he was a child, he asked for packets of strawberry jam at McDonald’s when ordering an egg and sausage biscuit, and discovered how much he liked the sweetness between the salty layers. It became a teenage ritual.
When he was opening All Day Baby, Whitener, 35, returned to that fast-food hack as he chased diner nostalgia for his menu. He charged the restaurant’s pastry director, Thessa Diadem, with recreating it.
She had no distinct memories of biscuits — certainly not before she moved to California from the Philippines at age 13. But she knew they were the key to the towering sandwich Whitener envisioned.
The jam she created was easy and obvious. “If you think of a biscuit sandwich, it’s such a savory, fatty, heavy thing, and adding a little lightness, something fruity and sweet, just balances the whole thing,” she said.
What she needed to work on was a base that was sturdy enough to hold hefty fillings without falling apart, but still maintained a buttery tenderness. After hundreds of test batches, Diadem landed on perfection.
“Not having a point of reference for what it should be, Thessa wasn’t so attached to the tradition of making it the way it should be made,” Whitener said. “That made her biscuits better.” Because the biscuits are a signature menu item, Whitener and Diadem declined to share her formula.
But it wasn’t meant for home kitchens anyway. Diadem noted that her recipe was created for the restaurant and evolved with demand — from two dozen biscuits at the start to hundreds now on any given weekend — and that the ideal biscuit depends on the circumstances.
For the home cook who needs to bake only a few, drop biscuits are the way to go. They don’t require cutting dough (or cleaning the counter afterward), but they do develop crackly shells and tender centers similar to Diadem’s rolled rounds. I use milk instead of buttermilk in mine for a sweeter biscuit, then, once they’re baked, introduce a little tartness by slathering them with raspberry jam. Store-bought works just fine, but my fresh version comes together in a skillet in under 10 minutes and tastes especially good when cured pork is slipped into the sandwich. Strawberry jam delivers a more straightforward sweetness that’s always welcome.
Whichever spread you choose, you’ll want to use American cheese, as Diadem does. It melts in the soft-stretch way that only a processed cheese product can and complements the sandwich’s sweet elements with its creamy saltiness. Whether or not you have any nostalgia for a biscuit breakfast sandwich, you’ll feel some connection to this playful, comforting dish.
“I grew up eating Kraft singles. They have that nostalgia effect,” Diadem said. “I’m taking a lot of things that remind you of something and then turning them into their own thing. I love the fun of it.”
Biscuit Breakfast Sandwiches
This is the pleasure of brunch at home: a cozy sandwich that you eat as soon as you finish stacking it. Nice and hot, it’s pure joy with a cup of coffee. Crunchy brown tops give way to tender, buttery bread in these biscuits, which cradle fluffy scrambled eggs draped with melted cheese. Whether you slip in some bacon, sausage or ham is up to you, but you definitely want to slather jam all over the biscuits. It’s a salty-sweet combination inspired by chef Jonathan Whitener and pastry director Thessa Diadem of All Day Baby, a restaurant in Los Angeles, where they make thousands of biscuit sandwiches each week.
By Genevieve Ko
Yield: 4 sandwiches
Total time: 45 minutes
For the drop biscuits:
- 6 tablespoons/84 grams cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes, plus more for greasing the pan
- 1 1/2 cups/208 grams all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon fine salt
- 2/3 cup/167 grams cold whole milk
For the fillings:
- 6 large eggs
- Salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 slices American cheese
- Quick Raspberry Jam or store-bought raspberry or strawberry jam, for spreading
- Cooked bacon, breakfast sausage patties or ham (optional)
1. Make the biscuits: Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Butter a small baking sheet. (Keep the cubed butter cold.)
2. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Add the cold butter and toss to coat, then cut the butter into the flour using a pastry cutter or rub and pinch it in with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse sand with no bits larger than the size of gravel.
3. Add the milk all at once and quickly stir with a fork until the dough comes together in a shaggy mass. Use the fork to scoop and drop 4 even mounds of dough onto the prepared sheet, spacing apart. Gently pat the tops and sides to form round pucks; it’s OK if the tops are a little craggy.
4. Bake until golden brown, 20 to 23 minutes. Let cool on the pan on a rack while preparing the fillings.
5. Make the fillings: Beat the eggs in a medium bowl until well mixed but not frothy. Season very generously with salt and pepper and beat again. Heat a medium nonstick or well-seasoned cast-iron skillet over medium until hot, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the butter, turn the heat to low and swirl the butter to evenly coat the bottom of the pan. When the butter has melted about halfway, add the eggs all at once. Cook, stirring gently, until mostly set but still a little wet, 1 to 2 minutes, then spread in an even layer.
6. Once the bottom and edges are fully set, turn off the heat and cut the egg pancake in quarters using the spatula. Set a slice of cheese over each quarter. Slice each of the biscuits in half and spread jam on both halves. If you want bacon, sausage or ham, place them over the bottom halves. Slide the cheesy egg quarters over the bottom halves (or meat) and fold over any corners that stick out. Sandwich with the top halves and serve warm.
Quick Raspberry Jam
To preserve the fresh taste of raspberries, this method for jam uses just a little sugar and cooks the fruit for less than 10 minutes. The wide surface area of a skillet helps the berries break down and the sugar melt into syrup quickly. The resulting jam can be refrigerated or enjoyed right away while it’s still warm. Tangy and not too sweet, it’s delicious slathered over biscuits, scones or toast, spooned over yogurt or oatmeal, or used in savory dishes, like biscuit breakfast sandwiches or grilled pork.
By Genevieve Ko
Yield: About 2/3 cup
Total time: 10 minutes
- 1 (6-ounce/170-gram) container of raspberries (1 1/2 cups)
- 1/3 cup/76 grams sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1. Combine the raspberries, sugar and lemon juice in a large skillet. Set over medium heat and stir until the sugar dissolves and starts to boil, 1 to 2 minutes.
2. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often and gently smashing the berries, until the liquid thickens to the consistency of syrup, 4 to 5 minutes. Skim off and discard any pale pink foam on the surface. Remove from the heat.
3. Cool until warm or room temperature to use immediately or transfer to a jar and refrigerate until ready to use. The jam can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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